French University Life — or, plus ca change. . . .

The past two weeks I took the train (RER) from Paris to Cergy-Pontoise where I will be teaching. Cergy is a new university, just celebrating it’s 20th year, that is located outside of the city. The suburban campus has the advantage of providing a more communitarian type of university life, but there are also many commuters. Cergy has undertaken to provide legal education in English as well as French, and is well-known as an up-and-coming French university with an excellent reputation in law as well as other subjects.  

The last time I taught in a French University was in 1988 at the Sorbonne in the heart of Paris, a very different venue, and a different time. I was relieved to learn that students no longer smoke in the back of their classrooms which was a hazard I endured back then.  (Now they just smoke outside of the classrooms and look intimidatingly cool).   Of course, now there is the new challenge of the lap top computer inside the classroom, which is not, hélas, always used for strictly educational purposes! At a lovely dinner with some of my new colleagues and the sponsors of the Tocqueville chair at Le Procupe, to which I was treated by the Commission Franco-Americain, it was somehow comforting to know that my french colleagues and I struggled with the same issues of when/how/where to encourage or discourage lap top use in the classroom. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose !

I wonder what Alexis de Tocqueville would have thought of modern law studies!