Italy's dons 'are sadists'

March 14, 2003

Italian students tend to drop out of university because of sadism, delusions of omnipotence, narcissism and depression among their professors, according to a forensic scientist.

Giancarlo Nivoli, dean of the psychiatry clinic of the University of Sassari, in Sardinia, said: "Very often the students have problems because their teachers suffer from some kind of mental illness."

Professor Nivoli's new book, Sopravvivere all' Università (Surviving University) set out to analyse why 60 per cent of Italian students fail to complete their studies.

But he soon realised that the key issue was the level of neuroses and psychoses among their teachers.

Professor Nivoli, president of the Italian Society of Forensic Psychiatrists and a key witness in many murder trials, describes 12 sub-types of sadism, ten forms of megalomania, eight kinds of depression and 15 models of sexual harassment.

He also claims that academics are often "not very intelligent".

"I offer a gallery in which many (academics) can recognise themselves. The approach is light and humorous, but the phenomena are actually very serious, can involve criminal offences, and do enormous damage to the students," he says.

One type of sadist described by Professor Nivoli has already decided to fail a student in an oral exam, but keeps offering easy questions to give the student the illusion of still having a chance. He refers to this type as the "Stalin sadist", because Stalin would discuss the fate of a prisoner with his relatives when the prisoner had, in fact, already been executed.

Another type described is the "Madame Gourdan sadist". This academic enjoys seeing the student pinned to a chair and forced to accept abuse. This type is named after the 18th-century Parisian madame whose brothel's speciality was tying a prostitute to a chair for customers to do anything they liked to her.

Among the sexual molesters, Professor Nivoli describes lecturers who have students call them on their mobile phones, but call back only the attractive women, who are then invited out for dinner to "discuss their forthcoming exam".

"Because of the immense power that an academic has over a student's life, this is a form of pressure, and if it results in sexual intercourse, it could be legally seen as rape," he said.

Professor Nivoli accepts that there are psychopaths in all walks of life, but the disparity in authority between academics and students marks universities out from other spheres of employment.

"The academic is like an uncontrolled god, free to indulge any whim or impulse," he said.

"Academics who have read my book have taken it with humour, they find it amusing. However, I hope it also helps those who need it to correct their ways or to seek therapy. After all, the illnesses I describe are not incurable," he added.

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