Clans cross borders

January 23, 1998

An interesting game of national and political identities emerges from "Clan mentality rules in Italian universities" (THES, January 9). This implies two European countries, obviously Italy and Britain, and two political positions, right and left.

The latter distinction is increasingly difficult to draw from European political parties today. However, it is exactly this difficulty that puts a rightwing thinker, a conservative like Indro Montanelli, in the position to lecture us about corruption in Italian universities.

Thousands of students, often violently, and professors, perhaps less violently, have fought for decades against a system of which Montanelli was regarded as an emblematic part.

I found laughable his claim that: "While the British produce men (sic), we (Italians) go on producing laws."

This claim, which surely will gratify those British males who are striving to give some sense to their "virility", implies that "men" are judged on their merits, while laws are made to be ignored or flouted.

Just ten minutes after reading the article, I received a call from a colleague telling me that a mutual friend had lost his job, and because I was involved in employing a research fellow, would I consider X. I had to remind him that I am not an Italian conservative, and that I want to employ a person, not necessarily a "man", on the basis of academic merit.

Vincenzo Ruggiero

Professor of sociology Middlesex University

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