Amid virus fears, Santa Cecilia shuts out Asian students

Amid virus fears, Santa Cecilia shuts out Asian students


norman lebrecht

January 31, 2020

The following message has been sent to 160 teachers at Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory:

Dear colleagues and dear colleagues, because of the well-known events related to the Chinese epidemic, the lessons of the Oriental students (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc.) are suspended as well as others who have come from the countries concerned. The conservatory doctor will visit them all on Wednesday 5 February at 2.00 pm. Only those who pass the visit can be readmitted to attendance. In the meantime, absence will be considered absence due to illness. Please advise them all to convene on February 5 at 2 pm, and remind them to bring the booklet. Best regards. Signed by the director, Roberto Giuliani.

Care Colleghe e cari Colleghi, a causa delle ben note vicende legate all’epidemia cinese, sono sospese le lezioni degli studenti orientali (cinesi, coreani, giapponesi ecc.), nonché di altri che provenissero dai Paesi interessati. Mercoledì 5 febbraio alle ore 14 il medico del Conservatorio provvederà a visitarli tutti. Solo quelli che passeranno la visita potranno essere riammessi alla frequenza. Nel frattempo l’assenza sarà considerata assenza per malattia. Siete pregati di avvisarli tutti, di convocarli per il 5 febbraio alle ore 14, e di ricordargli di portare il libretto. Cordiali saluti”. Firmata dal direttore, Roberto Giuliani.

Just like medieval times. Or even German occupation.

We hear that many teachers are appalled, both at the exclusion and at the language of the message.

The Korean students feel particularly aggrieved as their country has barely been affected by the coronavirus.


  • Haimee says:

    Hard to believe that the person(s) responsible to the wording of this letter will stay one more minute in it’s position. Haven’t we learned a thing? Thank you Norman for your last comment (Just like medieval times. Or even German occupation.)

  • V.Lind says:

    This is absolutely shocking.

  • Yellow Peril is Me says:

    Oriental students. WTF? Marco Polo era language. Let’s start an “Oriental” boycott of this racist institution.

    • bill says:

      Question? Is that the correct translation and, does the chosen word in Italian have the same connotation as English? Last time I checked, in French, it is simply a neutral word. “oriental” and “occidental.” BTW we still have oriental rugs. Many are from Iran or Pakistan or Armenia etc. Relative to Europe, all those places are in the “orient” (east).

      The REAL ISSUE with this letter is that it is arbitrarily discriminatory based on appearance / ethnicity and has absolutely no Public Health benefit and does not follow accepted Public Health guidelines for quarantine.

  • Music Lover says:

    Why would people still want to study music in Italy? Music schools in Korea or Japan are much better in quality than the ones in Italy nowadays.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Seems reasonable to me.

    • Yellow Peril is Me says:

      Let’s say a student from Korea, China, Japan or wherever who has not been to Wuhan, Hubei, or China in the past 14 days and is subjected to a humiliating check up for just being an “Oriental.” What reason is there to single out people like this? What about an Asian- looking student who was born in the EU or the UK or the US to “Oriental” parents and who has never been to Asia? Will that person merit the same check up?

    • Music Lover says:

      a racist comment … what a pity…

  • Dante says:

    As an Italian I am embarrassed not only by this incident, but by the public manifestations of racism that regularly occur in Italy. I’ve never understood how or why we have so many people among us who have so much hate in their hearts. You see it in the football, the television and other media, in the way private and public organizations are run, and on the streets. It really breaks my heart and honestly I do not know what to do except call it out every single time I see it. Apologies to these students, and apologies to others who will be treated like this – because if there is one thing I know, is that cases like this will happen again and again in the coming weeks.

  • Studente Orientali says:

    To add insult to injury the kids are now chanting:

    “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, MALADY”

  • willymh says:

    I lived in Italy for five years and, I’m sad to say, this doesn’t surprise me. I saw it in my own building simply because I we were “gli stranieri” and “inglese”. Sometimes it was subtle other times so blatant it was hurtful. On one occasion I was coming into our building carrying our old dog who was crippled and dying. An older “gentleman” – who no doubt had been one of the Figli della Lupa – slammed the door in my face. He made it very apparent it wasn’t an accident.

    And when it came to “Orientals” I had a well-educated friend who explained to me why he didn’t go to Chinese restaurants – something about you never see cats in the neighbourhood. He sounded like my sainted but bigoted mother back in the 50s. Racism on all levels is alive and well in Europe and not just in Italy.

  • Ben says:

    Why am I not surprised?

  • brexit999 says:

    Trump: I’m racist.

    Italy: tieni la mia birra

  • SoCal Dan says:

    Here are the latest facts from the World Health Organization’s Novel Coronavirus Situation Report 10 (dated 30 January 2020): 7,736 confirmed cases in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei; 14 in Thailand; 11 in Japan; 10 in Singapore; 7 in Malaysia and in Australia; 5 in USA and in France; 4 in Republic of Korea, in Germany and in the United Arab Emirates; 3 in Canada; 2 in Vietnam; and 1 in six other countries.

    It’s not clear from the announcement why the director of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory is unconcerned with protecting faculty members from infected individuals originating from Australia, USA, France, Germany, the UAE, Canada, and several other non-Asian countries.

    In addition, the director’s actions assume that the Italian authorities will be unable to halt the spread of Novel Coronavirus at the country’s borders. Perhaps that assumption is less controversial.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    And the author of this idiotic memo is named “Giuliani” …. So if he’s related to Trump’s lawyer, then this is not at all surprising.

  • N says:

    The fact this is all about racism and not about medical concerns is clear from the way the students are seemingly being examined all together – what a great way to spread the virus, if there happens to be someone who has it!

  • sam says:

    As enlightening as a Puccini opera.

  • Roberto Giuliani says:

    But what do you expect from dirty filthy Italians? Lowest form of humanoid life if you want to call it ‘life’… They don’t even have mind of their own, let alone independent ideas. It humors me to hear whenever they cry out copyright infringement. Personally, I can’t tell one single difference between Arabs/Iranians and Italians. They all look the same to me, not to mention their terrible nasty stench.

  • Rob says:

    Coronavirus does not discriminate.

  • fildivoce says:

    Note that this is the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia (located at via dei Greci) & not the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Parco della Musica).

    Also “Oriente” historically was used to broadly mean “East”, with no distinction between Middle, Far, etc. However being that we (should) know & distinguish between various countries & cultures, it’s distasteful to read “orientale” in the modern press.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It’s contageous though. My aunt Julia got a computer virus from ordering a Chinese meal.


  • dtcotrona says:

    Stupidly racist and dumb. But then, that’s Italy for you. Basically the Florida of Europe.