Anti-discrimination and secularism
Sciences Po is committed to promoting a culture of equality and inclusion. It has established a wide variety of procedures and tools to guarantee all university-members a positive, respectful and welcoming environment in which to work and study.
The role of the university’s Anti-Discrimination and Secularism Officer is to promote equality and to support any member of the university who believes that he or she has been the victim of discriminatory comments, attitudes or behaviour, in line with Sciences Po’s Regulations on Student Life (PDF, 51 Ko) and with French law. The officer also coordinates initiatives to combat racism, anti-semitism and all other forms of prejudice.
A specialised Anti-Discrimination Working Group, established at the request of the Director of the IEP, began its review in September 2022. It will be working to put forward recommendations for enhancing the university’s tools and procedures for preventing and dealing with discrimination. Chaired by Jeanne Lazarus, the working group is made up of 26 members and will set out its conclusions in a report due to be published in early 2023.
What is discrimination?
The term “discrimination” has multiple meanings and can be defined differently in different contexts. In law, “discrimination” refers to unfair selection or treatment of individuals in the same situation on the basis of prohibited criteria. It is a criminal offence provided for under the terms of Law °2001-1066 of 16 November 2001. There are currently 25 prohibited criteria of discrimination within French law, and these can be grouped into three categories:
- Criteria relating to identity in the broadest sense (gender, sex, presumed or official nationality, ethnicity, race etc.)
- Criteria relating to fundamental rights (political convictions, trade union participation, presumed or affirmed religion etc.)
- Criteria relating to a temporary or permanent condition (health, disability, place of residence, family situation etc.)
The contexts provided for within French law are numerous: access to goods or services, employment (recruitment, career progression, dismissal), education (application process, selection, assessment) or access to public spaces (nightclubs, shops, local council premises).
Discrimination can be direct (on the grounds of prohibited criteria) or indirect, i.e. an ostensibly neutral rule that results in less favourable treatment of individuals on the basis of one of these same criteria. Discriminatory abuse is defined as follows in Article 1 of the Law of 27 May 2008: “Any unwanted behaviour [linked to one of the prohibited criteria] to which an individual is subjected with the aim or result of violating his or her dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
What should you do if you have experienced or witnessed discrimination?
Contact the Anti-Discrimination Officer, who will be able to listen to you and provide advice, guidance and support: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Laïcité?
Laïcité is the principle of secularism in France. Enshrined in the French constitution, laïcité guarantees the neutrality of the state and the equality of all individuals in the eyes of the law, regardless of their religion or beliefs. It protects freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
Article L141-6 of the French educational code stipulates that “the public higher education system is secular and independent of any political, economic, religious or ideological influence. It strives for objectivity of knowledge and it respects the diversity of opinions. It must guarantee all those involved in teaching and research the possibility of free academic, creative and critical development”.
What is the role of the secularism officer?
The officer’s primary role is to provide information and guidance in response to queries or questions about laïcité, or in the event of any conflict arising from the principle’s application. This is done in accordance with current legislation in France. The officer is bound by professional secrecy and confidentiality, as per regulations set out in Article 26 of the Law of 13 July 1983.
If you have any questions:
Any Sciences Po student or staff-member who has a question relating to the principle of laïcité may contact the Anti-Discrimination and Secularism Officer at email@example.com.