PISA, Italy — Student protests literally exploded all over the Italian peninsula this week in an effort to block the approval of the new infamous Gelmini reform, which aims at privatizing the public university and turning it into a profit-making machine.
Thousands of students have held demonstrations all over the peninsula and occupied university buildings. In Rome protests were held in front of the Senate, and students tried to break into the building. Another group of hundreds of people broke into the Colosseum and hung a banner saying “No profit on our future.” In the ancient Roman monument that was originally used for gladiatorial contests involving predatory animals, the students sang “Today we are the lions!”
In Pisa and in Bologna the students targeted the train station and the airports. Similarly, students occupied the port in Palermo, the Mole Antonelliana in Turin, the Ministry of Treasure in Milan, the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, and so on. The government’s response has been to issue charges and make some arrests, but his hasn’t broken the spirit of the protesters.
The key points of the Gelmini reform: Grants and scholarships won’t be given according to the student’s family income anymore, but only on a “merit” basis, which is revolutionary in the Italian education system.
This means that if you’re poor and you have bad grades, don’t even try to go to university.
Another major criteria will be the career students choose: students who pick practical subjects that create useful workforce (e.g. Engineering) will be much more likely to get a scholarship than students who would like to study Philosophy or History. In addition students will be in debt before even graduating for paying university.
Postgradute researchers, already symbol of precarious work in Italy, will be hit even harder: the reform states that any researcher who doesn’t have a permanent contract after 6 years of working can and should be sacked by the same university who has been exploiting them.