Professor in Hot Water for Hosting Costa Concordia Captain
A professor who invited the disgraced captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to speak at a criminology seminar has been referred to the ethics committee at Rome's La Sapienza University, the university said on Wednesday.
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 said.
Schettino is on trial for manslaughter and accused of causing the incident and abandoning the 114,500-metric-ton luxury liner after it struck rocks and sank off the Italian coast, precipitating a chaotic nighttime evacuation.
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 on Wednesday 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!"
(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Crispian Balmer)