Language expert on favouritism charge

November 14, 1997

ITALY's leading Slavic language expert, Vittorio Strada of Venice's Ca' Foscari University, has been charged by the Venice prosecutor's office with irregularities and favouritism in running a competitive exam to assign a research post.

According to the charges, in 1991 Professor Strada conspired with two other members of the exam commission, Michele Colucci of Rome's La Sapienza University and Mietta Baracchi, from Vercelli, to assign a vacant researcher's post to a specific candidate.

Also charged was Professor Strada's wife, Clara Janovic, who teaches Russian at Ca' Foscari and who was not an official member of the commission but was, according to Professor Strada, "only consulted unofficially with regard to the candidates' command of the Russian language".

The charges brought by public prosecutor Gabriele Ferrari include "abuse of official function" and "falseness in a public act", since under Italian law academics are "public officers".

He is also charged with having books illegally removed from the Venice university library.

The investigation which led to the charges was sparked by an anonymous complaint made right after the competitive exam in question.

The date of February 18 has been set for a hearing which will decide if the charges brought by the public prosecutor will be brought to trial.

Professor Strada responded by declaring: "It is an uncivilised frame-up. I hope that this machination, of which I am the victim along with my colleagues, will be deflated by justice, truth and simple good sense. The exam at issue was run in total respect of the rules and the winner was chosen unanimously solely for reasons of merit."

He added that the charge of having lifted books from the library was absurd because "in 1990 I donated part of my own library to the university, of a value of tens of millions of lire, in addition to smaller donations made before and after.

"Not a single page has been removed from the library, which instead has been substantially enriched by my preciousvolumes."

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