behind the contestation of partnerships, a new generation of students

To analyse. At the beginning of October, the board of directors of the Ecole polytechnique will make an expected decision. Will the school approve the sale of a plot of its Palaiseau campus (Essonne) to LVMH, which wishes to build a 22,000 square meter research center there? It’s not just a building: the luxury giant plans to sign a partnership around luxury “sustainable and digital”for 10 million euros over five years – it would thus be the biggest partner of the school.

Concretely, LVMH will finance research around certain themes defined jointly, and establish a close relationship with students, which involves interventions in courses, internships and case studies.

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In this month of September, it’s boiling at Polytechnique. A grandstandpublished in The world entitled “We polytechnicians and polytechnicians do not want LVMH on our campus”, collected 70 signatures among recent promotions. Two days later, a former director of l’X signed, in The Sunday newspapera text in favor of the project, arguing that, “without these financial resources, excellence is jeopardized”. A group of students counter-attacked by creating a site on which they dismantle the arguments in favor of the project.

On September 22, the academic council of the Institut polytechnique de Paris (which brings together five schools of the Paris-Saclay cluster, including the Ecole polytechnique) adopted an opinion showing a certain circumspection on the partnership, regretting its imprecision and its precipitation.

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Ten years ago, all of this would probably have passed like a letter in the mail. Today, in a context of climate and energy crises, worsening inequalities and questions about the responsibilities of large groups, the reading grids have changed. In the Grandes Ecoles, a new generation of students and young alumni, supported by researchers and doctoral students who are increasingly aware of the ecological emergency, are showing themselves to be more committed to environmental and societal issues. We are thus witnessing a new form of politicization among these scientists who were not very quick to express themselves on these subjects.

“Change the system”

Before the summer, student speeches calling for “change the system” during graduation ceremonies symbolized these changes. The movements which agitate the X recall above all that, for several months, in 2021, dozens of students from this military school mobilized against the establishment of a TotalEnergies research center, where LVMH wishes to raise its building. . The company had to withdraw his projectand an preliminary investigation targeting its CEO, Patrick Pouyanné, a member of the school’s board of directors, was opened in May 2021 by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office for possible acts of illegal taking of interests.

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