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Professional Matters—January 2012

The Division of Professional Matters includes under its jurisdiction the Subcommittee on Professional Ethics, the Committee on Placement, the Committee on the Status of Women and Minority Groups, and the Classics Advisory Service.  Here follow brief reports from each committee, covering matters that were discussed at the annual APA meeting in Philadelphia.

Subcommittee on Professional Ethics and the Professional Matters Committee

Various questions were presented for consideration by the Subcommittee on Professional Ethics; as always, our deliberations are strictly confidential.  The communication of outcomes is still pending in one case that has occupied the Subcommittee for the past year. 

The Professional Matters Committee spent a significant amount of time discussing the problems and challenges of data collection on behalf of the Association.  The most recent APA census of classics departments has again elicited a response rate of well under 50%.  The Committee believes that the time has come for the APA to reevaluate in a systematic manner all of its surveys, our methods of data collection, and the goals that we wish to accomplish through data collection.  We realize that the services of a professionally trained expert in this area will be required in order to do the job properly.  The topic of data collection will be the most important agenda item issuing from the Professional Matters Division at the Board’s upcoming strategic planning retreat.

Committee on Placement (Submitted by Erich Gruen)

The Placement Committee was mercifully free of serious complaints about misconduct by individuals or institutions. The only messages of note from APA members recommended speedier posting of job notices and earlier scheduling of interviews for the Annual Meeting. The Committee discussed these matters through e-mail exchanges and again at the Annual Meeting.

The Committee meeting in Philadelphia addressed three main issues with which we have been grappling electronically over the past several months and for which we have now made recommendations as follows: (1) The Placement Service should post job notices as soon as they come in, and assign slots for interviews which would then be scheduled by individual institutions (as is done by the AHA and the MLA) rather than by a central office. (2) Skype interviews, if needed, should duplicate face-to-face interviews as far as possible; they should not be used for pre-screening of candidates, but take place at the Annual Meeting or shortly thereafter, with all search committee members present. (3) A panel at next year’s Annual Meeting, sponsored by the Placement Committee, should discuss alternative career opportunities for classicists and archaeologists, with panelists representing a range of other occupations from university administration to high-tech businesses.

Committee on the Status of Women and Minority Groups (Submitted by Joy Connolly)

In recent years the Committee on the Status of Women and Minority Groups has divided its energies in two directions: data collection and advocacy, with emphasis on data collection.  CSWMG has overseen surveys in three areas: Placement (for job candidates), the field (sent to chairs to collect demographics and curriculum offerings), and Journals (sent to journal editors, to collect gender and race data of reviewers and submitters).  At the January 2011 meeting chaired by Stephen Trzaskoma (UNH), we agreed that the collection of statistical information is crucial to the APA’s self-understanding, but we also noted that the collecting process is cumbersome, the response rates are low and getting lower, and the APA’s publication of the reports is erratic. 

This year the committee strongly reiterates the conclusions of last year, and calls for action.  We ask the Board of Directors during their upcoming retreat to review all procedures for gathering information, to establish clear goals and guidelines for publishing and preserving survey information, and most important, to hire professional assistance in shaping surveys and collecting data.  We would like to emphasize that professional help is necessary at the start of any survey, because goals must be articulated before the questions are designed in order for the information to be useful.  To sum up: CSWMG is not equipped to handle these surveys.  Comprehensive change is needed.  

We also agreed that the APA needs to explain more clearly and persuasively to departmental chairs the rationale behind collecting the information.  With only 145 Classics chairs responding to the demographics survey out of over 400, it seems clear that the unwillingness to take the survey is only partly due to its length and cumbersome design: we also believe chairs fail to understand or take seriously the importance of the information being gathered and its role in strengthening the field at a time of widespread budget cuts.  The committee is ready to assist the Board or the APA office if it can be of help crafting an appeal to chairs.  

Despite ongoing concerns about the survey procedures, under Steve’s leadership in 2010-11 CSWMG wrapped up a demographic report on the field which is now online at the APA website, as well as placement data for the years 2007-09. This year we submitted to Adam Blistein a report written by Helen Morales, Greg Thalmann, and Sander Goldberg summing up the 2010-11 Journals survey. 


In  January 2011, CSWMG decided to turn our energies to the advocacy front. To this end, we organized a sponsored panel at the 2012 Annual Meeting that follows an innovative format, “Authors Meet Critics.”  The panel, “Race and Reception,” featured two authors of recently published books, Emily Greenwood (Yale) and Jim Tatum (Dartmouth). The critics were Simon Goldhill (Cambridge), Patrice Rankine (Purdue), Sydnor Roy (Temple), and Cornel West (Princeton).  Attendance was large, between 100-150 people, questions were lively, and a videotape was made that will be posted on the APA website.  We expect to propose another panel this year, most likely on a Roman or Rome/Asia theme.  

The CSWMG also discussed ways to reach out to historically under-represented groups in the field, and we plan to post syllabi and other advice on outreach under the CSWMG’s webpage on the APA website.   Greg Thalmann (USC) now takes over as chair.  

Classics Advisory Service (Submitted by John F. Miller)

1. Since last January’s meeting in San Antonio the CAS has responded to four calls for help with threatened programs.  Two of these were in the United Kingdom, two in the United States.  I collaborated closely with the President, Kathleen Coleman, on letters to administrators.  Prof. Coleman’s letter to the Wall Street Journal on the situation at Texas A&M University (jointly with Liz Bartman of AIA) afforded to the general public a Classics voice on the growing trend of strict data-based assessment.

2. We heard back from four departments on whose behalf we worked last year.  Two (at universities in the UK) seemed to have been spared any significant cuts.  One (at a liberal arts college) was granted a tenure-track line and allowed to maintain departmental status for now, with the dean’s decision pending on request for an additional position which would guarantee critical mass of faculty.  One program (at a university) was likely to be maintained with a broader focus but no longer with departmental status.

3.  We assisted two liberal arts colleges and two state universities with names for program reviews of their Classics departments.

4. We advised one liberal arts college on the creation of a new major program in Classics and Medieval Studies.

Respectfully Submitted,
James M. May
Vice President for Professional Matters, 2009-2013


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