Who is Jean Bassères, Sciences Po’s interim administrator, amid the turmoil?

The new Sciences Po controversy weighs on Jean Bassères. This former director-general of the Pôle emploi was appointed temporary administrator of the prestigious Paris political science institute by the minister of higher education, Sylvie Retailleau, on March 26, 2024, following the resignation of Mathias Vicherat. His role: to act as a director within Sciences Po until a new director is appointed next September. political science (FNSP).

Last March, the ministry indicated in a press release: That “in particular, he will ensure the smooth running of the process of appointing the next director, ensure the continuity of the teaching and research activities of the facility and continue to implement the measures taken to respect the principles of the Republic and return to calm debates at Sciences Po Paris”.

Intransigence to anti-Semitism

In the last week, however, Jean Bassères has borne the brunt of many pro-Palestinian student mobilizations. The campus was blocked several times for about ten days and had to be evacuated by the police this Friday, May 3rd. About ten pro-Palestinian students occupied the premises since the previous evening. The tension was supposed to ease on Thursday by holding a “town hall” – that is, a debate between students and management. In any case, the interim administrator communicated this at the end of this meeting, during his first press conference.

An opportunity for Jean Bassères to recall “his intransigence on anti-Semitism and the fight against separatism”. A topic in which he is quite firm, given the allegations against his establishment since last March. “There have been tensions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we have seen an increase in reports related to anti-Semitism”, he admits. He is also uncompromising about the partnership between Sciences Po and Israeli institutions, which he wishes to maintain despite pro-Palestinian demands. So many positions that earned him the enmity of student activists. On Thursday, May 2, when a sit-in was held in the school hall, several participants chanted “Basseres will be lost, Sciences Po is not yours.”

A graduate of Sciences Po

Educated himself at Sciences Po Paris but also at the National School of Administration (ENA), the 63-year-old then began his career at the General Inspectorate of Finance before working alongside Henri Nallet, then Minister of Justice, and Michel Sapin. He then joined the Ministry of Finance, notably becoming Director General of Public Accounts in 1998 before heading the office of Laurent Fabius, then Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry, in 2000. He was eventually appointed head of the Pôle emploi in 2011.

While the process of appointing a new director of Sciences Po has begun, Jean Bassères announced it a few weeks ago Figaro that he does not want to apply for this position. The role has been vacant since March 13 following the resignation of Mathias Vicherat, who led the school from 2021. He left the establishment due to referral to the criminal court alongside his ex-partner. Both accuse each other of domestic violence and were taken into police custody last December and then released.

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