A Quebecer can become the rector of the University of Geneva

(Quebec) An entomology professor at Université Laval (Quebec) was named the next chancellor of the University of Geneva on Tuesday, finding himself at the center of a debate over academic independence.

Quebecer Eric Bauce of the Department of Wood and Forest Sciences was elected by the Assembly of the University of Geneva on Tuesday to replace the current rector, Yves Flückiger, who resigned on July 15. He preferred Belgian Jean-Michel Rigaud from the University of Hasselt in Flanders.

But his appointment has to be approved by the local government, which can be difficult.

“My appointment has not been confirmed yet. But the fact that I was selected and the project that I presented was approved by itself makes me very proud,” Mr. Bauce said in an interview. Press.

Mr. Bauce has extensive management experience in academia. He was the vice-chancellor of Laval University from 2007 to 2017. He also unsuccessfully ran for the rectorship of the university twice.

The Assembly of professors and students of several faculties of the University of Geneva welcomed the “unifying and forward-looking project” put forward by Quebecer.

“The University Assembly is sure that the socio-ecological transition platform project implemented by Professor Eric Baus fully meets the requirements set by the Assembly regarding the social responsibility of the University”, – it is written in the press release of the Assembly.

But Eric Baus’ appointment comes in a unique context. Anne Emery-Torracinta, the State Councilor in charge of the public education department of the canton of Geneva, has announced to the public that she wants a local candidate.

“A person who is very familiar with the challenges of education and research in Switzerland, as well as with our political system. In short, a personality from the Canton, or at least from high school in French-speaking Switzerland,” he wrote Wednesday. Time From Geneva.

Éric Bauce says anyone who wants to talk to him can talk to “any elected official in Switzerland.” He thinks his fate will be decided in about a week.

“This is part of the evolution of academia. I’m just looking here in Laval, the rectors come from Laval University. We don’t have to teach anyone,” says the man, who was born to Spanish and Italian parents in Montpellier, France, before moving to Montreal at age 5.

“I understand why some politicians wonder why we’re going to look for a foreigner for an institution that was founded in 1559 and has always been run by people from Switzerland,” he admits. But you have to understand that the university world is opening up to the international world. The University of Geneva is an international university. »

University autonomy “violated”

The University Assembly does not seem to appreciate the elected officials leaving the country, in a press release it regrets “public positions and interference in a process carried out in accordance with legal provisions, as well as strong media pressure during the procedure. “.

“These unacceptable pressures violate the autonomy of the university provided by law. Despite these pressures, the Assembly continued its assessment work and made its decision in full independence,” the Assembly continues.

It now remains to be seen whether Quebecer will be approved by the Conseil d’État, the government of the Swiss canton of Geneva, or whether elected officials will begin to clash with the institution.

At the beginning of the process, eight candidates raised their hands to replace the current rector, all men, only one from the University of Geneva.

“The Assembly believes that the lack of female candidates is a structural problem and actually leads to a relative absence of women in positions of responsibility at all levels,” the body said in a press release.

The appointment of the new rector comes at a time when the University of Geneva is shaken by another incident. On December 21, a right-wing elected official was the victim of a hijacking attempt during a speech debate on Swiss neutrality.

The university decided this week to file criminal charges against outsiders for trespassing. The university “reaffirms its commitment to freedom of expression and will do everything possible to ensure its implementation.”

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