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SCS Statement on Professional Ethics

(Revised September 21, 2018 with new statement on cultural property, approved by the SCS membership)


The Society for Classical Studies has in recent years received a number of requests to intervene on behalf of individual members in situations involving violations and alleged violations of professional ethics. There has been and will continue to be considerable debate as to how the SCS should respond to such requests. At the very least, however, these appeals for support suggest the need for a clear statement of those ethical principles which should regulate the conduct of all those who participate in the profession. Accordingly, the Board of Directors at its meeting of October 1986 appointed an ad hoc Committee on Professional Ethics and charged this Committee to draft such a code. The present document represents the results of the Committee's deliberations. It is intended as a description of the responsibilities that we all share to provide a humane and just working environment for the welfare of the discipline. The document offers an expression of consensus on appropriate behavior in the face of what have been seen by some as genuine abuses. The statements made here, however, are only guidelines for desirable behavior and have no legal force except where stated. It is hoped that classicists will use the document as a frame of reference for professional conduct.

I. Employment and Professional Service

In all matters relating to employment, the Society for Classical Studies strongly endorses the 1976 AAUP Statement on Discrimination. Moreover, classicists should be protected against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation, gender identity, and actual or perceived medical conditions, including being HIV positive, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. The Society for Classical Studies supports the principles of affirmative action and urges Classics departments to pursue affirmative action programs and policies aggressively.

Professional Responsibilities

The general well being of the classical profession as a whole depends in large measure on the extent to which classicists succeed in carrying out their responsibilities to their students, to their departments, to their college or university community, and to the profession at large. The success of individual members depends not only upon individual ability and endeavor, but upon the work that others have done and upon a free and honest sharing of that work. In order to safeguard the interests of the profession, classicists should be encouraged to play an active part in the collective decision making processes of their institutions. Scholars can make a substantial contribution to their profession by promoting organizations and events that provide a forum for the dissemination of classical scholarship, by respecting the work of others, and by sharing with other scholars and students the fruits of their own work and experience. Only by such manifest commitment to the common cause will our discipline survive and flourish into subsequent generations.

Hiring and Placement

All available positions for classicists should be publicized, whether they are temporary, regular tenure track, or tenured. Listings should clearly outline the desired qualifications for the job and provide information about the procedure for application and the filing deadline. Available positions should be listed with the SCS-AIA Placement Service for publication in Positions for Classicists andArchaeologists, and the Guidelines for operation and use of the Placement Service should be followed by institutions throughout the course of a search. For adjunct or part-time positions that are not officially publicized, departments are expected to follow the spirit of affirmative action. All applications should be acknowledged, prompt notification made when candidates are no longer under consideration, and any interviewing connected with the search should be conducted in accord with the letter and spirit of the Guidelines and in accordance with applicable antidiscrimination law. Every candidate for appointment should be evaluated exclusively on professional criteria. The confidentiality of letters of recommendation should be respected. Institutions should keep applicants informed about the status of applications. Offers and acceptances should be made in writing, and candidates should have a reasonable opportunity to consider an offer before being required to respond. Unsuccessful candidates should be informed immediately. Candidates for positions and members of the profession who believe that hiring departments or institutions engaged in a search have not carried out their procedures in accordance with SCS guidelines should report all violations to the Placement Committee of the SCS. Candidates are responsible for the accuracy of the credentials which they submit in application for employment. Submission of false claims constitutes fraud which should, if discovered, also be reported to the Placement Committee of the SCS. The SCS Placement Committee is responsible for investigation of any problems associated with hiring and placement, and will report any findings to the Board of Directors. Individuals filing complaints will be informed of measures taken.

Working Conditions

While policies and resources vary from one institution to the next, the SCS subscribes to the view that the discipline will be best served when all members of the profession enjoy favorable and equitable working conditions. It is important that departments be administered in a spirit of collegiality, fairness, and respect. A working environment must be created and maintained that is free of bias, discrimination, harassment, and intimidation.  Tenure-stream faculty should expect that tasks and responsibilities will be shared and that privileges will be fairly awarded, as appropriate or reasonable. Teaching loads should be distributed equitably, and all faculty members should have some choice in the scheduling and assignment of courses. All tenure-stream faculty should have the opportunity to participate in a department’s decisions regarding curriculum and governance, and to participate in personnel decisions, when appropriate. Resources for research and teaching should be made available to all members of a department. Established members of the profession, and in particular the chairs of departments, have an obligation to advise and counsel their colleagues, including those in contingent positions, and should provide an environment that encourages intellectual growth, scholarly achievement, and career development.

Departments must make every effort to offer fair and equitable conditions for all faculty in whatever way is possible within the powers that they have in their College or University. Written guidelines should be available that outline the responsibilities, expectations, and privileges of faculty at all ranks employed by their department. This is especially important for contingent faculty, who often move from school to school and/or teach at multiple institutions. Contingent colleagues should be welcomed into the departmental community on the same basis as those teaching equivalent courses. They should be given adequate resources, and be afforded opportunities for professional development, access to travel funds,  support for research, and the like commensurate with their qualifications and the terms of their employment. They should have office space, email privileges, access to supplies, library, and staff support, and should be included in the departmental website and mailing list. Contingent faculty should be invited to attend department meetings and to present in departmental lecture series, if they so desire.

The SCS views excessive reliance on single-course contracts as unfair to the professionals who hold them and detrimental to student outcomes.  Whenever a department’s teaching need equals or exceeds the number of courses covered by a fulltime faculty member, department chairs should make every effort to have these contracts structured as fulltime appointments with benefits. Those in temporary positions should be fairly compensated for the work they perform in accordance with the experience of the contingent faculty member and the cost of living in that area.  Faculty teaching online courses should be compensated for the use of home offices and for supplies and equipment used. Contingent faculty should be given serious consideration for permanent positions when such positions become available.

Promotion, Tenure, and Dismissal

The Society for Classical Studies strongly endorses the AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the 1970 Interpretive Comments subsequently appended to that document. Classicists should be advised, at the time of their initial appointment, of all substantive criteria used by their institution for decisions about promotion and tenure, and they should be informed of the institution's priorities in evaluating scholarship, teaching, and service. There should be clearly defined procedures of evaluation; these procedures should be broadly promulgated and strictly followed. The procedures should include professional review of teaching and scholarship. All procedures should be fair and consistently applied. Candidates should have the opportunity to submit materials in support of their professional activities and achievements. The evaluation of candidates for promotion and tenure should be thorough, well documented, and consistent with the standards of academic freedom and fair professional practice. Candidates should be evaluated exclusively on their performance in carrying out the professional and collegial responsibilities of their position. All decisions, at each administrative level, should be promptly reported in writing. Where institutions do not have well established appeal and grievance procedures, tenured classicists should actively promote their adoption.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment may be broadly defined as any unsolicited or objectionable emphasis on the sexuality or sexual identity of another person (whether student, colleague or employee) that might limit that individual's full participation in the academic community. This includes not only sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or sexual assault, but also sexist remarks or jokes. Such behavior is an abuse of authority and undermines the atmosphere of trust essential to academic inquiry, and when directed to a subordinate (whether student, colleague or employee) may be legally actionable. Classicists should not condone such behavior when they know it exists nor should they disregard complaints from students or colleagues. Complaints about sexual harassment should be filed with the appropriate administrative office of the institution where the offense has occurred.

II. Teaching

Academic freedom is as essential to teaching as it is to scholarly research and publication, but freedom carries with it responsibilities: to one's subject matter, students, institution, and the profession at large.

The Institution and the Profession

The SCS seeks to encourage among its membership the highest standards in teaching through its annual Excellence in Teaching Awards and through the programs and activities of its Education Division. Excellence in teaching is a responsibility classicists have not only to their own institutions but also to the profession and the larger community. Classicists have a responsibility to introduce classical languages and culture to as wide a population as possible, to train a sufficient number of professional classicists to carry on the tasks of teaching and research, and to ensure that the richness of classical traditions will be available for future generations.

Subject Matter

Classicists have an obligation to present material accurately and fairly, with due attention to recent developments in scholarship. Topics introduced in the classroom should be relevant to the subject of the course. Intellectual controversy is healthy, and for that reason, instructors should be ready to present without falsification or misrepresentation opinions or positions with which they may disagree. Every effort should be made to respect legitimate differences in approach (e.g., philological, literary, critical, historical), and to create an environment in which free enquiry is encouraged and the efforts of students and colleagues are accorded respect.


Standards of integrity apply both inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers should make explicit at the outset of a course the material to be covered and the standards and procedures for evaluation of students. Every reasonable effort should be made to adhere to this plan. Students' work should be returned promptly with useful critique and assessment. Final grading should be fair, and if teaching assistants participate in grading, they should be informed of the instructor's criteria for grading. An instructor's pedagogical responsibility in a course extends to teaching assistants, who should be carefully supervised. Classicists should respect the personal integrity of their students at all times and should make every effort to create an atmosphere that is respectful of personal diversity. A faculty member's position of authority should never be abused. Classicists should recognize that advising and supervision are an important part of teaching. A faculty member, therefore, has an obligation to be available to students, to provide informed and disinterested advice, and to respect confidentiality. Those classicists who participate in the training of graduate students have a particular responsibility. A graduate supervisor's obligation to such students includes clarification of procedural requirements, honest assessment of progress, careful supervision of any teaching responsibilities, and frank advising about career decisions and professional development. Letters of recommendation should be submitted on time and should not misrepresent the qualifications of the student. A teacher who cannot in honesty support a candidate should decline to write on that student's behalf. In the advising, recruitment, admission, and retention of graduate students, all classicists, both at graduate institutions and at any institution from which candidates graduate and apply, should make every effort to avoid misrepresentation; they should represent honestly the strengths and weaknesses of the various programs, both their own and others'; and they should treat candidly such issues as the prospects of eventual employment. They should also encourage applicants, where possible, to visit the institutions from which they will make their selections. All classicists should also be aware that it is a national policy, agreed on by the Council of Graduate Schools, that no institution may expect a student to respond to an offer before April 15. There should be no attempt, direct or subtle, to compel or urge such response before the applicants have all the information they need, which may be only shortly before that date.

III. Scholarship and Research

Classicists have an obligation to advance the understanding of the field by the careful conduct and prompt publication of their research. This obligation requires respect for ancient evidence and alternative interpretations, accurate citations to help readers assess evidence, explicit acknowledgment of the support, personal, intellectual, and material, that has assisted the research, and forthright clarity about premises and assumptions upon which the work is based.

Material culture makes an essential contribution to Classical Studies and has been a concern of the Society for Classical Studies, and the American Philological Association before it, since the 19th century. But the destruction of sites by war and looting, the antiquities trade, online commerce, and social media have all altered the environment in which we think about material culture and our engagement with it in our professional lives. Artifacts of all sorts, and particularly objects bearing texts, such as inscriptions, papyri, and coins, play central roles in our studies. Questions about their provenance and history can arise in many areas of scholarly work, including first publications of objects and texts and the management of institutional collections. Moreover, the study of the histories of objects has much to contribute to Classical Studies, especially in understanding the full context of the creation and use of objects, and in reception history. Accordingly, members should always be aware of the impact that their professional practice will have on the creation and preservation of information about ancient objects, and should exercise due diligence by thoroughly studying the history of the object(s) under study.

Due diligence will often involve investigation of the legal situation of artifacts, but it may also necessitate understanding institutional policies (those, for example, that prohibit agreements restricting the publication or public disclosure of information about research) and thinking carefully about questions of prudence in the public space created by social media. In all cases, members should avoid activity that contributes directly or indirectly to the illegal handling of antiquities. In particular, members should avoid activity that increases the commercial value of illegally exported objects or which can, even indirectly, lead to further looting. Members should not normally use the annual meeting of SCS or any of its publications as a venue for the first publication or announcement of unprovenanced antiquities; exceptions should require serious ethical reflection about the objects in question and consultation with experts, and should foreground questions of provenance. Similarly, in selecting images for use in presentations and publications members should take advantage of the many repositories of open-access digital images with full metadata, rather than using undocumented images and artifacts found online.

The UNESCO convention of 1970 provides an essential point of reference for avoiding involvement with insufficiently documented antiquities, but members should also be aware that individual countries have applicable laws that pre-date the UNESCO convention, concerning the export of antiquities. It is these laws that define objects as stolen and make their possession subject to prosecution. Even objects legally exported well before 1970 can benefit from the investigation of provenance. It is also incumbent upon members to be transparent in all publications about the sources and collection histories of all objects they work with and publish. Members are encouraged to incorporate discussion of these issues into their teaching and public outreach and to seek informed professional advice when complex issues arise in their work. They should teach their students to consider questions of provenance in any scholarly work concerned with ancient objects.

The criteria for assessing research in classical studies must always include the extent to which the work contributes to a continuing scholarly dialogue. Hence fairness in presenting and courtesy in discussing the views of others are essential to the proper conduct of classical scholarship.


Responsibilities of the author: The most fundamental ethical obligation of any scholar is to give full and proper credit to all sources involved in research, whether these sources be the published work of other scholars or the unpublished work of students or colleagues. Material taken verbatim from another person's published or unpublished work must be explicitly identified with reference to its author. Borrowed ideas or data, even if not directly quoted, must be explicitly acknowledged. Revised reprints and translations of earlier work should be identified as such.

Submission of a manuscript

Submission of a manuscript to a professional journal or publisher clearly grants that publisher first claim to publish unless prior arrangements have been made. In cases where the editor or publisher has kept a manuscript for an undue length of time without rendering a decision to publish, an author can submit the manuscript elsewhere provided that the first editor is informed in writing.

Editorial Policy and the Refereeing Process

Journals should have well defined and clearly stated editorial policies and should publish for readers the procedures for submission of articles. Editorial decisions should be informed by appropriate scholarly criteria. Editors have an obligation to ensure that all submissions are properly refereed. When inviting referees, editors should specify their requirements and ask for a commitment that a decision be rendered within a stated period of time(preferably within 6 weeks). In order to encourage fair and objective judgments, manuscripts should always be assessed as anonymous submissions, and the substance of referees' assessments should be conveyed in writing to the author. Editors should choose referees from qualified scholars who are open minded, impartial and not unsympathetic to the subject matter and approach of the manuscript. A good referee's report is one that provides a fair, accurate, and informed assessment of the submission under consideration. Scholars who are asked to referee a manuscript should decline in cases where they might have conflicts of interest which would impair their ability to make an objective assessment, or when such requests cannot be completed within the time requested. A referee has an obligation to inform an editor in cases where that referee has previously reviewed a manuscript. A commitment to publish a manuscript, once communicated to the author, is binding on the journal or publisher.

The Review Process for Published Work

The review process can play a critical role in a scholar's professional development as well as in the public reception of scholarly work. It is therefore imperative that the process be conducted according to the highest ethical standards. In sending out publications for review, editors should make every effort to ensure that those solicited for reviews are qualified scholars who can provide fair, accurate, and informed assessments. Classicists who commit themselves to review a publication should complete the review within a reasonable period of time. Those asked to review publications should decline in cases where conflicts of interest might impair their ability to make an objective assessment of the work. Reviewers should render a balanced and constructive evaluation in order to give the reader a fair idea of the contents and value of the work.

IV. Complaints and Grievances

The Society for Classical Studies must make every effort to see that its own activities live up to the high standards set forth in this document. Questions or complaints about the conduct of any of the Society's programs should be addressed to the editor, committee chairperson or person in charge, or to any officer or member of the Board of Directors. Issues that do not find a routine resolution may be considered by the Board of Directors at their regular meetings or in cases of special urgency by the Executive Committee of the Board. The Society is particularly concerned to prevent the abuse of its Placement Service or of its various publication programs. The SCS urges other classical institutions, departments, journals and regional associations to maintain the highest professional standards and to follow the guidelines set out in this document. In pursuing this goal the Directors are prepared to consider questions, suggestions and well reasoned and documented complaints from members or other concerned parties. The Society's primary role is to collect and disseminate information, to suggest possible improvements, and to encourage constructive change. This does not preclude the possibility that the Directors from time to time may wish to make a statement of concern or even censure. Members of the Society who feel that they have not been treated fairly by their home institution in matters of employment or advancement should recognize that the Society becomes involved in such cases only in the most exceptional circumstances, and that this policy is unlikely to change. The Society lacks the staff, legal counsel, and professional liability insurance to risk becoming a party to legal proceedings. Members are therefore urged to use the grievance procedures of their own institutions. If these prove unresponsive, complaints should be directed to the local chapter or national headquarters of the American Association of University Professors. Classicists have a professional obligation to encourage the establishment of and to support guidelines and procedures for professional conduct, grievance, and appeal in their employing institutions. Further, the health of the classical profession as a whole will be greatly enhanced if all classicists assume personal responsibility to take appropriate action when confronted by violations of the profession's code of ethics.

V. Procedure for Amendment

Additions or amendments to this statement may be submitted in writing to the Executive Director for review and approval by the Board of Directors and adoption through referendum by the membership.

NOTE: The SCS Statement on Professional Ethics came about as follows:

1. - In April, 1986 the SCS Board of Directors appointed an ad hoc Committee of the Board, chaired by Deborah W. Hobson, to investigate the procedures and experiences of other learned societies in handling grievances from individual members.

2. - In October, 1986 the Directors approved the recommendation of this Committee that the Society prepare a statement of professional ethics for consideration and approval by the membership. In December, 1986 a second Committee, the ad hoc Committee on Professional Ethics, was appointed to draft a statement, with Susan Guettel Cole as Chair. The other members were: Robert A. Bauslaugh (representing the SCS Committee on Placement), W. R. Connor, Judith Ginsburg (representing the SCS Committee on the Status of Women and Minority Groups), Deborah W. Hobson, Matthew S. Santirocco, and Harry B. Evans, SCS Secretary-Treasurer, ex officio.

3. - The ad hoc Committee on Professional Ethics prepared several drafts for review by the Board of Directors, the last of which was published as a working document in the Spring, 1988 Newsletter (vol. 11.2, pp. 3-5). This Committee also sponsored a panel on Professional Ethics on Saturday, January 7, 1989, at the Society's 120th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland to solicit reactions and responses from the membership.

4. - On January 8, 1989 the Directors unanimously approved plans for adoption of the Statement by written ballot of the membership.

5. - The Statement on Professional Ethics was approved by the membership of the Society with overwhelming support in the Annual Election, Fall 1989.

6. - The Statement was amended by the membership of the Society in the Annual Election, Fall 1991.

7. - The Statement was further amended by the membership of the Society in the Annual Election, Summer 2006.

8. - The Statement was further amended by the membership of the Society in the Annual Election, Summer 2011.

9. - The Statement was further amended by the membership of the Society in the Annual Election, Summer 2017.

10. - The Statement was further amended by the membership of the Society in the Annual Election, Summer 2018.

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