Nepotism leads the list of no-nos in Bologna's new ethical code

September 15, 2006

The University of Bologna has introduced an ethical code to address issues such as discrimination, academic freedom, conflicts of interest, intellectual property, plagiarism, sexual harassment and nepotism.

Pier Ugo Calzolari, Bologna's rector, said the code "seeks to cover those issues that are not governed by law". But he added that it would not result in imposition of disciplinary sanctions: if violations are found by the commission charged with applying it, staff will receive reprimands only.

The Italian media has suggested that the main target is nepotism, a scourge that affects to a greater or lesser extent the country's entire university system.

Nepotism is covered in the greatest detail in the code, describing the types of relationships that would come under suspicion. It states that where there is a family link between a senior academic and a graduate student or junior academic, there is nepotism if the "protector" and the "protected work in the same subject area, and/or if both work in the same department.

It seems unlikely that the code will strike terror into the hearts of academic barons striving to place their protégés.

First, the composition of the commission to enforce the code is yet to be defined. If it is made up of academics, it seems unlikely that they will deal harshly with a colleague. Second, the rector has no powers to dismiss or transfer anyone.

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