Sciences Po, the training ground for France’s presidents and top civil servants, failed to tackle dozens of cases of sexist and sexual abuse, a long-awaited report has concluded after numerous complaints of a “culture of rape” at the country’s top political science colleges.

The report by a government inspectorate was prompted by a wave of online testimonies in February from students at France’s ten IEPs (political studies institutes) and the campuses of Sciences Po Paris.

Hundreds of accounts from current and former students were made describing cases of sexual assault and rape, mostly by fellow students, that they said were not taken seriously by the colleges.

The report, which was released on Monday, found 89 cases of sexist violence and sexual abuse which were made known to the schools between January 2019 and June 2021.

The report said the figure may well be much higher given the fact that the alleged victims confided in “their entourage rather than (the schools’) dedicated units, which were not always known or visible”.

Nearly half of cases reported involved rape

Almost half of the cases involved rape, another fifth sexual abuse and 83 per cent were potentially criminal acts. More than half were among students “within the same establishment”.

While the report stopped short of condemning a “rape culture” within the schools, it criticised events such as an “alcohol-fuelled” inter-school sports tournament, during which some students attempt to achieve a “grand slam” of sleeping with a female student from each college.

Several of these events ended in female students being molested, it said, adding that the majority of school heads would be “clearly relieved” if the ministry of higher education banned the tournament altogether.

A mentoring scheme for new undergraduates had also been hijacked so that the prettiest students could be “picked and were subject to dares”, it added.

The report also criticised initiation ceremonies involving a “bitches court”, and another calling up participants “depending on who they had slept with”.

“Under the pretext of pseudo-traditions lie hazing practices,” it concluded.

Olivier Duhamel, the French political specialist, wielded huge influence at Sciences Po before resigning earlier this year

Credit: AFP

The report found that only 14 disciplinary procedures had been launched, amounting to just 16 per cent of cases.

Frédéric Vidal, France’s higher education minister, told Le Journal du Dimanche that disciplinary commission members were “more used to dealing with problems of plagiarism or exam fraud than sexual violence” and “must be trained”.

Sciences Po has been under intense public scrutiny since the publication of a book by Camille Kouchner, in which she accused her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel, of abusing her twin brother as a child. 

Mr Duhamel, a political commentator, was the former head of Sciences Po’s Foundation. He resigned along with the school’s director, who it turned out had also known about the allegations.

Speaking to Le Figaro, Anna Toumazoff, the social media activist behind the social media movement #SciencesPorc, called upon the heads of other schools to follow suit or at the very least introduce “truly exceptional measures” to stamp out abuse.

Sciences Po was created in 1872 to “educate the new elite and generate modern knowledge for a new France” after the Franco-Prussian war.

Alumni include Emmanuel Macron, the current French president, and previous heads of state including Jacques Chirac, François Hollande and François Mitterrand, along with disgraced ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the fashion designer Christian Dior.