Neglected animation students: a shameful platform for LISAA

A few months ago, we raised awareness about the suicide of a student in the Animation section of the Institut Supérieur d’Art Appliqué (LISAA) in Paris. Pheanith Hannuna had taken his own life after being the victim of harassment by other students of his year. LISAA’s management not only failed to protect him, despite being alerted by his family, but even ended up suggesting, shortly before his death, that he was at fault for his own harassment. In the aftermath, the school unlawfully fired a teacher who sought to find solutions to the students’ problems to avoid a repetition of this kind of situation, and even went so far as to prevent students and teachers from discussing recent articles about the school. More information in our press release (in French).

It is therefore with shock, and a very strong disgust, that we discovered that Catherine Constant-Grisolet, director of the Animation and Video Games sections of LISAA, and therefore one of the people who was responsible for Pheanith’s safety, had been chosen to moderate a panel on “the efforts” of the Réseau des Écoles du Cinéma d’Animation (RECA) to fight against student unhappiness as part of the International Animation Film Market at the Annecy festival. She was singled out in several testimonies from LISAA students and teachers as one of those responsible for the bad studying conditions in this school.

There is little doubt about her lack of consideration for the students, as can be seen in testimonies relayed by Gamekult in their article Sexisme, harcèlement et « bro culture » au sein des écoles de jeu vidéo : « Moi, je me fais pas diriger par une fille »:

“We received an abject statement from the director: it lacked empathy and was really badly written. (…) After the somewhat clumsy management of the school on this subject, I noticed that we had not received any instructions from the educational leadership to ensure the well-being of the students in such a situation and on what to tell them, quite simply.”

“The director of studies gathered all the Game classes before receiving the official press release from the school, the teaching staff was not invited (…) When we found out, we were all very shocked at what happened, but the worst part was the director’s surreal communication, it looked like a friendly Twitch stream with jokes. In particular, she imitated the sound of the silencer, as in the film “Les Tontons Flingueurs”, by referring to the fact of shooting oneself in the head. That’s when several people left, it was extremely disrespectful. She even laughed in front of the camera. “

This article from French magazine Capital also points out LISAA’s choice to completely ignore the grieving family:

Neither of the education officials came forward to offer condolences to the family.

No LISAA representative was present at the funeral.

The presence of Catherine Constant-Grisolet as moderator of this panel, combined with internal repression, and the silence of the school following the publication of the articles and our press release, demonstrates LISAA’s desire to cover up the suicide of one of its students… Even though there are 2 ongoing legal proceedings (1 before the conseil de prud’hommes [employee claims court], 1 in criminal court).

In this context, her participation questions the sincerity of RECA’s efforts, since either they weren’t aware of what happened at LISAA (which would be quite worrying), or they were and knowingly chose to ignore this state of affairs to become complicit in the management of this school.

While it is more important than ever to talk about studying conditions issues in animation, video games and beyond, it is unacceptable that these discussions would be led by the people responsible for these issues. This kind of discussion must involve current and past students, as is the case here in all fairness, and people representing and defending them (unions, associations, etc.). School officials are part of the problem, they can’t expect to be welcomed with open arms

The STJV, which has been working since December with various actors and victims at LISAA, denounces the presence of Catherine Constant-Grisolet at this panel. It is a slap in the face of any student who’s suffering from the conditions of their studies and the inaction of their leadership. We’re asking organizers of the Annecy festival to correct what we hope was a mistake made in good faith, for the sake of the Animation students of RECA.