If University of Foggia suppresses master's degree program in archaeology

Yesterday the Academic Senate of the University of Foggia suppressed the master's degree program in archaeology-a self-defeating and dastardly choice.

In recent decades, there have been many authors and intellectuals who have feared the dangers of a world that despises and puts the humanities on the back burner. This is not the place to discuss the importance of the humanities, and as long as arts and humanities degree programs are denigrated by the “invaded” computer scientist on duty, well, we can put on a good face. It is different, however, when the humanities are attacked within what should be the supreme garrison placed in their defense: theuniversity. The premise is necessary to point out what is happening these days in Foggia.

What happens then is that the master’s degree course in archaeology at theUniversity of Foggia is considered at risk because it would not be able to meet the minimum requirements imposed by the Ministry of Education, University and Research in order to remain active (although the students, for their part, claim that the course does not meet the criteria of the university regulations, but manages to fall within those of the Ministry). The students’ reaction is mobilization: a sit-in protest is organized for Dec. 17 to avert the closure of the degree program. In the very same hours during which the Academic Senate is to make a decision on the fate of the course. However, the students’ protest proves to be in vain: the master’s degree program in archaeology at the University of Foggia is suppressed.

Il sit-in degli studenti all'Università di Foggia
The student sit-in at the University of Foggia.
There are many considerations that could be made about this decision (and indeed much thought has gone into it over the past two days). Let’s start with one point: one might think that a university system that judges a degree program on the basis of ephemeral profitability, instead of considering it an investment both for the future of young people and for the future of the territory on which the university (and the degree program) insists, is a system that urgently needs to be revised. Those who studied this reform (it is, let us remember, the Gelmini reform) evidently did not consider that the courses with few students are not only those that are unattractive and of dubious quality, but are also those that, while guaranteeing a very high level of education, do not offer adequate job outlets. But if archaeology in Italy fails to guarantee an adequate future for the young people who have chosen it as a path of life, the blame is not to be sought solely within the university. If a very large number of archaeologists have to deal with offensive salaries and fixed-term contracts, it means that there is something to review in the whole system, and the first ones to think about it should be those politicians who fill their mouths with platitudes describing Italy as the country of history and culture, and then act in the sharply opposite direction: how is it possible to reconcile an Italy of clichés describing it as the country of history and culture, and an Italy in which an archaeologist can be deemed deserving of just seven (7) miserable and squalid euros an hour? I think the closing of the archaeology degree program in Foggia is the other side of this coin: no one so far, to my knowledge, has bothered to stimulate the creation of more decent working conditions for those who have chosen to be archaeologists. And these are the first consequences. The future consequences are easy to imagine: if our historical-artistic heritage often knows degradation and neglect, it is not difficult to assume that in the not too distant future it may know ruin. And when the historical-artistic heritage will know ruin, because there will no longer be those who take care of it (mica you can’t go on for exempre at 7 euros an hour?) the losers will not only be archaeologists: that’s for sure.

La Medusa, scultura di epoca ellenistica conservata al Museo Civico di Foggia, scelta dagli studenti come simbolo della protesta
The Medusa, a sculpture from the Hellenistic period preserved at the Civic Museum of Foggia, chosen by the students as a symbol of the protest
I remember, moreover, that those who choose to study archaeology do so because they are moved by a burning passion for the subject: this is not rhetoric, I have met several archaeologists. It takes passion to dig hours, in the summer, under the scorching sun, away from home even for prolonged periods. To sleep in a tent, sharing it with people who until the day before you might have only greeted in the halls of the university. To study tough subjects, which as to difficulty probably have very few rivals and require high technical knowledge. And above all, to know that despite all these sacrifices, you will only be able to get a decent job if you have a good dose of luck on your side. Here, closing a degree program in archaeology is also anoffense to those who have chosen this path, to the sacrifices they and their families have made.

It is then an offense to the territory itself. Many, in these days, have also only recalled the potential that Foggia and its surroundings would have in terms of cultural tourism, because the archaeological areas, in these lands, are many, they should be studied more thoroughly, they should be enhanced, they should be made known. Let us remember that in this part of Apulia, the ancient civilization of the Daunians developed, which founded several settlements, villages and cities, had its own artistic production, its own cultural identity. So how is it possible for a course in archaeology to be closed in an area that offers such an important archaeological substratum? Who will study the Dauni civilization and enhance its vestiges if local professionals are not trained? It is likely that the model of theAntiquarium of the Capitoline Museums will be replicated, with artifacts shipped to the U.S. for study. Because, of course, in Italy we pay our archaeologists 7 euros an hour and, not content with that, to their delight we also send important finds to America, when professionalism abounds here at home.

Finally, it is an insult to all those people who have helped protect the archaeological heritage of Foggia and its surroundings. Let us only recall the figure of Marina Mazzei, an archaeologist from Foggia who died prematurely, at the age of forty-nine (and, moreover, the tenth anniversary of her passing falls this year). To her we owe many of the discoveries about the Daunia civilization, the finding of many historical and artistic testimonies of this ancient people, and the considerable impetus that studies on the Dauni have received in recent years. The figure of Marina Mazzei has also been remembered by Mario Cobuzzi, an art history blogger and author of Kunst, and a Foggian himself (and therefore one who takes the matter particularly to heart). There is nothing more to add to what Mario wrote yesterday on Facebook: “an ignoble seal to the sad anniversary, another way to suppress the legacy of Mazzei, which by Giuliano Volpe and the other archaeologists (professors and students) of the ’university has been in these ten years carried on with passion.”

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