Review of social openness and equal opportunities measures at ESC Clermont

Review of social openness and equal opportunities measures at ESC Clermont, by Marc-André Vilette, Professor-Researcher in Human Resources Management (HRM) and coordinator of social openness and equal opportunities at Groupe ESC Clermont since 2015.

In my role as coordinator, I am responsible for 4 missions that all have a common “social” denominator:

The first, is the collaboration with the National Association “Article 1” (here allusion is made to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and a conscience and must act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood.)  Students coming from working class backgrounds, who are successful in their application, can benefit from mentoring by professional practitioners (e. g. to better understand the world of work and its codes, which their home environments do not allow them to fully understand). These students participate each year in the organization of events: film projection-debates, the French “Self-Assertiveness Tour” that comes to Clermont Ferrand, the World Day of Equal Opportunities, round tables, conferences supported by great testimonials from people who have come along way and who do not fit into the classic social reproduction model and have lived an inspiring journey. Their testimonials – and their transmission – is important.

The Second, is the “Cordées de la réussite” initiative, supported by the Local Council/Board of Education and the City of Clermont Ferrand. It brings together students from Groupe ESC Clermont and High School students from the working-class environment, to convey a simple message: “Higher Education is accessible to them”. This message is also conveyed through shared discovery activities. We take students to places where they would not usually go – through cultural trips, for example, we went to Bilbao this year, and to Amsterdam in 2017 and, in France, we go to Lyon in particular. We introduce students to local companies, but also, logically, university campuses. This year, nearly forty High School students were involved in the scheme. The ultimate aim is to raise awareness of culture and codes that need to be demystified. For example, in recent years we have realized that one of the most popular events was the “Midnight Music” concerts organized by the Auvergne Orchestra. The principle is to put young people in a situation where they are not just “ordinary” spectators at the opera, but to make them experience concerts in an immersive way, comfortably settled between the musicians – sometimes in unusual places, such as the Coopérative de Mai.

The third mission is my participation in the awarding of Groupe ESC Clermont’s scholarships, which has existed since 2016 in collaboration with the Foundation, the School’s Student Administration Service and the School’s partners (banks, in particular). We have “rethought” the allocation system: now we have a more global application process, so that donations are not just motivated by resulting tax gains, but more about adopting a certain vision and values. We therefore study the question of allocation in relation to attendance in class, investment in associations, academic results, behaviour, motivation, geographical distance from home…. The socio-economic aspect remains the most important allocation criteria, but we are more vigilant about Scholars’ global situation.

Last, but not least, the fourth mission as part of my very role as coordinator is acting as Groupe ESC Clermont’s “Student Disability Advisor“. This consists of identifying students with disabilities to enable them to benefit from appropriate facilities. This is a very sensitive issue because, being in a situation of disability, the person is often afraid of being categorized as less effective or being stigmatized. It’s so complex and sensitive to manage that you see students actually preferring not to be helped. Most of the time, the image of disability is that of a wheelchair – although this represents only a small minority of cases (about 4%). We also think a lot about other disabilities like the problems of “dys-“: dysgraphia, dyslexia, dysorthographia… Moreover, we don’t necessarily always know the nature of students’ disabilities, especially if they not speak openly about them. Official recognition of a disability requires a doctor’s certificate from the SSU (University Health Service) and approved by the MDPH (Maison Départementale des Personnes Handicapées), which does not specify the disability, in accordance with medical confidentiality. There is also a lot to do in terms of disability representation: we have an official list of disabled students (about ten) but we know that in reality, more students are certainly able to fit into this framework. According to the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE) working group on disability in which I participate, we observe about the same proportion as in other Business Schools, i.e. about 1% of total student intake.

As we can see, the role of coordinator is intense and requires a lot of time and investment. The question of resources dedicated to ERS is always raised at some point. Although Groupe ESC Clermont does not necessarily have the same resources as other schools, it remains active and fully committed to ERS issues!

What about the future?

For me, the main concern is to reach more and more people and extend ERS to each and every one of their objectives, tasks and behaviour. As to what can fall within the scope of ERS today, I see other issues, such as diversity. Here, more work needs to be done to redefine what ERS actually means.