Hi Don, this is Jo La Manna from Le Frak University speaking./ Hi Jo, I know why you’re calling me and the answer’s…./ Take it easy Don, come down, you know we have to help our friends back home./ Home? Fucking negative, I have no home down there, and the last time I did let you drag me into this bloody junket, I wasted weeks in a shabby ministerial room with a team of skunks, reading or pretending to read, tons of irrelevant trivia bound in those improbable University Press paperbacks they produce down there…/Yeah but this time is different they have put limits in the number of volumes./So what ! it is still a lot of pure sheee-it to digest. What do they think they are, these goddam idiots, all Einsteins or D’Annunzios? When will these harebrained bureaucrats understand that if I have to read an article or book in my subject only when I am in a committee this means that this guy is nil?/ Yes, Don, we all understand that, believe me, but these are their rules, and crazy as they may seem, we must follow them/ Fuckin’ no, sirrree.
Last time I was supposed to be paid (a pittance I must say): do you know how long it took, eh compare Giovanni? Three years! Three motherfuckin’ years, for God’ sake. And they also had the cheek to deduct 20% not only from my miserable fee but also from my travel expenses, capisc? Those highway bandits down in Rome they ripped me off!/ Ok, Don, this is all well understood, I am not going to question it, but you know equally well that the ministerial fee is not the trade off for this junket. We have to go there because we must help our cronies in Italy and we want to go there because you must admit that our friend Fresco was par to the promises in fringe benefits/ Yeah (chuckle) good ol’ Alfredo was up to, I must admit: hotel, food, and the rest was superb. But I had a hard time explaining Lauriana why I could not take her along, even paying our additional expenses.
She went through all the booty that Grand Hotel gave us (almost all. I had been able to unload the silk pajamas and the more compromising merchandise in my office before going home). But this time it will be different, hein? I understand our pal Al Fresco is in some troubles/ Yeah but this is absolutely normal down there. Al has been put on a forced leave and is currently being prosecuted. But in Italy this can go on for years, and all is operation is alive and kicking. If anything they will give us more goodies because the ante has been raised. This time we are going to evaluate only departments, but it is vital because if our friends will not gain the appropriate scores they will be cut out from financing and for us it will be farewell to all nice invitations in universities au bord de la mer or in arts cities. With the related bimbos/ well but then what? Maybe they will find other sources for funds, Al fresco was never short of ideas/ Stop being silly Don, wake up the piper has changed in Rome, don’t you know? La belavita with Moratti and Gelmini is finito, you dig it?
We now have a Minister who knows his stuff and despite the fact that Gelmini and her cronies have saturated the evaluation committees with some of their preferred imbeciles, the new guy will keep few eyes open. We have only one shot to go, in order perpetuate our friend’s clamp on the business. If we miss this the Ivy League and Western Socialist crowd of the UC system will overrun the Italian machine of our friend Al Fresco to favor, god forbid, the Alberto Dente snotty crowd/ Luckily they have few guys fluent in Italian…/ Attaboy! But this advantage won’t keep long even the bloody Italians have started writing in English. Globish, rather; the Universal Academic Pidgin, formerly Japanese English/ You certainly are convincing Jo, but then Lauriana will start nagging about joining/ Nay, brother. This time will be easy brother because up front we will be lodged in seedy two stars or in university residences, two and four cot rooms and public toilets down the corridor. I have already played to rigmarole to Jo Anne, with magical effects. You walk on granite, man/ Well … still I feel sore about being involved in all these jigs. I always thought of my academic style as being one of integrity and here I have to support some skunks I would not give them a C—at home/Don, you are on a desperately wrong track. Who’s going to question your academic integrity here?
This is not something that has to do with your or mine integrity. Men (and women) academic or not are mischievous all over the world, it is not their integrity that counts it is the system regulating their behavior that makes the difference. If you ever did the same things here…/ You bet, Don/… they would have kicked out long ago, even from your provincial Biloxi college/You schmuck, where do you think you are, buster, at the Sorbonne?/ Sorry, brother, I just wanted to say that no university in our system would accept the practices they have in Italy. And individually Italians are no worse than us, there are some top notch scholars there as well. It is the stupid system they have, when you find yourself in a 5 persons committee and two are from tribe A and two from tribe B and they fight for their turf, you better not try to enforce independent criteria; they would first skin you and then hang you on the highest flagpole in town by your thumbs.
So the only rational conclusion is to make an alliance with strongest tribe, the one that provides you with the best goodies, think of the pretty shiksahs our friend Al has lined up for us in years (some his students and assistants as well)/ Okidoki my friend, but then why they go on like this? It would be clear to a 12 years kid that if you have elections, and committees you will automatically have parties. Especially if you have to plan the academic career of your pupils over the years. Sandboxing and back scratching will be the normal outcome / In the past the system was ok, there were few chair holders they all knew one another (I remember in my field there only seven highly respected scholars) and barring some areas like Medicine and Law in which big money was involved, the scholars only pushed decent pupils. But when you have a system with close to 60.000 professors of which almost 20 full professor, electing national committees to do the job that only each independent faculty on campus can do is mere folly/ But then why?/ Why, my friend; it is not difficult to explain. First of all inertia and tradition are difficult to overhaul and right when a number of good reformers like Ruberti, Colombo, and Berlinguer were trying to change the system, they were followed by a bunch of idiotic bumblers or worse. To put as minister of the university and research a party hack who was known for having practically cheated at her bar examination is the cherry on top of the whipped cream sundae that tells everything.
In addition the ministers are surrounded by a crowd of no-good cronies who hang around the ministry, some of them even staying on as perennial turncoats. And in addition this system creates bosses, not provincial bosses here and there, but national bosses who control an entire disciplinary area. Sometimes (I underline) these bosses are also good scholars, and this helps consolidate the ideology that a national control of quality is needed. Baloney, the national control is the same as the local one, the judges are the same, the only think that a national control does is the greater power of national bosses who act as filter, but not necessarily good ones. There is no historical evidence that even good bosses promote good pupils. They do promote faithful ones because the bossism system so requires. In addition mistakes or biases in judgment instead of producing, in case, biases on 1/90th of the system, as the weight of individual campuses approximately is, affect all the system. It is a monstrosity, but, man, this is what they want and who is you or me to say the contrary? Let’s go and milk the system for what is worth. Amen. But now my friend, we agree, right? Don’t fail me when the Ministry will call you up. I have to leave now as I must tot down to the Biology department to convince that skunk of Peter Lo Fregato not to back up. Keep goin’ pal, don’t let me down, and let the Smartone’s banner flying. And take care/ I’ll do, boss.
“Dotto’ arò o mettimmo ‘stu nastro?” “Ma co’ tutt’ ‘llate, Toni, co’ tutt’ ‘llate. Sta vota avimme fatte ‘na bella retata. Tenimmo nu sacco e nomi americani, non vedo l’ora di fare tutti quei bei viaggetti oltreoceano per gli interrogatori: i nostri amici dell’Attorney General ci sistemano benissimo tutte le volte. ‘E guaglione so’ bbone”.