The year was 1971. In the lobby of a hotel in Cincinnati, OH, a small group of early career faculty and graduate students, mostly women, met and decided to form a caucus. Frustrated by the lack of transparency, mentors, and opportunities in Classics both for women in the field and for those who studied women in antiquity, they wanted something different, both for themselves and for future generations. At the next year’s Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) in Philadelphia, PA, they made it official. The Women’s Classical Caucus (WCC) was born.
Our sixth interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is a virtual conversation between Dr. Joshua Nudell and Dr. Aven McMaster.
Joshua Nudell: There is no easy way into this conversation, but, until recently, you were tenured at a university that went through bankruptcy and now you are a contingent faculty member. Without dwelling on the events at Laurentian, how has this transition informed your view of contingency in particular and academia in general?
Aven McMaster: Don’t worry, I’m used to talking about all this! In fact, it’s a reminder of how entwined we tend to be with our jobs.
Our fourth interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is a virtual conversation between Joshua Nudell and Dr. Bonnie Rock-McCutcheon. Dr. Rock-McCutcheon received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, where she wrote a dissertation on the role of spectacle in gifts to Delian Apollo in the Archaic period, before becoming a Lecturer of Classics at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA. Her current research focuses on sociality with the gods, the role of gender in myth, and the use of graphic novels in the classroom. She was recently featured in an episode of the Creators Unite podcast, talking about her experiences using comic books and graphic novels in the classroom. When not teaching a wide range of courses for both the history and classics programs, Dr.
This article was originally published in Amphora 12.1. It has been edited slightly to adhere to current SCS blog conventions.
This month’s column is adapted from a paper I gave at the invitation of the Graduate Student Issues Committee at the CAMWS meeting in Waco earlier this month.
The humanities are a field in crisis because the number of students pursuing liberal-arts degrees has plummeted over the past couple decades. Classics is producing more Ph.D.s than the discipline can support. Online education will be the death of us all.
Sound familiar? Well, most of that’s bull. The decrease in liberal-arts majors was caused by opening non-humanities fields like engineering to women: without formal gender discrimination, as Heidi Tworek explains, women’s humanities-degree rates have adjusted to match men’s, which have remained stable since the 1960s. Online education has indeed opened opportunities to people otherwise lacking access — but isn’t close to usurping in-person teaching, as witnessed by abysmal completion rates of overhyped MOOCs.
Yet our discipline does face grim realities: almost nobody nowadays lands tenure-track positions when first on the market, and many classicists never will. Adjunct faculty outnumber tenure-line faculty nationwide, and tenure-line employment has remained stagnant while the number of Ph.D.s awarded has blossomed. White privilege, class privilege, male privilege, thin privilege, and abled privilege affect academic careers in big and small ways, from hiring to service workloads. It’s not necessarily Sisyphean, though it is definitely a steep uphill path. But it’s worth considering three interrelated ways of achieving a strong, satisfying career: the value of non-tenure-track faculty positions, possibilities for non-faculty employment, and mindful approaches to the academic market.