a form to detect "weak signals of radicalization" creates controversy


At the University of Cergy-Pontoise, the terrorist attack at the Paris police headquarters, a symbol of the potential danger of radicalization in the public services, has deeply shaken the workforce. In this establishment, the phenomenon remains "extremely marginal", confides to the Figaro its president, Francois Germinet. But "one to two cases a year among 20,000 students and 1,800 staff" are enough to make some of them "nervous" about it. Seeming to echo the words of Edward Philippe – the prime minister called for "identifying weak signals" to "detect the terrorist threat" – the Health, Safety and Environment Directorate (DHSE) forwarded Monday a warning e-mail to officials.


The e-mail contains a "call for vigilance" and an Excel file on "weak signals related to the behavior of a known person". The goal: to detect people who may be in the process of radicalization. By completing it, teachers or administrators are asked to answer yes or no to a questionnaire on the "signals of rupture", whether family, professional or school. Is the student absent from the "prayer hours"? Does he refuse "the authority of women"? Does it wear a "djellaba or trousers whose legs stop at mid-calves", or a "beard without a mustache"? In total, about sixty criteria are listed.

I canceled this form altogether. The initial goal was not to stigmatize a community but to help colleagues who are sometimes confronted with situations of this type

Francois Germinet, President of the University of Cergy-Pontoise

The document, made public by professors, has caused outrage on social networks, some netizens accusing him of promoting Islamophobia. "The list of" weak signals "that is there is staggering," indignant Renaud Epstein, a lecturer. "I am ashamed," lamented Clement Carbonnier, a professor at the University of Sherbrooke, on secondment to Quebec.

A "personal initiative"

Le Figaro tried to understand why and how such a card could be sent. And according to our information, the initiative is anything but new. Last March, the same document was sent to the component directors (heads of structures, education and training). At the time, the questionnaire did not give rise to "any particular reaction". Internally, a source informs us, however, that some staff were indignant at the wording in this file. "We had orders to say nothing to anyone, so we can not talk to other members of universities. It was omerta, "we breathe.

This questionnaire was initiated by the President of the Health, Safety and Environment Directorate (DHSE) himself. Defense Security Officer (FSD), he has been appointed as "referent radicalization". Its role: to trace all incidents related to this phenomenon, and "develop a warning chain adapted to the reality of the field". In Cergy-Pontoise, each reported case first involves a dialogue with a specialized mediator. But this sheet is the work of a "personal initiative", according to Francois Germinet.


According to our information, on 4 October, just after the attack at the police headquarters in Paris, an awareness e-mail was sent to several French administrations, including the National Education. This two-page memo, stamped with the seal of the Ministry of Higher Education, was to help better "characterize" and "detect radicalization". This document contains certain criteria used on the questionnaire of the University of Cergy: "rejection of authority", "repeated absences from classes", "refusal to shake hands with a person of the opposite sex". "It is possible that he has seen," says Francois Germinet.

On Monday evening, the university rushed to apologize, saying that "the approach of the institution was to provide assistance to those who may be affected by these phenomena and in no case to organize an alert system" . "I canceled this form altogether. The initial goal was not to stigmatize a community but to help colleagues who are sometimes confronted with such situations, "says President Germinet, defending any recordings. "The goal was never to have a card that would be sent to the police headquarters. No way!".

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