Bergamo professor’s firing reflects ‘abuse of power’ by university administration, court finds

University of Bergamo, Caniana campus headquarters, home of the Department of Economics, Photo Credit: University of Bergamo

ROME-- Judges from the Consiglio di Stato ruled that well-known economics professor Giovanni Urga, dismissed in a Kafkaesque case involving double academic affiliations, had in fact not lied, but rather that the University of Bergamo was itself in the wrong in procedural matters that have gone on for years. 
Recruited because of his international reputation by the public university in the northern town of Bergamo, Urga was fired in 2020 after 13 years of teaching. The accusation against him was that he had lied on acceptance of his assignment by omitting that he had continued another teaching position abroad at the Bayes Business School from which he came. 
Two earlier rulings by the Regional Administrative Court, the Tribunale amministrativo regionale, established that the accusation was false, that the two teaching positions were in fact compatible and ordered the professor’s immediate reinstatement. The first instance court even censured the university for “a distorted use of public power” and for the implementation of regulations “equally illegitimate and likely introduced for personal reasons”. The latest ruling issued by the Seventh Section of the Consiglio di Stato further rules in favor of the professor, whose colleagues around the world mobilized on his behalf. 
In their latest ruling, the judges definitively rejected the university’s appeal, confirming the previous rulings and finding the complaints “manifestly unfounded”. They also ruled against the use of the entire issue of double affiliations, which prevents the matter of coming before the Constitutional Court. The judges further rejected the conduct of the university as illegitimate. Shortly after firing Urga as a professor for his dual affiliation, which he had already declared when accepting the teaching position in 2007, the university issued a regulation preventing such arrangements, a decision which itself was annulled by the earlier court. 
The judges of the Consiglio di Stato also noted that the administrative maneuvers were characterized by “a misuse of power for procedural abuse”, where the university attempted to discipline a professor in a particularly personal way in a dispute where the university had itself been ruled against. Especially revealing was the timing of the procedures. On Nov. 25, 2020 the Bergamo university authorized Urga’s double affiliation with Bayes Business School, but on December 1 university authorities implemented regulations to make such an association illegitimate. This makes the university choice to subsequently sanction the professor in 2020-2021 for a declaration made in 2007, when the disputed affiliations were then expressly permitted by the university, equally illegitimate according to the court.

Stranger still, the University of Bergamo rectoral decree that appointed Urga issued on Jan. 25, 2007 even mentioned that the professor desired to continue residing in London where he was carrying out his other position at the time of accepting the new appointment.

Urga is particularly well-known for his research, which was often published in international journals with the co-authorship of his students.