Initiation rites close top school

October 31, 1997

A PRESTIGIOUS grande ecole has been forced to close two of its centres in a French education ministry clampdown on abusive initiation rites.

The director of the Arts et Metiers grande ecole closed centres at Lille and Cluny this month after a daming inspectors' report. First-year students were forced to do push-ups, not allowed to sleep at night and made to attend initiation rituals where fire-wielding second-years forced them to beg to be integrated into the school.

Students at the Lille centre staged a sit-in protest over the closure. The director, Guy Gautherin, insisted the schools would reopen when students signed a charter of good behaviour in which they promise to respect guidelines set out by the ministry.

"These kinds of activities must stop and the laws of the republic be respected," Mr Gautherin said.

The students' reluctance to sign is due mostly to the ecole's powerful alumni association. Its president, Jean Truffy, said the closures represented an attack on the school's traditions. Arts et Metiers graduates are allowed into the ,000-strong club provided they undergo traditional "ragging".

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