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SCS Newsletter - February 2020 (Priorities)

Strategic Priorities for the SCS Mission
 

In the January newsletter, we presented an elaboration of the SCS mission statement, approved by the board on January 2, 2020. This includes three strategic priorities of advocacy, growth, and inclusion, which will not function as replacements for our core areas of interest but rather as principles to follow in prioritizing initiatives and activities in our various programmatic divisions (communications and outreach, education, professional matters, annual meeting program, and publications and research).

This month, you can read a summary of the strategic priorities and learn how SCS is approaching them. We value feedback from our members on each of our priorities and how the society might work to advance them. Please write to the Executive Director (helen.cullyer@nyu.edu) with any feedback.

Summary of Strategic Priorities by the SCS Board of Directors

Preamble

The Society for Classical Studies, as it passes the sesquicentennial of its foundation as the American Philological Association in 1869, faces a very different set of challenges and opportunities from those recognized by our founders. To help guide the Society as it begins its next hundred and fifty years, and in the hope of being able to transform its ideals into reality, the Directors have crafted a set of strategic priorities, keyed to an expanded Mission Statement.

Advocacy

Advocacy means, simply, the need for SCS to evolve into an Advocacy organization for Classics and the Humanities.  

Advocacy in the fullest sense implies both advancing knowledge by virtue of teaching and research and making the case for the importance of Classical Studies in the public sphere. The need for SCS to evolve in this way was articulated at a major planning retreat in 2012 and has been informally cited many times since. Nonetheless, the Society has not yet made this evolution a guiding Strategic Principle until now.

Advocacy can take many forms: it can be as formal as a Board resolution, or as personal as a Letter to the Editor or a presentation at a public library or school by an individual member. It means working at an institutional level with organizations such as the National Humanities Alliance and the ACLS, empowering individual SCS members to become advocates nationally as well as locally, and Advocating both for the Humanities in general and for Classics specifically as a broad interdisciplinary field that is worthy of study and that speaks to a multitude of pressing contemporary concerns. These Advocacy efforts should focus on the value of studying the ancient Mediterranean world and the importance of understanding the roles played by Greece and Rome in human history, but they should avoid stating or insinuating that the Greek and Roman cultures are superior to other cultures and should firmly oppose those who would exploit the field for politically or socially oppressive purposes.

Growth

For many reasons it is crucial that SCS counter the ubiquitous and pernicious narrative of inevitable contraction and decline. Too many have internalized this narrative and can imagine no future for Classics other than one of shrinkage and eventual disappearance. SCS has to change minds about the future of Classics, and the most straightforward way of doing that is by rejecting a narrative of contraction and developing a strategy of Growth.

A strategy of Growth concerns the universe of Classics as a whole, not SCS in particular. That is the simple part. What is complex is strategizing the many ways in which Classics can develop and grow. Growth does not involve a future in which compulsory Latin is restored to all public schools in the US and Canada. It is not dedicated to the “restoration” of anything. It is, instead, about more people of all kinds — students (at all levels), teachers (at all levels), former students and teachers, independent researchers, enthusiasts, public intellectuals and policy makers, people of different ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds — all of them taking a positive interest in Classics. They might be language learners, avid readers, theater goers, history buffs, connoisseurs of the visual arts, travelers and tourists, or gamers. SCS does not insist that there is just one way of doing Classics; its purpose is to help people find and explore what it is about Classics that interests them. Growth in these terms means increasing the number of people who participate in Classics and the number of ways in which they can do so.

Growth in these terms also means attracting participants who will bring their new ideas into the field to expand what it means to “do Classics.” This will involve greater and more active involvement with diverse communities both in North America and anywhere there is someone interested in Classics, whether in itself or as part of a comparative project involving other traditions. The point here is both to enlarge the world of Classics and to expand understanding of the scope of a project shared by many in all parts of the world.

Inclusion

The third priority, Inclusion, is inseparable from the first two. One way to increase awareness of Classics and extend its reach is to engage with people who have not previously been much involved with Classics. Taking Inclusion seriously means addressing historical and contemporary inequalities based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class as a way of recognizing that Classics is enriched by new perspectives. The Society must aim to be maximally inclusive and to embrace those of all races, ethnicities, national origins, genders, sexualities, religions, physical abilities, and institutional affiliations from K-12 to higher education, as well as unaffiliated scholars.

To address Inclusion effectively, SCS must not only support initiatives that increase the number of underrepresented groups within the field but also recognize and address the ways in which members of underrepresented groups may feel unwelcome or tokenized, and, if they do pursue careers in the field of Classics, find themselves excessively burdened with service and mentoring responsibilities. We must grapple with the historical legacies of racism. The Society must also recognize that, as the field becomes more diverse and Inclusive, new voices will challenge established notions: of pedagogy, of what counts as legitimate research and publication, of institutional and organizational hierarchies, and even of the boundaries that define the field of Classical Studies itself. These challenges, while they may be uncomfortable, provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the field and to create more equitable conditions for students, faculty, and scholars, including those who are unaffiliated, at every level.

The Society also recognizes that Classics is being studied throughout the world within a variety of scholarly traditions and cultural perspectives on ancient Greece and Rome and on other ancient societies. This global interest provides opportunities for even greater Inclusion than would be possible by engaging only with those cultures that have traditionally been interested in ancient Greece and Rome.

Conclusion

These strategic priorities of Advocacy, Growth, and Inclusion are conceptually distinct, but they overlap and intersect. Their synergy will contribute to the dynamism of Classics going forward. They will serve as touchstones for the SCS Board of Directors in making decisions about how to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the immediate future. They will also provide our members with a yardstick against which to measure decisions made by their elected representatives. In this way, they will promote sound policy and transparency, and will better enable us all to meet the challenges and opportunities that we face.

How is SCS Addressing These Priorities?

Advocacy

  • The SCS is an active member of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), which advocates for the humanities in the US in several different ways. NHA’s Study Humanities Toolkit provides resources that faculty can use to make the case for the value of humanities education. NHA also coordinates advocacy aimed at legislators, such as National Humanities Advocacy Day at Congressional offices in DC, and action alerts on federal budget proposals. If you are a US resident you can take action here to contact your representatives on the White House’s recent proposal to defund the NEH in FY21.
  • SCS’s Classics Advisory Service (CAS), a service of the Professional Matters Division, provides advocacy and advice for Classics programs in trouble as well as new and expanding programs in higher education and at the K-12 level. Jeff Henderson, the experienced director of CAS, can provide letters of support, advice about external reviews and how to talk with administrators, tailoring his approach to institutional needs. The Education Division is also taking an interest in advocacy and has recently joined CAS in advocating for Latin in a school district in Illinois.
  • SCS is a member of the collaborative advocacy group of the American Council of Learned Societies. SCS has recently joined other societies in endorsing public statements on the responsible use of student evaluations of teachers, nativism and domestic terror, military targeting of cultural sites, and opposing a proposal to make classical architecture the preferred style for many federal buildings.
  • A new SCS publication, Careers for Classicists: Undergraduate Edition, currently in production in digital and print formats, will provide high school and undergraduate students with up-to-date guidance about what you can do with a Classics degree. Featuring profiles of Classics graduates from a number of different institution types, the publication will also function as an advocacy resource for teachers and faculty to use with parents, administrators, counselors, and advisers. The digital version will be available next month, with the print version soon to follow.

Growth

  • The Classics Everywhere initiative has to date funded 47 different projects that aim to bring Classics to a broad audience. Funded projects include many aimed at young audiences on topics from language to Roman engineering, collaborations with the performing arts, and initiatives that embody a rich diversity of perspectives both within the US and abroad, including a symposium on the life and work of Anna Julia Cooper, the ongoing “Classics Beyond Whiteness” project at Wake Forest University, and forthcoming in Fall 2020 "Classics in Humanities and University Education in Africa: The Way Forward", a public panel focusing on transnational and decolonizing perspectives. Classics Everywhere is being led by the Committee on Classics in the Community and Public Engagement Coordinator Nina Papathanasopoulou.
  • The new SCS Forum Prize joins the Outreach Prize and President’s Award in recognizing the value of engaging with audiences outside the confines of the classroom. The 2019 winner of the Forum Prize was Jeff Wright for Odyssey: the podcast.
  • On the SCS Blog, Sarah Bond has been exploring the relationships between Classics and other fields in her series “Addressing the Divide”, in which she has discussed ways in which “to embrace broader ideas of what Classics was, is, and could be.”
  • In 2019, Joseph Farrell organized his Presidential Panel and a panel at the Classical Association – FIEC conference on global classics, featuring scholars from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

Inclusion

  • Governance structures and processes of elections and appointments are emerging as major impediments to making SCS a more inclusive organization. The Nominating Committee has been working hard to develop diverse election slates. Further, new Equity Advisor Victoria Pagán has been working with the Executive Director and Committee on Diversity on the Profession on ways to diversify some core committees of SCS. Changes to board composition are also likely, with any major changes to Bylaws being subject to a member vote. Board members will work with committees such as the Graduate Student Committee and Contingent Faculty Committee to determine how more voices can be heard at the highest levels of the Society’s leadership, without placing an undue burden of service work on junior and contingent scholars.
  • With the respect to the Annual Meeting, many constituencies, including the Program Committee, SCS staff, and representatives from the Professional Matters division, have been working to improve policies and procedures on harassment and accessibility. The Program Committee is now requiring panel organizers to address diversity in their organizer statements, and beginning in 2020, all individual abstracts will be read and voted on in the first round of evaluation by two rather than one program committee member to combat implicit bias.
  • The 2020 meeting featured special events and workshops on the topic of race. President Mary T. Boatwright led a Presidential Panel, "Central and Marginal in Classical Studies", focusing on gender and equity through an intersectional lens. In 2021 and 2022, Presidents Sheila Murnaghan and Shelley Haley will organize coordinated Presidential panels on race, racism, and Classics. We also thank many affiliated groups, old and new, and other organizations and individuals for making equity and inclusion major foci of the meeting.
  • The Publications and Research division is addressing inclusion in a variety of ways. A themed issue of TAPA on race and racism will be published in 2023 and a call for papers is forthcoming soon. Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston will act as guest editors. The American Office of APh and advisory board of the American Office are working on how APh can include more scholarship on classical reception as a way to provide better representation of a broader range of scholarship and scholars in the bibliography.
  • The SCS blog features many blog posts on equity, inclusion, and diversity, and has also increased over the past year the diversity of its authors in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. The blog also now features a series on contingent faculty issues.
  • Both the Education Division and Membership Committee are working to make SCS more welcoming to K-12 teachers and making plans to provide professional development credits for teachers who attend the meeting and provide resources for K-12 teachers on the SCS website.
  • The Committee on Career Planning and Development has recommended that the Placement Service wind down its onsite interview services at the Annual Meeting over the next few years. The board of directors has approved this recommendation and charged the Committee and SCS office with developing a plan for an orderly wind-down of onsite services. This means that job candidates will no longer have to bear the expense of traveling to the annual conference for first round interviews. Although respondents to the member survey were overall split on whether SCS should end interview services, a majority of job candidates voted to end the services, while most respondents indicated that onsite interviews were not the only reason that they attended the meeting. The Committee on Career Planning and Development and the SCS office will substantially revise the Placement Guidelines before the ending of annual meeting interviews. This will include adding guidelines on how to accommodate candidates or search committee members with hearing impairment via remote interviews.

These are some of ways in which SCS is addressing its strategic directions. There is a lot more work to be done, including improvements in data collection, particularly demographic data about our members and the field at large, and fundraising for long-term fellowships for under-represented students. Thank you to all who have contributed to our efforts thus far.

Helen Cullyer

Executive Director

Photo Credits for February 2020 Newsletter

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