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A never-before-seen professors’ strike: no exams in the fall

by Marzio Bartoloni

Their demands are nothing new: to honor the salary increases that have been halted since 2011. However, the form of protest that university professors have chosen is absolutely unprecedented: no exams in the fall semester. This is because the 5,444 professors and researchers from 79 universities (practically all over Italy)—comprising roughly 10% of all professors at Italian universities, though these numbers could rise—will abstain from giving exams during the upcoming fall semester, from August 28th to October 31st, 2017.
Perhaps for the first time ever (at least for many, many years in Italy) hundreds of university students will find themselves unable to take an exam due to a professors’ strike.

The letter
This news came in a letter that was recently sent to Minister of Education, Universities, and Research (MIUR) Valeria Fedeli and her colleagues, minister of Economy Pier Carlo Padoan and minister of Public Services Marianna Madia. The letter, which has been signed by nearly 5,500 professors so far, asks for the salary increases (which had been halted from 2011-2015) to be restored, starting on January 1st, 2015 (as had been done for the other public administration departments) rather than on January 1st, 2016 (as called for in the latest budget law).
The academics are also asking for the “2011-2014 period to be legally recognized, with the consequent economic effects starting only from when the classes and pay increases were resumed on January 1st, 2015.” “Such a hostile display,” state the professors, “is the result of a dispute that’s garnered no significant results since 2014, as evidenced by the numerous letters signed by 10,000 or more professors, university researchers, and researchers at Italian research organizations.” The most recent meetings at the MIUR haven’t brought about the desired results, and this has led to the clamorous decision to hold an exam strike.

The strike methods
In particular, the professors will refuse to administer the first exams of the fall semester, which will be postponed to the next exam period. “In any case, it is ensured that at least one final exam will be held during the August 28th-October 31st period,” the letter states, “In locations where the exam calendar includes only one exam period for the semester, and that exam period falls within the aforementioned period, we will abstain from holding that period for the maximum duration of 24 hours corrisponding to the established day, but we will ask the relevant university organizations to establish an extraordinary exam period following the fourteenth day after the day of the strike.”

The strike will not affect the other university activities, like normal lessons or graduations. “We maintain that such hostile methods and partial abstentions from institutional services are compliant with both the constitutional right to strike, and the right for users to have reduced, but not cancelled, services,” the professors conclude. According to Umberto D’Ottavio, Democratic Party Deputy and member of the Culture Commission, Minister Fedeli must respond to the professors’ and university researchers’ protest: “Though the protest is controversial, as it places the burden of contractual problems on the students, the unease that has been expressed requires attention and, above all, discussion. I hope that she does every in her power to prevent the protest, for the good of both the students and the Italian universities.”