September 19, 2014
Outrage as Costa Concordia Schettino lectures Rome students on panic management
The participation of the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise that shipwrecked in 2012 in a criminology university seminar prompted fierce condemnation and outrage of Italian education authorities and media.
On July 5, Francesco Schettino took part in the “From the crime scene to the investigation” seminar at Rome's La Sapienza University where he was invited to lecture students on emergency procedures.
But it was today when Italian media revealed Schettino’s controversial participation with Italy’s Education Minister Stefania Giannini considering it “disconcerting” and the head of the Sapienza University saying “academic freedom can not be irresponsible.”
Schettino is on trial for manslaughter and accused of causing the incident and abandoning the 114,500-tonne luxury liner after it struck rocks and sank off the Italian coast, precipitating a chaotic nighttime evacuation.
According to some participants of the seminar, Schettino held a 15-minute video conference giving details on the Costa Concordia sea accident and lecturing students on “panic management” at times of crisis.
The Florence daily La Nazione, however, said today the captain gave a two-hour lecture instead.
Professor in the spotlight
Meanwhile, the professor who invited the disgraced captain to speak at the criminology seminar has been referred to the ethics committee at La Sapienza University, the university said on today.
Professor Vincenzo Mastronardi held the seminar last month reconstructing the January 2012 shipwreck in which 32 people died, complete with 3D graphics and comments from the ship's captain Francesco Schettino, the university confirmed.
A coastguard's order to Schettino to "Get back on board, damn it!" spread quickly in Italy and was printed on t-shirts.
"Everyone remembers the exchange between the coast guard and Schettino, with the curt order to return to the ship," La Sapienza said in a statement. "This is quite enough to brand Professor Mastronardi's actions as contrary to the objectives of any academic event."
La Repubblica newspaper quoted Mastronardi as saying he would clear up any misunderstanding with La Sapienza, saying the seminar had been reserved for specialists.
The ethics committee was expected to decide whether to take disciplinary action against the professor.
La Sapienza said Mastronardi's faux-pas was made more serious by the fact that legal action was still ongoing and that there was no one there to represent the other side, such as a passenger or someone who lost a relative in the disaster.
Schettino, who was in charge of the ship when it performed the maritime display known as a "salute", which brought it dangerously close to shore, denies the charges.
The Costa Concordia, a floating hotel as long as three football pitches laid end to end, was towed in July to the Italian port of Genoa to be broken up for scrap after wallowing by the Tuscan island of Giglio for two and a half years.
A chorus of Twitter users responded to Italian media reports that the seminar had happened, with the hashtag "#sapienza" appearing alongside witticisms such as "Get back to your desk, damn it!."