In Italian University Education, A Crisis Being Wasted

(letter sent to the IHT)

Zoe Bray and Andrea Calderaro of the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy, describe the Italian Government’s planned funding cuts as an “assault on an already fragile education system (Letters, IHT, Dec 12).

Perhaps so. But one wonders why “people [brought] together from all walks of Italian life” protesting against those cuts, have been (and still are!) so acquiescent to the one issue that hobbles every single University in Italy: namely, the incredible and totally unrestrained domination by the “Professori Ordinari”, the tenured professors that literally hold the power of academic life and death (and more).

For decades now, there have been plenty of Professori Ordinari in the Italian Parliament, and in successive Governments from all sides. Still, as Bray and Calderaro correctly point out, the education system has been based “in large part [on] the voluntary work of researchers“. Furthermore, nepotism abounds.

Funding cuts or not, the status quo is evidently untenable. Rather than sterile protests against a Government that is more or less obliged to restructure the infamous Italian public accounts, one would hope those working and studying in Universities could take advantage of the current crisis, and force the tenured professors to give an account of their flawed stewardship.