Integrity of Italian PhD(Dottorato di Ricerca) in Anthropology???

David Aliaga (
Mon, 16 Jan 1995 22:09:33 GMT

Dear Colleagues: What follows is a sad and tragic
story (documented below in the form of official
letters to the appropiate Italian authorities) made
more tragic by the continuing refusal of the Italian
ministry of higher education (Ministero della
Universita e della Ricerca
Scientifica e Tecnologica) to do a serious
investigation about the unfair and unethical
treatment of a Canadian graduate student by
ministry officials and by the academics involved in
the affair. We believe that an open appeal process
is a must in a democratic university system. If this is
not the case students rights are abrogated.

Furthermore, We strongly believe that the
community of international scholars and students
must be informed of the serious doubts of higher
education in Italy. We also want to warn and if
possible to avoid that future and present
foreing students enrolled in graduate programs in
Italy that may suffer the same experiences. If you
agree with us please write in protest to the Italian
authorities mentioned below. Please send us a copy
of your letter to any of the professors who signed
the letters to either the Italian Ambassador to
Canada or to the Italian Minister of higher
education in Rome,Italy.

Thank you in advance for your interest in this case.


The Honorable
Mr. Alessandro Fontana
(Ministry of Universities and Scientific Research)
Lungo Tevere,Thaon Di Revel 76
Rome, 00153, Italy

Dear Mr. Fontana:

This is to advise you that we have proceeded to
contact national and international associations about
your Ministry's failure to pursue Mr. David Aliaga's
grievance, and about the serious doubts which this
raises about the credibility of the Italian Dottorato
di Ricerca. Since your Ministry was unwilling to
respond to our letter of April 26, 1993, we feel we
have no choice but to ask professional associations
and societies of Anthropology to review the ethics
of the case. We will also be making our letters and
documents available to the international press.

Since you may not have seen earlier
correspondence regarding this case, we are
enclosing a copy of our letter of April 1993. The
other supporting documentation which we
forwarded earlier should be on file in the
Dipartimento Istruzione Universitaria.


James S. Frideres
Associate Dean (Research)
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Calgary

copy. Mr. de Montigny Marchand,
Ambassador, Canadian Embassy
via G. B. de Rossi, 27, 00161 Romc,


His Excellency
Mr. Sergio S. Balanzino
Italian Ambassador, Italian Embassy
275 Slater Street, 21 Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5H9

Dear Mr. Balanzino:

We are writing you to ask if you would please
contact the Italian Minister of Universities and
Scientific Research and advise him that unless we
obtain an answer to our previous letters we will
make our letters and documents available to the
press in Canada and abroad. We have tried, so far
unsuccessfully, to settle this matter, but
unfortunately we have not obtained a response
from the Minister about the treatment of Mr. David
Aliaga Rossel, which we have fully documented to
be unethical and unfair (see attached

We are aware of the immense political changes
occurring in Italy and we believe this, could be part
of the reason why we have not received a
response to our letters. In the interest of
maintaining high standards in the international
scholarly community of which Italy has always been
a major contributor, we respectfully ask you Mr.
Ambassador to relay to the Italian Minister of
Universities and Scientific Research how serious we
think this case is in our academic cornmunity in
Canada (see attached letters from CASCA and

Sincerely yours,

James S. Frideres
Associate Dean (Research)
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Calgary
Alberta,CanadaApril 26,1993

To: Il Dirigente Generale
Dipartimento Istruzione Universitaria
Dottorato di Ricerca
Ministero dell'Universita e della
Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica

We, the undersigned, feel that Mr. Aliaga has a
legitimate grievance against the Italian Ministry of
Universities, that he has been treated unethically
and unfairly from the time of his first admission to
and enrollment in the graduate program at the
University of Calabria, and that the Ministry has not
yet INVESTIGATED the fundamental issues of Mr.
Aliaga's grievance. Furthermore, we feel that the
Ministry's failure to pursue Mr. Aliaga's grievance
vigorously and the absence of an APPEAL
PROCEDURE undermines the integrity of their
programme of Dottorato di Ricerca. We are
considering bringing Mr. Aliaga's case to the
attention of the ethics committees of the Canadian
Anthropological Society and the American
Anthropological Association.

The issues which we think need to be investigated
further and evaluated fairly are the following:

1. Mr. Aliaga applied to and enrolled in the "corso
de Dottorato di Ricerca" with the understanding
that he would receive funding for the full 3 years of
the programme. Mr. Aliaga was assured (verbally)
he would receive such funding by Dott. Magno
Clarizia, IL CAPO DIV. AFF. GEN. of the University
of Calabna. Dott. Clarizia was apparently
misinformed, and after he was admitted to the
programme, Mr. Aliaga discovered that the Italian
Embassy in Ottawa was responsible for granting
such funding. Only after persistent appeals from Mr.
Aliaga, during the first two years of his study, did
the embassy award him a grant and for only 8
months of the promised 3 years of funding. Since
doctoral students are not permitted to work in
Italy, this meant that throughout his graduate
studies and field research Mr. Aliaga and his family
were forced to live under conditions of abject
poverty, that he was forced to leave Italy before he
could finish wnting his thesis, and that he was
forced to apply for an extension on the date of his
esame per il conferimento del titolo di Dottore di
Ricerca. The fact that Mr. Aliaga under such difficult
and stressful circumstances completed and
submitted his Relazione Finale within less than a
year of the original examination date is an indication
of his deep commitment and desire to complete
the programme of study honorably. An extension
granted by the Ministry should have been
automatic, given the circumstance, and should not
be represented as a special concession to Mr.
Aliaga. (See documents labeled #1. Note, all letters
from Mr. Aliaga were double registered to confirm

2. We believe that the guidance and supervision
which Mr. Aliaga received during the course of his
studies and field research at the University of
Calabria was inadequate and unsatisfactory to say
the least. He was only rarely allowed to meet with
his supervisor or supervisory committee. For much
of the guidance and training for his field research he
was forced to turn to visiting foreign scholars who
were carrying out their own research in the region.
Library resources were also far below an adequate
standard, and Mr. Aliaga again had to rely on the
generosity of foreign scholars to obtain current
literature. Despite the odds against him, Mr. Aliaga
completed the course of study and his research and
again demonstrated a remarkable determination to
complete the degree honorably. In retrospect,
however, it would seem that his supervisors were
neglectful of their responsibility to provide training
and guidance, and considering the brief attention
they were willing to give to Mr. Aliaga's progress,
it's doubtful that they thoroughly evaluated the
results of his work. Throughout the course of his
studies Mr. Aliaga was informed through official
documents that his progress was satisfactory and
that he was completing his work with proficiency.
(See documents labded #2)

3. There were several irregularities surrounding the
final examination of the Relazione Finale which
reflect mismanagement on the part of the Ministry.
First, neither Mr. Aliaga nor the members of the
first commission were informed that a new
examination commission had been formed until 4
weeks before the examination date. And since
addresses of the new commission members were
not provided, it was nearly impossible for Mr. Aliaga
to get the thesis to the commission in sufficient
time for them to review it. Second, Mr. Aliaga was
given less than 3 weeks advance notice of the
examination date despite the fact that he had
requested, in writing, at least 45 days notice in
order to be able to make travel arrangernents from
Canada Third, Mr. Aliaga and 3 other candidates
arrived at the Ministry in Rome on the appointed
date for the examiination, 9 A.M., July 25, l99l, and
after waiting until noon, they were told that the
commission was not coming for the examination.
Rathcr than taking responsibility, the Ministry
encouraged Mr. Aliaga and the other candidates to
press charges against the commission, an absurd
request which the students
declined. Mr. Aliaga was informed by the Minisay
that he would have to returrn in November, which
because of the great cost of travel from Canada wa
not a viable option for him. He was forced, then,
on his own to contact members of the commission
and ask them to convene for an examination, which
they did then, under protest, on August 7, 1991.
Fourth, it was evident to Mr. Aliaga that two
members of the commission had not received or
read the final version of his Relazione before the
examination. Once again, then, it seems that Mr.
Aliaga has acted honoraably and responsibly and the
Ministry has not. (See documents labeled #3)

4. The negative evaluation of Mr. Aliaga's Relazione
Finale by the examining commission appointed by
the Ministry contradicts the positive evaluation of
Professor Lombardi-Satriani and the examining
committee at the University of Calabria, and of very
positive reviews by Professor Tullio Tentori,
chairman of the previous commission and Dr.
Gianfausto Rosoli, direttore di Studi EmigTazione.
(see copies of letters attached) It would seem that
either the evaluation of the commission is in error
or that there are profound problems with the
standards of evaluation in Italian Academia. (See
documents labeled #4)

We ask that the Ministry of Universities and
Scientific Research review Mr. Aliaga's grievance
more thoroughly than it has thus far, paying
particular attention to the issues we have raised.
Mr. Aliaga's experience raises serious doubts about
the very credibility of the Italian Dottorato di
Ricerca. We urge the Ministry to establish appeal
procedures, for without an appeal process the
program from the University level on up has no
accountability. With respect to Mr. Aliaga we think a
fair and honorable outcome would be to allow him
a minimurn of a year with funding to rewrite his
thesis under the supervision of a new and
responsble professor who is an expert in the field
of return migration.

Letter signed by the following professors at the
University of Calgary, Canada:

J. Scott Raymond, Ph.D. Merlin
Brinkerhoff, Ph.D
Associate Professor, Archaeology
Professor of Sociology
Head of Archaeology
Director, Div. Int. Dev.

Michael Gardiner Ph.D Jean-
Guy Goulet, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. Sociology
Assoc. Prof. Anthropology

James S. Friders Ph.D.
Pamela M. McCallum, Ph.D.
Professor Sociology/Anthropology
Professor of English
Associate Dean Faculty of Soc. Sci.

Doyle G. Hatt, Ph.D.
Pamela Asquith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Associate Professor, Associate Dean Graduate
Studies Anthropology

Usher Fleising, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Head of Anthropology

December 21, 1993

Mr. AlIessandro Fontana
Minister of Universitieses & Scientific Investigation
Lungo Tevere, Thaon De Revel 76
Roma 00153

Dear Minister Fontana:

The case of Mr. David Aliaga has been brought to
my attention by Dr. Jean-Guy Goulet, who is a
member of thee Executive Board of our learned
society as well as Head of the Department of
AnthropoIogy at the University of Calgary. I would
like to join him and his colIeagues, Dr. J. Frideres,
Associate Dean (Research), and Dr. J.S. Raymond,
Head Department of ArchaeoIogy, in registering
concern over the apparent Iack of due process and
equitabIe treatment for Mr. Aliaga

A review of the materiaIs sent to me regarding this
matter indicates that serious ethical issues are
invoIved in the handIing of Mr. Aliaga's case. From
the beginning, when he was promised three years'
of funding but received only eight months' support,
he seems to have been treated unfairly. He was
not notified at the University of Calgary, as he had
requested, of his pending examination in November
1990, nor was he given adequate notice of the re-
scheduled examination in July 1991. NevertheIess,
he managed to appear for this examinafion in
Rome, but his commitee did not, an then
subsequently failed him, despite the positive
reccommendation of his earlier commitee that he
be awarded the title Dottore di Ricerca. I
understand that there is no procedure or
precedence for appealing this decision. Without an
open appeal procedure, the rights of students to
fair treatment are abrogated, which would not be
acceptable in this country. Moreover, the quaIity of
the entire programme of Dottorato di Riccrca is
called into question as no procedure exist for
independently assessing the vaIue of work
compIeted whithin it.

I am writing to express my concern about this
matter, not only in the interest of justice for Mr.
Aliaga, but more generally in the interests of
international scholarship. It would be a shame if
Canadian scholars were to hesitate to recommend
graduate study in Italy to their students, or if we
were reluctant to accept Italian doctorates here
because of the impossibility of evaluating their
worth. Failure to resolve the Aliaga case leaves
grave doubts in the international scholarly
community about the Dottorato di Ricerca
programme, doubts I trust you will want to put to
rest at your earliest possible convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Margaret C. Rodman
President, Canadian Anthropology Society
& Professor, Anthropology Department, York
Canadian Archaeological Association


Mr. Allessandro Fontana
Minister of Universities and Scientific Investigation
Lungo Tevere,Thaon de Revel 76
Roma 00153

Dear Minister Fontana:

Three eminent scholars at the University of Calgary (Drs.
Scott Raymond, Jean Guy Goulet. and James Frideres)
have brought to the attention of the Executive Council of
the Canadian Archaeological Association the case of Mr.
David Aliaga Rossel. We wish to join those scholars, as
well as the President of the Canadian Anthropological
Society (CASCA), in urging you to implement an appeal
and review procedure. Such a procedure would be a fair
and reasonable step to take in the David Aliaga Rossel
case. We further suggest that such an appeal procedure
should be mandatory in any educational system that is to
have the trust and approval of the international

The documentation about the David Aliaga Rossel case
provided to our Executive Council suggests that the
failure of the Ministry to award the graduate degree is
only the last in a long series of irregularities, each of which
appears to have been extremely unfortunate and to have
had unfortunate consequences for ehe student.

The letters from Professor A. Buttitta of the University of
Calabria, and Professor Luigi M. Lombardi Satriani of the
University of Rome, are strong support for the quality of
the research undertaken by Mr. Aliaga, and indicate in a
forceful manner that he should be awarded the degree in

Wc respectfully request that you review this case; when
this is done, we are confident that the situation can be
resolved by award Mr. Aliaga the Dottorato di Ricerca.

Yours sincerely,
Jane H. Kelley
His Excellency

Mr. Andrea Negrotto Cambiaso
Ambasciata D'Italia
275 Slater Street, 21 Floor
Ottawa, Ontario KlP SH9

Your Excellency Negrotto Cambiaso:

Thank you for the letter of November 8,1994,
from Mr. Adriano Benedetti, your Minister Counsellor,
and thank you for forwarding the documentation detailing
Mr. David Aliaga's case to the Italian authorities in Rome.

The letter from the Ministry of Universities and
Scientific and Technological Research has not responded
to the issues we raised concerning Mr. Aliaga's case or
the broader concerns about the integrity of graduate
education in Italy. We can only conclude that the Ministry
either did not read or chose to ignore the
documentation which we submitted. Since we believe
that Mr. Aliaga's case raises serious doubts about the
standards of evaluation in Italian graduate education, at
least in ethnoanthropology, we ask you to request the
Ministry to review our concerns and the documentation
we submitted more throughly.

Until this matter is resolved and until a formal
appeal procedure has been established, we regret that I
will have to discourage students from pursuing their
educational careers in Italy. Furthermore, we will pursue
whatever avenues are available to us through
government agencies, news media, and academic
societies to ensure that students not pursue their post
secondary education in Italy.

Thank you once again for your willingness to assist us in
communicating with the Ministry.

Cordially yours,

James S. Frideres
Associate Dean (Research)
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of
Calgary, Canada