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Post Vatican's Almoner Restores Power to Roman Squatters
Created by John Eipper on 05/13/19 4:19 AM

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Vatican's Almoner Restores Power to Roman Squatters (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 05/13/19 4:19 am)

"More flexible employment terms to reduce labor costs" (see José Ignacio Soler's description of the Rajoy labor law in Spain, May 11th) is nothing more than a criminal belief of extreme capitalism.

The news from Italy:

Facebook in Italy is on the rampage: countless non-politically correct posts have been banned.

Also, the Vatican's Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, has gone to an occupied building to restore electricity to the 400 illegal tenants.  He personally connected the power. Deputy PM Salvini has said that he should also pay the 300,000 euro debt accrued for the building.  I doubt it.

Until the European election day of May 26th, everything is a mess.

JE comments:  I learned something this morning.  The Vatican's "Almoner" is the cleric in charge of charity and helping the poor.  Cardinal Krajewski reportedly shimmied down a manhole to restore the electricity.  Who taught him how to do this?  I'd be afraid of electrocution.  And didn't he dirty his fancy red robes?

Eugenio, a basic tenet of the political Right is to let the market decide worker compensation.  "Flexible employment terms" of course means "flexible" for the employer, not the employee.  Could you tell us more about your views on employment security and labor rights?  I predict you'll take us back to 1922-'45...

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  • Does Permanent Employment Lower Job Performance? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 05/13/19 12:46 PM)
    Eugenio Battaglia wrote a rather extreme and radical comment on employment flexibility as "nothing more than a criminal belief of extreme capitalism."

    I won't debate with Eugenio on the definitions of criminal or extreme capitalism. However there are some basic aspects that he should understand in the "flexibility" concept. This does not mean exploitation of the labor force. Proper compensation is necessary, but employment flexibility and compensation terms should be based on productivity, performance, merits, talent and achievements, not merely on legally mandated terms. Would anyone believe that a worker, free from the risk of being fired, is going to strive with output and performance?

    I figure that Eugenio would sympathize more with the opposite idea he seems to imply of fully "inflexible" employment terms--namely to keep employees indefinitely, disregarding their low or unsatisfactory productivity. I am sure he would not advocate for that with any of his employees, or consider it "criminal" to fire any of them if that were the case.

    Based on my experience, I repeat, an "inflexible" labor law would ruin any business or a country and at the same time establishing a parasitic working class.

    JE comments:  As a counterargument, I offer the example of academic tenure.  (Admittedly, I'm not impartial here.)  The common myth of lazy and entitled tenured professors just doesn't apply to anyone I know.  We cannot be fired, but we still work very hard. Perhaps José Ignacio Soler's cuñado (brother-in-law) Hank Levin could add some statistics to back up (or debunk) this view.

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    • Does Academic Tenure "De-Incentivize" Job Performance? (Henry Levin, USA 05/14/19 10:06 AM)
      One thing missing from the faculty tenure discussion is how difficult it is to get or not to get. The most desirable universities for faculty usually make tenure very challenging to receive. They evaluate teaching performance, scholarship, community service, and student mentoring and rely on both internal evaluations and detailed analysis of scholarship by external scholars. This means that at the point of tenure decision, usually in the seventh year, their employing university has a considerable accumulation of data on their trajectory and ambition.

      However, many universities in the US take the tenure decision lightly because their pay and other benefits and student quality do not represent attractive opportunities. Others have a civil service tradition requiring only that employment for a number of years, sometimes just three, automatically results in tenure. Many universities in certain countries provide tenure automatically with appointment or a minimal employment requirement, sometimes by law.

      My main point is that a good predictor of future performance is present and past performance. For this reason, universities that set high standards for tenure and accumulate good evaluative data are likely to have faculty who continue their high performance. So, tenure can be a measure of effort and productivity, more than an excuse for tenured faculty to relax their efforts. Frankly, most that I know are workaholics who perform effectively because that is their nature whether or not they are tenured.

      JE comments:  Hank, my reading of the "pulse" of the US Academy is that tenure is a dying institution.  Adrian College, for example, is hiring most of its new professors on term contracts.  Is this a national trend?

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      • Tenure, Job Peformance, and the Commercialization of the University (Sasha Pack, USA 05/15/19 4:02 AM)
        My impressions of the "tenure effect" have been similar to JE's as well as to those borne out in Henry Levin's comments: where the tenure evaluation process is taken seriously, faculty remain active, engaged, and effective in advancing the mission of the university.

        Of course, we enjoy such great latitude and independence in choosing how we want to advance that mission, so why shouldn't we? Most of the time we are more constrained by our own limits than by any limits imposed by our employers. But the university's mission is not the same thing as its bottom line. In terms of the latter, how productive are well-paid tenured professors teaching small upper-level and graduate courses as compared with adjuncts or term clinicals teaching required courses to hundreds of students at a time? As many public universities move toward the tuition-driven "butts-in-seats" financial model (as it is universally known), there answer may be: not very.

        If tenure is dying a slow death, it is not so much because it is obsolete or counterproductive as it is because the university's business model is increasingly misaligned with its mission. The commercialization of many non-profit and public universities is unpopular with seemingly everyone but yet pervasive. It may be a necessary response under the duress of many pressures facing universities, I don't know. One side effect is the consumer mentality of many students. They come to view their tuition as payment for services rendered--the delivery of knowledge, cultivation of skills, and conferral of a degree. The "customer is always right" principle cannot work in education, and I have sensed its gradual creep.

        Maybe Henry or another specialist of education can calm my nerves by telling me that what I've said is perception and not reality, or that it has always been thus and we've muddled through. I'd be glad to be wrong about this.

        JE comments:  Greetings, Sasha!  We Academics have been decrying the commercialization of Higher Ed for a generation--but as Sasha Pack asks, has it always been like this?  Are we really lamenting that a university's money tends to be spent on things (and people) other than what we'd prefer?

        I'd still like to see some hard statistics on the costs of academic tenure.  Of course it is inefficient for the "butts-in-seats" model, but what about other factors, such as student retention, grants, alumni giving, and institutional recognition/prestige? 

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        • The Rise of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Appointments (Henry Levin, USA 05/21/19 6:44 AM)
          I have checked with colleagues, and they tell me that with the increase in the use of adjuncts and part-timers, it seems likely that tenured faculty have decreased.

          However, this is different than the elimination of tenure at institutions. It seems to mean that a smaller proportion of faculty at individual institutions are hired on "tenure-track" appointments. There seem to be no direct answers to changes in tenured appointments in terms of actual numbers. But the consensus among my colleagues is that there are fewer tenured positions.

          See below:


          JE comments:  The authors, Daniel Maxey and Adrianna Kezar, conclude that non-tenure-track faculty appointments "are inefficient and misaligned with stakeholders’ common commitments to student learning and the health of the academic profession."  Amen.  But are the academic Powers that Be listening?

          On the decline of tenure, Roy Domenico also weighs in (next).

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          • Distance Learning and Other Trends in Higher Ed (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/23/19 4:23 AM)
            At the big research universities, the power balance between faculty and administrators seems to slightly favor the faculty. At so-called teaching universities or colleges, administrators seem to have gained significant political ground. There are some factors I hypothesize may be behind such trend.

            As the middle class gets squeezed financially, so are the financial support for education in general and higher ed specifically in most US states. Administrators are hungry for "other" sources of funds besides government budgets and tuition/fees. In Tennessee, administrators have received blessings from the governor to have our University President to set up a separate board he has to listen to. This board is loaded with the President's business acquaintances, has one student representative, and one faculty representative.

            One national trend seems to be de-emphasizing quality of teaching/learning in favor of distance learning which pays better, lower requirements for access to courses, more remedial courses, more automation in teaching besides distance teaching, etc. Faculty at some universities have resisted such trends for reducing quality of education for the sake of increasing access and income. The following video illustrates.


            One trend that I think very positive is the learning assessment based on students passing regional or nation certification tests for various professional groups in Engineering, Accounting, Nursing, etc.

            JE comments:  "Distance learning" is the probably the single largest shift in education models in the last half-century.  Administrators love it--no overhead besides computers!  Unlimited potential enrollment!  We faculty question the quality of e-learning, and especially lament the loss of the human factor.  How many students will cite an on-line instructor as a major inspiration in their lives?

            Yet what is WAIS other than "distance learning"?  I've learned a great deal over the years from this morning's contributors--Tim Ashby, Tor Guimaraes, and Gary Moore (next).  One thing these three gentlemen have in common:  I've never met any of them in person.

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      • Term Contracts, Tenure-Track, and "Faculty Specialists" (Roy Domenico, USA 05/21/19 9:07 AM)
        Regarding tenure--I've got a dog in this fight so I should say something:

        The University of Scranton (my employer) still relies primarily on tenured faculty, although the administration has made some attempts to curtail it with positions we call "faculty specialists." These positions are sprinkled through the sciences and professional schools. We've never had one in the History Department.

        John E's comments on "term contracts" I find disturbing. Who would accept a "term contract" over a tenure-track position? I certainly never would. In the long run, this cannot help academia. It sounds like the decision of non-academic administrators that will lead to the suicide of universities.

        JE comments:  It's safe to say that nobody would pick "term" over tenure-track, with the possible exception of a late-career academic not interested in the publish-or-perish rat race.  On the other hand, everyone would prefer "term" over the lowest rung on the faculty ladder--the adjunct.

        "Faculty specialists"--who comes up with these euphemisms?

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  • Workers' Rights in the RSI (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/15/19 7:26 AM)
    Our esteemed moderator seems to enjoy making easy predictions about my views on labor relations, when he commented on my post of 13 May: "I predict [Eugenio will] take us back to 1922-'45."


    My views on labor relations are completely in accordance with the "Socializzazione Law" promulgated by the Italian Social Republic on 12 February 1944. By this law, both labor and capital had same rights and duties and both, in equal numbers on the boards, directed the enterprise.  But these laws were a long way in coming.

    Mussolini wrote in his newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia as early as 1919: "We want to empower the workers in the directorship of a firm, also to convince them that it is not easy to run commerce or a specific industry."

    Unfortunately Mussolini had to reach his goal step by step over 25 years, going through a lot of compromises. The poor guy until the very end tried to govern by consent. In fact the period 1928-38 is called by practically all historians the "Decade of Consent."

    But also in 1944 it was not easy, as the Italian capitalists did not like the idea. They were making a lot of money working for the German war industry and tried to use General Hans Leyers, director of Albert Speer's Ruk, Rustung und Kriegsproduction, to stop the law. The quarrel between the Italian Government and the Germans was very serious but in the end Hitler told his men to shut up and respect the Italian decision. Generally the Italian capitalists in the North very closely cooperated with the Germans while at the same time they were supplying the partisans, just to be in the safe side, but on the surface they also showed loyalty to the RSI. Very despicable.

    By the way the Germans were also foolish not to favour the efforts of the RSI to have a powerful army. Instead they preferred to have Italian soldiers directly in the Wermacht or the Waffen SS. This was unacceptable for Italy and it was able to mobilize 800,000 men and thousands of women "Ausiliarie."

    The relations were never very easy.

    However, I knew a fellow who joined the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division der SS (Italianish n° 1) and he was very enthusiastic about the German-Italian relations within the division. He then joined the French Foreign Legion to escape slaughter by the "Reds." He was at Dien Bien Phu and after the defeat, he together with comrades from the RSI were the last remaining in Saigon.

    Those who never betray anyone can always be trusted. He had a Vietnamese wife who died to save him in a Viet Cong ambush.

    Sorry to have wandered somewhat in this comment.

    JE comments: Regarding the RSI, I've suggested before that you can never truly determine the success of a social or economic model when it's short-lived (19 months) and set up in the final months of a lost war.

    Yet Mussolini was a dictator:  why couldn't he have dictated his progressive labor policies in the 18 years prior to joining the Axis war in 1940?

    Eugenio, I'd like to know more about former RSI combatants in the French Foreign Legion, and in particular the sad and dramatic story of your friend's wife's sacrifice.

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    • Why Mussolini's Delay with Socializzazione? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/17/19 1:30 PM)
      I will try to answer John E's three follow-up questions to my post of May 15th:

      1) Socializzazione. I am convinced of the validity of this model, in part because the first thing the partisans did on their first day in power, beside slaughtering fascists and accused fascists, was to abolish the Socializzazione.

      Furthermore both capitalism and communism, the two failing faces of homo oeconomicus, wanted its destruction by any means. Anyway some points of the Socializzazione once in a while continue to come out in labor relations in Germany and with great success.

      2) Mussolini achieved Socializzazione step by step.  First he built a Social State (now being destroyed). In his very first year as PM, 1923, he promulgated laws for the protection of children and maternity, medical assistance for the poor, insurance against unemployment, injury, and old age. Then came many other steps including the work week of 40 hours, annual compulsory vacation, etc.  In 1926-27 Mussolini promulgated the "Corporativismo" (Corporatism) and the "Carta del Lavoro" (Labour Charter), which were initiatives towards Socializzazione. In 1934 the 22 Corporations were created, while in 1939 the Chamber of the Fasci and Corporation replaced the old Parliament (the real producers could govern). Finally, Socializzazione arrived in 1944.

      About the delay in reaching the Socializzazione, please consider that Mussolini was a "dictator sui generis," as he was the Prime Minister in a monarchy where the king was the Chief of State, and any law had to be approved by him. Unfortunately Mussolini was very respectful of the lousy king instead of kicking him out and proclaiming a republic, but to be honest the victorious king of WWI was popular in Italy.

      3) I am sorry, but the former RSI combatant in the French Foreign Legion did not want to speak much about his wife's sacrifice to save his life in Vietnam. I know only that it happened during a Viet Cong ambush and the remembrance of this fact prevented him from later approaching other women more interested in silly normal things.

      JE comments:  Eugenio, do you see similarities between Socializzazione and Peronism in Argentina?  Perón admired Mussolini, and he was careful to describe his system as the "third path" combining the best traits of capitalism and communism (or more precisely, rejecting both).  Peronism did enjoy a long honeymoon period, but it too collapsed on History's unforgiving ash heap.

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