I blog about my homeland. Usually about its beauty, its culture. Today, I’m going to make an exception. I am going to write about politics.
Today, the reform of the university system proposed by the present government and its minister, Mariastella Gelmini, was presented to the Senate and the senators are voting in favour or against it (here is a summary of the changes – in Italian).
Over the last few months, the entire education system has been protesting against this horrific law. Over the last couple of days most universities, including the University of Pisa, have been occupied by the students, who are protesting against the new reform. The Vice-Chancellor and the Chairmen of all the Faculties gave their full support to the protest.
I think that when something like this happens, a Minister should ask what she got wrong.
I’ll tell you what she got wrong: she is killing an entire generation of “precari” (contracted researchers) like myself, and the system as a whole, which will not be able to sustain itself with the few resources left.
I have a PhD, I’ve had several post-doc scholarships, I have published two books and several articles. I have taught over 30 courses. And yet, I have no secure job, because Universities are not hiring enough people (the state imposes that only 20% of the positions left open by people retiring be filled), and when they are (the first two openings in over 10 years in my field in Pisa were last month), well… that’s another story.
You do your best, and patiently wait for the next opening. You teach, your study, you write. And then a minister who is totally subject to the ministry of the treasury (in violation of all ethical and constitutional rules) decides that researchers need to disappear. No more researchers in Italy. You will be hired as a resercher for max 6 years, then you either become an associate professor or you go home.
So what about our generation? Most of us have already been a contracted researcher for years. Are you asking us to apply for yet another temporary position so that in 6 years you can send us home, when we are over 40 years old? Universities survive only thanks to our hard, underpaid work. A full course is often paid less than 1000 euros (not per month… in total…). There are 20,000 contracted researchers in Italy, who have been keeping the show going. I understand there might not be a career for us all. But this new law ensures that MOST of us will be fired.
Besides, how can a system who cannot afford to hire researchers afford to hire associate professors? Failure is essentially inevitable for most of those who will have the 6 year position because only a fraction of them will get tenure.
I am very sad. Very sad. Not because I fear for my job… technically, I don’t have one. And I am smart, full of energy and resources. I have many interests. I will do something else if not this.
I am very sad for my country. A country that judges it acceptable to kill the University system, to cut funds to schools, to kill a generation of intelligent, hard working people hiding behind the story of fighting the “baroni”, powerful professors who decide who gets a job and who doesn’t.
I am very sad for my country. A country that accepts that politicians insult each other, that the prime minister just does whatever he wants and that people dismiss the horrific attitude with a smile.
I am very sad for a country that has everything required to be one of the best places to live in and instead it’s only good for holiday makers and rich expats.
I am sad for my country because it’s killing the hopes and future of its younger citizens and numbs the older generations.
Don’t you see what is going on? Italy was the country of the Medici, of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dante Alighieri. Now we just fetch and carry.
Shame on us.