As Dean and Director of the Calandra Institute dedicated to the advancement and understanding of Italian-American culture, the community, and issues pertinent to it and its members, I hesitate to credit the lopsided and ill-informed representations made at the recent "Italian American Discrimination in Higher Education" Conference, and -more particularly - Arthur Piccolo's latest round of missives with a serious response. However, because certain comments are so embarrassing for him and those of us who support the Italian-American Community, I am compelled to comment.
This recent round of emails by Arthur Piccolo is not the first time that he and a few others have attacked both the Institute and me since I arrived at CUNY in 2006. Indeed, he was part of a failed campaign to have Joseph Scelsa reinstated as dean of the Calandra Institute in 2005, and followers have spawned various individual claims of discrimination seeking personal aggrandizement and advancement.
The most recent attacks Mr. Piccolo has circulated are sadly tragic in terms of their perennial claim of victimhood, but most horrid are the ludicrous comparisons to the experiences of African Americans who were enslaved. The following statement is so obnoxious and offensive to African Americans as well as to those (including Italian Americans) who have fought for abolition, freedom from slavery, and civil rights, that it is even difficult to re-write here:
"Forgive me if you find the analogy too brutal but in is [sic] own symbolic way what has been done to Mario [sic] Fosco so reminiscent of African Americans in the South in past times being lynched in public view to send the intended chilling message to others."
Suffice it to say that Maria Fosco's misguided and unfounded assertions that her move from one department to another (as is permitted by the rules and regulations of the CUNY applicable to the HEO series) was in any way discriminatory/retaliatory were flatly and soundly rejected by both the Federal Trial and Appellate Courts that adjudicated her claims. Moreover, such an allegation should not be referenced in the same sentence with the genocidal tragedies of slavery and lynching.
Where is the moral outrage (especially from the Italian-American Community, which is being used as a pawn) in this obvious attempt to turn a personal vendetta into an alleged civil rights action? And where is the outrage at trivializing real violations of civil rights in this way? The silence is deafening and an embarrassment.
We should not allow ourselves to be hijacked in this way.
As a community we are better than this behavior.