Friday, 23 October 2009
An addendum to yesterday's post about the holocaust denier who teaches at Rome's La Sapienza university. There's been a bit of a kerfuffle about it as a result of the Repubblica article, with the Dean threatening suspension and the ricercatore demanding liberty of expression, while claiming that what he thinks and what he teaches are two different things. The Billy Bunter defence option, in other words. Given the moral bankruptcy of much of the Italian academic world, riddled as it is with nepotism, corruption, plagiarism and sheer incompetence, it certainly isn't hard to believe that he thinks one thing and says another, though I'd have thought it was an odd line for someone whose subject is philosophy of the law to adopt. But the real scandal is not that one sad sack has some odd, and clearly indefensible, opinions, whether he keeps them to himself, or blogs his arms off about them, or spouts them to a classroom of university students. The real scandal is that the man moved from the university of Teramo to La Sapienza in 1991. Since then he's taught one course (in March 2009). The number of students on the course? One. One student in 18 years. In the UK, and I imagine the rest of the world, this might not seem that strange: a researcher is expected primarily to research and only secondarily to teach. In Italy, though, most researchers have significant teaching commitments, which help to disguise the dreadful paucity of their research activities in both quantitative and qualitative terms. This man, whose name I won't bother to provide - because to be googleable is to be alive -, has been receiving a substantial salary for at least 18 years. A friend of mine, who works at the same university, recently found herself teaching English to a group of more than 200 students. She has been teaching dozens of classes this size, and larger, since 1985, as a mother tongue language teacher, or lettore. Unlike ricercatori, lettori aren't considered part of the academic staff, so my friend probably earns less than half the amount our holocaust-denying chum does. I wonder what the Dean has to say about that.