Casa Italiana Gets Served

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… and not with rigatoni alla arrabbiata.

The Italic Institute of America filed suit Wednesday against Columbia’s Italian Academy (formerly housed in Casa Italiana) for failing to promote serious scholarship of Italian-American history and focusing instead on “stereotypical subsets of Italian-American culture,” according to the NY Post. The plaintiffs claim to be descendants of the people who originally donated money to get Casa Italiana built.

Rather than demanding money from Columbia, the Italic Institute is asking that the program be restored to encompass the founders’ original vision. The descendants of several original donors to the program played an integral role in the filing of this suit.

Notably, the lawsuit says that 20,000 volumes of literature that had been stored at Casa Italiana are now “collecting dust in the basement” of Butler, which helps to shed some light on what exactly the Butler basement is used for.

Reminder of how justice looks via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Alum

    The Italian Academy was not "formerly Casa Italiana". Casa Italiana is a building. The Italian Academy is an institute that uses the building. Saying the Italian Academy was formerly Casa Italiana is like saying the School of General Studies was formerly Lewisohn Hall.

    This mistake was probably the plaintiffs' and not Bwog's. Bwog is most likely giving us an accurate report of what the plaintiffs have alleged. But the allegations are wrong.

    Likewise, the plaintiffs are wrong when they claim that the books from the Italian library collection are now “collecting dust in the basement” of Butler. Those books are actually shelved alongside other humanities books. Columbia has one of the top Italian departments outside of Italy; the idea that the CU libraries have locked away the books that department relies on doesn't make sense.

    More importantly, the plaintiffs don't represent "the founders" of the Italian Academy -- or of anything else. The Academy was founded in 1990 by the Italian government, which donated a lot of money to establish it and to renovate the Casa. The plaintiffs claim to be descendants of people who donated money in 1927. That money paid part of the cost of building the Casa. Helping to pay for construction of a building in 1927 does not entitle the donors or their heirs to control a program that didn't even exist until 63 years later. Besides, the plaintiffs' ancestors paid only a fraction of the building's total cost. And the plaintiffs' are probably just a fraction of those donors' living descendants.

    And all of this presupposes that, back in 1927, the ancestors made their gift on the condition that Columbia agree to specific restrictions on how the building would be used, even 85 years later. That seems very unlikely. And even if there were such restrictions, it is unlikely that using the building for the Italian Academy (instead of the Italian department, which used to be there) would violate them.

  2. Anonymous

    i don't wanna go back to school

  3. i heard that

    lady gaga will release her new single called Guido.

  4. regardless

    I think this could be the basis for a great Varsity Show character/plot. Stereotypical Italian, anyone?

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