Fractured Lives and Grim Expectations:Freedom of Movement and the Downgrading of Status in the Italian University System. Prof. Brad Blitz, Kingston University, in Bulletin of Italian Politics

Linked is an academic article published in the Italian Bulletin of Politics, Glasgow University, vol. 2 no. 2 of 2010. Prof Brad Blitz Italian Bulletin of Politics vol 2 2010

Brad Blitz, Professor of Human and Political Geography, Kingston University, London

Mr J Campbell from Bedford writes:

It’s an account of a group of outsiders who over a period of time have their quality of life reduced by an accumulation of ‘adjustments’ to their conditions of employment, some blatant some insidious, some grievous some petty, some cleverly calculating some silly. This is how persecuted minorities are treated I suppose. The perpetrators must hate and fear you all.

There is a suggestion of guilt and embarrassment. If only you would all keep out of sight, enter and leave invisibly. A desire to humiliate. And a degree of vindictiveness. Fascinating. These are not nice people. Weak and petty. Step into them!

This entry was posted in David Lidington MP, Europe, European Commission, European Parliament, European Treaty, Free movement of workers in EU, Gelmini reform, Italian universities and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Fractured Lives and Grim Expectations:Freedom of Movement and the Downgrading of Status in the Italian University System. Prof. Brad Blitz, Kingston University, in Bulletin of Italian Politics

  1. Linda L says:

    It is distressing to see so many struggles similar to my own. I have grim expectations for my pension these days, after giving the best years of my life to teaching as a lettore!

  2. PIEM says:

    Congratulations to Blitz on his detailed and objective documentation. As a now-retired lettore, I was much saddened and pained to read about the treatment meted out to us by the university administrations in the various Italian universities but I would like to confirm, sadly, that it is ALL TRUE. Perhaps, this sadness, tinged with bitterness, is due to a sense of loss, of a life wasted because the service I gave to La Sapienza was never recognized, never paid adequately, less than a cleaning lady, with no status. The sense of having been used by the furbetti presidi & “professori” is very strong as is the feeling of being less than a person from whom more and more was constantly asked-(beside your 300 odd degree students, why can ‘t you do the specializzandi as well, or why can’t you teach the diplomas too? as I was once told by the Preside of a CL). I feel this hopelessness like a survivor of a concentration camp – se questo è un’uomo! Suggestion for Blitz- a statistical study of the suicide rate of retired and active lettori & CEL as compared with other academics (Italian and EU) and with a control group in the general population. Would make a fine epidemiological study but then does anyone care? The Education Ministers, the CRUI & the Rettori all have blood on their hands!!!

  3. I.Gavin says:

    Successive Italian governments have used every trick in the book to worm their way out of facing up to their responsibilities with regard to the lettori situation. Their ruthless, cruel and methodical cheating have brought misery to many lecturers’ lives.
    Prof. Brad Blitz has skilfully exposed what many of us already know, but the European Commission and other European governments have conveniently chosen to ignore. Why one wonders? Wikileaks might have given us some insight into what goes on in these cosy relationships behind closed doors.
    Isn’t it time for the EU to face up to its responsibilities once and for all and force Italy into fulfilling its obligations? Isn’t it time for the EU to stop collaborating with governments that fracture peoples’ lives?

  4. PIEM says:

    I was recently amused by a top academic who expressed his concern that Italian universities have slipped down the ratings in the Times Higher Education (THE) and the Asian universities are now vying for top places. He even attributed this to the fact that the persons sending data to the THE ratings committee do not understand enough English. Serves them right for such low ratings, after the nasty treatment meted out to the real teachers of language in Italian universities.

  5. Tony Lawson says:

    My sincere thanks to Prof. Brad Blitz firstly for his interest in our case and secondly, but no less importantly, for his extremely comprehensive and accurate analysis of what many would rightly call a constitutional European question but what is, frankly, for those of us who have been living with this burden for anything from 10 to 20 years, more like an ongoing nightmare. Caught between University rectors who have no wish whatsoever to integrate lettori into the university career system, a national government that has no wish to recognise and ratify the lettori’s fundamental rights as decreed by the European Court of Justice, and a national judiciary that is capable of turning a single battle into a lifelong war, the lettori in Italy are still a long way from their desired objective. Some progress has been made with due sufferance and at considerable expense, but a serious and definitive resolution is still very much needed. Hopefully articles such as Prof. Blitz’s will help to resolve this never-ending story once and for all!

  6. Susanna Perzolli says:

    Well, now it’s not just the British government, as well as the local and national press in the UK, and the Euopean Parliament who are paying any attention to us, we’ve also become the subject of an academic paper.
    Together with 16 colleagues at the University of Bergamo, I have been in litigation since 1994; two years ago, our salaries were finally brought in line with those of other Italian university teachers as the result of a court ruling. This ruling from the country’s supreme court, the Corte di Cassazione, is however still subject to appeal. So we may still find ourselves being paid a pittance and denied a salary we are legally entitled to, certified by Italian courts and negated by Italian universities. A final decision is expected by 2012, if we’re lucky. To top it all, the University, which has paid up barely half of the arrears owed to us, has just said that it will withhold payment of the remainder, using as an excuse article 26 of the Gelmini Law, a law which negates the law.
    Will the Italian government ever start taking any notice of us? Thank you Prof. Blitz.

  7. emanuela agostino says:

    This is the best article I have ever read about the lettori saga! I am part of this year long issue, and after so many decades have even stopped hoping for any positive turns.
    Thanks Brad Blitz and thanks Petrie!

    This article is a perfect detailed account of unfair treatment of people who have been living and working in Italy for most of their life time.

    Yes, I still enjoy my work and continue to do it with passion….but honestly…as I approach retirement age I wouldn’t mind the same rights as other citizens. Actually that’s what I want and expect!

    Amy from Brescia

  8. Barocco says:

    Prof. Blitz’s article rings very true. So insecure are the “profs” who run the faculty I work in that they would seemingly go to any lengths to avoid an objective comparison with the lettori: formal assessment of the quality of teaching is practically non-existent and promotions and tenure are “awarded” by a process that is as opaque in its workings as it is predictable in its outcomes. What also emerges here is the worthlessness of Italy’s European credentials; as long as the other member states continue to look the other way then then their commitment to the European project looks rather flaky too.

  9. Philip Rowe says:

    Speaking as a lector with many years of seeing but not quite believing that we would ever be believed, it comes as a breath of fresh air to read of an academic writing about us. We do really exist. We do actually have a big problem. We were worthy of study. It is as if a new species has been discovered.

  10. Janice says:

    Italy’s discrimination not only hurts the lettori and the CEL, but it also holds bright young students back from realizing their full potential and may even keep them from making valuable contributions to the sciences, the arts and technology. One example is a graduate student in engineering who was about to go to Scandinavia with the Erasmus programme and found out he would not be able to go as his level of English was too low. The university was convinced that in 50 hours of lessons this student would be able to progress from A1 level of English to C1. If we are not even considered teachers, if what we do is not called lessons, and if what they scornfully call ‘esercitazioni’ is relegated to a few hours at the end of a long day, this hurts our students, too. Our students deserve better.

    • PIEM says:

      Italian universities do not deserve that lettori have such a considerate and helpful attitude towards them. Hard on the students? too bad!! I do my best within the confines of my contractual hours. AMEN

  11. ruth says:

    This is an excellent article about the lettori, thank prof. Blitz.
    Italy’s discrimination hurts us as well as the Italian students. It’s very distressing!

  12. John Young says:

    Thank you, Prof. Blitz, for a well-researched article. It highlights in detail the immense and protracted waste of human resources inflicted on public higher education in Italy by the clientary discrimination against foreign lecturers.
    On the other hand, in his political and historical contextualisation of the question, I believe Prof. Blitz under-emphasises the de facto collusion of the European institutions. Of the Italian State’s record of systematic discrimination, compounded by deliberate abuse of its own dysfunctional legal system, there can be no doubt. But then we have known that for more than 25 years – and so they have in Brussels and Strasbourg, too. Yet not one single effective action has ever been taken against the miscreant member State, not even now that it has resorted to legislating to invalidate Community jurisprudence. Only one thing from Europe will ever pressurize Italy into resolving this issue: the imposition of heavy fines for its flagrant infractions of EU laws and treaties. They knew that at the European Court of Justice when they failed to impose such fines, despite finding Italy guilty (once again) of discrimination. And they know it now at the European Commission, as they reluctantly consider taking action against the rogue State which (once again) has clearly stepped out of line with the Gelmini law – never mind the reality on the ground which politicians can so easily affect not to be aware of, so thanks once again to Prof. Blitz for documenting it so thoroughly.
    Does the European project still exist? Over the lettori, the Italian State has quite simply laughed it off, treating the EU for the generous members’ club and grasping politicians’ gravy train which – from an Italian perspective – it has always been. The Gelmini law falls in line with that long-established tradition: Caligula making his horse an MEP, as it were. If the European Commission fails to react strongly, then the European project is dead and buried.

  13. adriaticor says:

    It’s true that EU institutions have put Italy in the position of recognizing the lettori’s basic rights but precisely because the system was obliged to establish a minimum standard with its – albeit inadequate and unfair – law 236, the academic establishment resents all the more what it perceives as foreign intervention. And thus it reacts with vengeance and maliciousness.
    How could it be otherwise? The system is protectionist and provincial and, as a consequence, any foreign-caused redress in favour of foreigners – considered at best a virus to be fought off and certainly not a source of cultural enrichment to be embraced – is seen as an affront, an attack on a cosseted and protected university system which much prefers the cosy arrangements – baronial, nepotistic and/or client-based – put into place over decades by its own academically mediocre professorial class in cahoots with a corrupt political establishment. In short, a caste system where the lettori are seen as the untouchables.
    The academic establishment, it must be added, is not quite a gentlemen’s club; rather, it is a coterie of cowardly thugs who play the dirtiest power politics without respect whatsoever for rules. Save for the following: be obedient, obsequious and reverential to those who are stronger than you; be condescending to those who are weaker. If possible, always build alliances with those who are stronger. Never lose the chance to finish off an opponent and, if necessary, kick a man when he is down. Take no prisoners.
    Sound familiar? It should not come as a surprise then that such an establishment responds by counter-attacking the lettori in the meanest and pettiest ways possible in an attempt to preserve the status quo.

  14. elizabeth says:

    I agree with everything my colleagues have written above. I have worked in an Italian University since 1991 and have gone through all the downgrading of professional and social status, the humiliations, segregation and isolation Prof Blitz’s article describes so well. Heartfelt thanks to you, Prof Blitz for describing what nobody, in Italy or Europe, wanted or wants to hear.

    On a more mundane level.
    Today in 2011 after working for 20 years in this University, not a month goes past that some person I have known since I started here does not ask
    “You still here?”
    “Have you not thought of returning to your own country?”
    Month in month out for over 20 years.
    Ever feel you’re not wanted?
    You need a thick skin to do this job of lettore/CEL in Italy.
    I reply “I have a job here”
    Answer “Have you? Didn’t know that”.
    I’ve also started saying “So many are people always asking this type of question. Do you know why?
    There’s usually no answer.
    I got angry sometimes but it just increased the indifference.
    I don’t think it’s hostility as such – just a ” you don’t count and we don’t care” attitude.
    I feel like the female counterpart to Richard Wright’s Invisible Man

    After 1995 we were transferred out of the faculties into the CLA. Courses are not accredited, the building, renovated at some exhorbitant cost, is well off the beaten track and at some inconvenient distance from all faculties. Poor local transport.
    We are forbidden to teach anything beyond grammar – no specialist input of any kind, even though we had spent years teaching it in the faculties and acquired expertise in all types of English for professional purposes.
    Students prefer not to come.

    I expect the next line from the University will be something along the lines of “redundancies because you lot are not cost-effective. And in these hard times, everyone has to make sacrifices. We’re not sorry it has to be you”

    I prefer to write anonymously because I have been informed, perhaps mistakenly, that a law brought in by the current government threatens dismissal if you criticise your bosses. I can’t afford unemployment and court cases. Perhaps if I had had a proper salary over the years I would have been able to.

    What have the EU and Italy gained from pursuing this policy?
    What has our predicament added to their glory and status?

  15. Julie Flynn says:

    Prof. Blitz’s paper was so comprehensive and the disappointment, fatigue and anger in all these comments so tangible that there’s really very little else to add except, perhaps, for a few words of encouragement. Let’s not give in now, let’s show them that we won’t just disappear into thin air, let’s continue to do our jobs excellently and back David Petrie to the hilt. The Italian government has pulled every trick in the book, article 26 of the Gelmini law being just the latest in a whole series of illicit moves to get us off their backs. But we’re still here and were still fighting and who knows, perhaps prof. Blitz’s next paper will have a happy ending. It’s up to us, too, to make that happen.

  16. Sadly, the article is still true. We are still treated as second-class citizens. Why should diligent English, French, Spanish and German teachers be treated as though they are not real teachers? Simply because they are not Italian. It’s shameful.

  17. Robert Coates says:

    Here at Brescia, despite the new law giving Lettori the right to teach, despite the universal right to use severence payment to help buy a first house or for emergency medical coverage, the University simply ignores the law and openly admits it. Consequences for the university? None, they don’t pay for the legal fees to fight pointless cases.

  18. Richard Prescott says:

    Prof. Blitz gives a very clear picture of the struggles the lettori have had over the last 20 years or so in their fight for fair treatment. It makes for depressing reading indeed. Unfortunately, the saga looks likely to continue unless European institutions force a solution by taking appropriate action against Italy.

  19. Ann Davies says:

    I would also like to thank Professor Blitz for his extremely thorough article on our “lettori” situation. I was very pleased to see that an academic has deemed our plight worthy of such a study. After over 15 years of court cases we in Catania are very tired, but we will not give up. Here we actually have teachers doing the same job on salaries ranging from 800 to 1,800 euro depending on how far their court cases have gone, and ironically, the last to start are on higher salaries than those with over 25 years’ service! Of course, we paved the way, but it goes to show how the legal systems works, or rather,doesn’t. I would also like to thank David for his perseverance.

  20. I.Gavin says:

    One other point . This has not all been orchestrated by the wicked Berlusconi government as some people may think ….even if his government is the laughing stock of Europe and has tried to deliver the killer blow.
    In the last two decades left wing governments and the trade unions(except for ALLSI) in Italy have treated lettori even more shabbily than the right. I was brought up to believe that the left showed social commitment by standing up for people’s rights and taking a stand against discrimination. How wrong I was. In the grimy world of Italian politics, sadly this is not the case.
    The left and the trade unions are sponsored by University Professor s and the faculties in general. As such, they will never stand up for what is right if it means going against their benefactors

  21. Tom Rankin says:

    In my experience, we lettori work more every year, getting paid the same, and respected less. TR

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