Hierarchical arborescence wins Paris university election

The Administrative Council of Sorbonne Paris-Cité, the new conglomerate incorporating four Paris universities, including the former Université Paris 7, has just (re)-elected its outgoing President to a new term.  The Administrative Council consists of 61 members, of whom 31 (or maybe 32) are elected, 24 by university staff, 8 by students.   The remainder are named to the Council; without resorting to euphemisms, one can say that the outgoing President had a non-negligeable influence on the choice.

University groupings

Map of university consolidation in France.  With 120,000 students, 
SPC is one of the biggest conglomerates.

Under these circumstances, the results of the election are hardly surprising, even though only 11 of the 24 representatives of the personnel voted for the old/new President.  The insurgent candidate, physicist Bruno Andreotti, explains here why he favors networks of horizontal cooperation over vertical (top-down) integration, using examples from his work on multiscale modeling of organized structures.  The arborescent hierarchical structure that was just (re)-elected is analogous to such naturally occurring structures as “trees, river networks, lungs, viscous fingering, and more generally all Laplacian systems.”  In contrast,

La solution d’organisation optimale à ce problème existe et procède de la science la plus moderne puisqu’il s’agit d’organisation de type Grid, selon un réseau non-hiérarchique et qui procède, au contraire, d’inter-connexions tissées entre les laboratoires, entre les composantes, sans contrainte géographique. On retrouve ce type d’organisation dans la nature, dès lors que les systèmes optimisent des flux et non plus une surface. C’est le cas par exemple du système de veines dans les feuilles représenté sur la figure 2, dont l’efficacité, la robustesse et la résilience viennent de cette structure multi-échelles non-hiérarchique, de ces inter-connexions à l’échelle des plus petites veines.

He omits the mathematical details but the argument is quite illuminating.


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