Nepotism: A Scourge of Higher Education

Nepotism is a huge problem in Spanish universities. Everything is about being connected to the right people, kissing ass, networking, and placing your relatives and friends in key positions. The damage this does to the system of higher education is enormous.

Italy, it seems, has the same problem:

One reason for the poor performance of Italian institutions in world league tables may be nepotism, it has been suggested. The practice has been blamed for a “brain drain” that has seen many of the country’s best researchers move to the US or the UK after failing to progress at home because of their lack of connections.

This is an open secret in Italy. The news magazine l’Espresso and newspaper La Repubblica have reported that in Rome’s La Sapienza University, a third of teaching staff are closely related. Questions were raised after the wife, son and daughter of Luigi Frati, La Sapienza’s chancellor, were hired by its medical faculty. At the University of Bari in the southern region of Puglia, Lanfranco Massari, a professor of economics, has three sons and five grandchildren who are colleagues in the same department. And at the University of Palermo, Angelo Milone, a professor in the architectural faculty, works alongside his brother, son and daughter.

Of course, a system of higher education that is structured this way will never produce valuable research or good teaching.

Efforts are being made to infect the American academia with the same kind of nepotistic practices. The system of “spousal hiring” destroys entire departments. The most offensive thing about this kind of unfair hiring practices is that nobody even thinks of informing the students that some of their professors did not get hired competitively and are only there because they happen to sleep with the right person.

The only thing that stands between us and nepotism is our own personal integrity. This year, for example, I chaired a panel that reviewed research proposals and decided which ones to fund. One of the proposals was by a person I really adore. Nobody at the panel knew about my feelings, so I could have easily done something nice for my friend and gotten their proposal funded. However, I couldn’t act in this dishonest manner. Which is why I declared my conflict of interest to the panel members and removed myself from the discussions of my friend’s proposal.

I’ve seen what nepotism does to individuals, departments, and universities, and I’ll be damned if I ever get tempted to become part of a nepotistic culture.


A customs officer stops a Ukrainian at the border.

“Are you carrying any drugs?”


“Let me see them. Wait this isn’t drugs. This is salo.”

“Yes, it makes me high,” says the Ukrainian with a beatific smile.

I shared this joke so that people understand how important salo is to Ukrainian people. So if you feel like saying, “Ewww, gross!”, please remember that you are hurting the feelings of a Ukrainian person.

Salo is the most traditional Ukrainian foodstuff. It is salted pork fat, which scares most non-Ukrainian people. For Ukrainians, though, it’s sacred. Many people use it to cook (fried potatoes, borscht, all kinds of soups.) The best way to eat it, however, is frozen and cut into very thin strips.

I hadn’t had a chance to eat salo for over 10 years until we discovered it at a Global Foods store in St. Louis. N. says that he finds seeing me eat salo disturbing because I look like I’m participating in some kind of an erotic activity when I do it.

Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

Really beautiful saris. Will it be stupid if I buy a sari and wear it at home? They are so lovely. . .

Nothing proves that Cold War fears have been allayed better than the depreciation of a house built as a result of Cold War hysteria.

This is usually a very insightful blogger but his post comparing protests in Moscow and #OWS is supremely stupid. People, please, make a huge effort not to blabber about the realities of other countries if you are too lazy to do the tiniest bit of research about them. Comparing the kids who are paid and manipulated into supporting the ruling party in Russia with American hedge fund managers is a bit of idiocy of scary proportions.

If you are a Boomer itching to relive your youth, go light some patchouli incense and listen to Jimi Hendrix for awhile. And then get over the past and ask yourself what you can do TODAY for the working people being screwed by the system TODAY. The 1960s are OVER, people.”

Learning disorder psychosprawl.”

Was Pablo Neruda another Pinochet victim?

Very short but absolutely hilarious. “There should be something like Netflix for books!

It is very comforting to know (in a weird kind of way) that my students are not the only ones who write this badly. The only difference between me and the academic who quoted the essay is that I give a zero for this kind of writing.

Face veils (niqabs) are dangerous. Adult men can hide their identities in them as well as women who will never be integrated into society. If these people want to live in Western countries per se , they need to realize that covering their face in public areas is as unacceptable to us, as a western citizen walking into Mecca in a Bikini would be for muslims.”

A really weird person finds reasons to hate. . . Mother Teresa, of all people: “Mother Teresa’s was NO ONE’S mother. This supposedly celibate nun’s name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, an Albanian native who lived most of her life without speaking to her own family and proselytizing her religion under the disguise of charity. There is absolutely nothing normal or “saintly” about this.” Not a mother and an Albanian to boot? She must have been a total monster.

The reasons to boycott Chick-Fil-A (apart from how horrible and unhealthy the food is).

A great post on some of the reasons to dislike Ron Paul, the hypocrite. Remember, people, Ron Paul is not a Libertarian. He is a fundamentalist religious fanatic.

A great post on the hysteria that surrounds the Plan B contraceptives. A hysteria, may I remind you, that President Obama encourages as much as possible.

This rampant diagnostic labeling puts an end to all other human considerations and concerns. This labeling does far more than imposing a pseudo-medical diagnosis on you, it defines you as a person. “I’m bipolar.” Not “I’m full of life” or “I have trouble managing all these marvelous passions” or “I need to find a way to direct my creative energies” or “I’ll have to find the courage and make the effort to make my dreams come true in the real world.” No, never mind about all of that, “I’m bipolar.” Your diagnosis becomes your personal final solution to your most vital challenges in life. Patients ask me, “Should I join a bipolar support group?” If I were flippant, which I never am with patients, I could respond, “Only if you want support in believing you’re bipolar and need to take psychiatric drugs.” ” The rest of the article on the horrifying encroachment of psychiatry into our lives is also absolutely brilliant. I need to read this man’s book.

PowerPoints and Shakespeare.

A very enlightening post about boys who engage in prostitution. Why is it that whenever they hear the word “prostitution” most people immediately think only and exclusively about female prostitutes and male clients? I know the answer. Do you?

The purpose of a university education is to elevate people, to give them perspective, to challenge them with difficult texts and ideas.  Concern for “relevance” leads to the erosion of standards.  As I used to say to my students: I am not going to make philosophy relevant to you; I am going to make you relevant to philosophy.”

Manuel Noriega returns to Panama.

This is a very long story but I’m linking to it because it offers an extremely important lesson: even if life sends you the perfect partner and a beautiful romantic relationship, you will destroy it utterly and completely if you make no efforts to solve your own psychological issues. Our romantic partners cannot be expected to serve as our punching bags, therapists or nurses. In this powerful post, you can see a painstaking description of a person who doesn’t even move half an inch in the direction of solving her issues and dumps them on her partner instead with predictable results.

Virgin Mary gets a pregnancy test – a hilarious ad campaign.

A recipe of hot chocolate from India.

Canada finally steps in to defend the rights of women: “Muslim women who wear the niqab and other face-covering garments will now have to lift or remove their veils while they take the oath of Canadian citizenship in front of a room full of people. “This is not simply a practical measure. It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Monday as he announced the changes in Montreal.” Yes! Today, I’m proud to be Canadian.

Do you want to see my city in Ukraine? Here are some pics.

Is a protester really the person of the year? A very insightful post by a blogger I just discovered.

Suppressed histories of conflicts in South Asia.

I love Echidne but this is a major fail on her part: “Are you familiar with the Good Men Project? I wasn’t until one particular post on the website got some publicity. Its title is “Being A Dude Is A Good Thing.” That made my hair crawl a bit because its obvious corollary would be “Being A Non-Dude Is Not A Good Thing.“” Huh? I say to myself “Oh, it’s good to be me” on a regular basis. This in no way implies that it’s bad to be everybody else. Since when only one good way of being is possible? Since when believing that it rocks to be a Hispanist implies that it must necessarily suck to be a doctor, a chef, or a construction worker? The article Echidne criticizes is complete an utter garbage (see my recent post). But the important points she is making would make a greater impact if her own post didn’t start with this bit of silliness.