The Expert, Francesco Schettino

The Expert, Francesco Schettino
The Expert, Francesco Schettino

On July 5th, a two hour lecture was give at a University in Italy. It was part of a course in criminology and forensic science. The talk concerned the management of panic control. It’s not unusual to have a guest speaker. I’ve had guest speakers and have heard them in the classes I took when I was in college.

But this was different. The expert, Francesco Schettino, is famous but not for his academic expertise.

Francesco Schettino, formerly, Captain Fransesco Schettino, commanded the cruise liner, the Costa Concordia.

On January 13, 2012, the ship suffered a mishap. That night, the Captain took manual control of his vessel. Taking manual control of a 114,000 ton ship with a highly computerized navigation system may be considered unwise. He ran his ship too close to shore striking a rock which cut a gash in the hull across so many watertight compartments that saving the ship was impossible. Schettino declined to order abandon ship for about an hour even though it was obvious that the ship was sinking. As time passed, some officers and crew disobeyed the Captain and began loading life boats and evacuating passengers. This is called mutiny.

After an hour, the Captain notified port authorities that the ship was sinking and after a few more minutes ordered an evacuation. By then the ship was listing badly and it was very difficult to launch lifeboats. While the evacuation was ongoing, he abandoned ship and refused to reboard in spite of being ordered back aboard by the Coast Guard. Six hours later the evacuation was largely complete.

Thirty-two passengers and crew were killed. Sixty-four were injured and a member of the salvage team died later. However, it should be noted that the wind drove the ship back on shore where it grounded. If it had capsized and sank in the main channel, a high proportion of the more than 4,000 passengers and crew would have perished making the Titanic a distant second for loss of life.

Schettino is currently awaiting trial for manslaughter and causing the loss of the ship. He is seeking a plea deal.

The Expert, Francesco Shettino?

Is this incident ethical. It can be assumed that using those awaiting trial for severe moral failings and incompetence as an enriching experience for the young and impressionable is wrong. Why use bad examples when there a so many good, kind and successful people who could provide a better presentation? Teachers like myself have a responsibility to attend to the moral and ethical development of our students.

So, we can safely conclude that this may not have been the best person to give a lecture on panic management. Of course, it might be said that he is “experienced.” But it appears to be the wrong kind of experience.

I’m sure there are those who would treat this optimistically. I prefer satirically – like this:

There are many, many failures in many walks of life. The prisons and sometimes, asylums, are full of them. This might be considered (certainly by the instructor who invited Schettino) as an under utilized resource.

Bernie Madoff could lecture on securities and protecting your money.

Jeff Skilling could explain financial accountability.

Bruno Michel Iksil could have lectured on responsible trading.

It is a pity that this idea did not originate earlier as entire generations of criminal and financial failures have been lost to us without ever having delivered a single guest appearance before a college class.

James Pilant