Leader of Elite French University Offers to Step Aside, for Now

The director of the elite French university Sciences Po said on Monday that he would temporarily step aside from his role after he was accused of domestic violence.

In a statement emailed to the university community, Mathias Vicherat, 45, said he had proposed that he withdraw from his post temporarily. The Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, one of the two boards that oversee the school, will meet on Wednesday to define the terms of Mr. Vicherat’s withdrawal, including its duration and whether he will continue to be paid.

Mr. Vicherat and his partner were detained by the police this month after each accused the other of domestic violence. While the police and prosecutors have not named that partner, she has been widely identified in the French press as Anissa Bonnefont, a director and actress. Neither Mr. Vicherat nor Ms. Bonnefont has filed formal charges. Prosecutors say they are investigating the incident.

In his statement to students, Mr. Vicherat denied the allegations. “I have never, under any circumstances, committed such acts,” he said, noting that “following our police custody, no complaint was lodged, nor was a judicial review or a protective order issued.”

After the allegations came to light, students staged a sit-in on campus and put up posters calling for Mr. Vicherat’s resignation.

Mr. Vicherat in Paris in 2022. Mr. Vicherat announced on Monday that he would temporarily step down from his role. Credit…Thomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Vicherat took the helm of Sciences Po in 2021 at a tumultuous time. He succeeded Frédéric Mion, who resigned after admitting he knew about incest allegations against a longtime professor but did not take action. Mr. Mion’s predecessor, Richard Descoings, was found dead at 53 in a New York hotel room in 2012.

Many of France’s diplomats, civil servants and politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, are graduates of the university.

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