One of Italy's best-known sociologists, Francesco Alberoni, has announced his resignation as rector of an independent university in Milan in protest against "practices that I consider corrupt, incompatible with the aims and dignity of our university".
The university's board is considering suing him to protect the institution's "good name".
Professor Alberoni's comments came in an open letter to students, academic staff, other rectors, the mayor of Milan, the Milan Chamber of Commerce and the university ministry.
Professor Alberoni, 71, is well known to the Italian public for his television appearances, books on sociology and a weekly column in Italy's most prestigious daily, Corriere della Sera .
Professor Alberoni has worked for the Istituto Universitario di Lingue Moderne, a private university based in Milan and Feltre, since 1986 and became rector in 1997. IULM offers degrees in languages, communication, public relations and tourism.
Under Professor Alberoni's rectorship, the university has enjoyed academic and financial growth and now has more than 7,500 students. But the professor said: "With success and wealth, so have grown ambition, avidity and attempts to acquire power. Ways of spending money, which I consider corrupt practices, have developed."
Professor Alberoni said he had seen the arrival of "methods of spending money... not aimed at an ideal result, but with the purpose of conquering a majority on various boards, of creating allies, clients, according to a political logic". He did not mention specific cases.
IULM's board of directors said it was accepting the resignation and examining the possibility of legal action.
Corriere della Sera said relations between the rector and academics and administrators considered close to the board of directors deteriorated after his wife, Rosa Giannetta, was appointed associate professor at IULM in 1999.