The Classics Advisory Service (CAS) helps college and university teachers in North America and abroad to maintain, strengthen, and defend their programs in Classics, broadly understood to include Greek and Latin languages and literatures and their reception throughout the world; Greek and Roman culture, history, and archaeology; and all other classical aspects of Ancient Mediterranean Studies. In recent years CAS has also assisted secondary teachers and programs. Among the services CAS provides are: advice and information about academic and curricular norms and standards; responses to administratively devised assessment criteria, both program- and promotion-related, that seem ill suited to Classics; assistance with external Program Reviews, including the selection of visitors and the preparation of self-studies; and advice and support for strengthening current programs and preserving threatened programs. The SCS now also provides resources for establishing and improving undergraduate programs.
Classics programs (like humanities programs generally) are currently vulnerable to diminishment or elimination on a variety of rationales budgetary, curricular, and ideological. The pandemic of 2020 will accelerate this trend. Encouraging the attacks is a notion that classics is small and no longer relevant, so that few will notice or much care if the program is jettisoned in favor of subjects that administrators currently consider to be more practical. Administrators are always surprised when SCS weighs in by letters or calls to express concern and present a national perspective, and as a rule they listen to outsiders’ arguments far more carefully than to the same arguments when made by their own faculty and students. We have found that in virtually all cases the administrative justifications range from flimsy to false, and in not a few cases we have helped to ameliorate or eliminate threats. It is therefore worthwhile for programs facing threats to explore what CAS can contribute.
There is no simple formula for keeping a program healthy and avoiding threats, and no single solution when threats materialize. Much depends on local conditions. But among the strategies that have proven effective are the following.
1. Understand financial conditions and tailor your needs accordingly. This involves learning about:
- Most important is your own program’s budget relative to other programs in your college, in particular your income/expense ratio: how much your program costs (salaries and operating budget) vs. how much it earns (tuition from all enrollees in your courses, not just concentrators, and any other income). Contrary to popular mythology, Classics programs are typically high on the list of profitable units by a ratio of 3 or 4/1 and thus help fund unprofitable units, which include most grant-funded programs (indirect cost recovery never fully covers their expenses). If your program does not have this information, your chair should ask the dean to supply it. In most cases it deprives administrators of a favorite rationale: that they are eliminating unprofitable programs, a claim that they typically back up by counting concentrators instead of citing the actual income/expense ratio.
- the budgetary situation of your institution and any institutions that directly affect it, such as the state or local community that supports a public institution or the church that supports a religious institution.
- the financial structure of your institution. Where does funding come from? Who controls or influences funding sources?
- other funding sources. Are there special funds in the institution (not necessarily in Classics) that could be used for Classics-related activities? What groups or individuals in the state or local community might be interested (or become interested) in supporting a Classics activity? Is there a way to involve alums in fundraising without your development office horning in?
Once you understand financial conditions you may want to modify your priorities. For example, if money is available for technological resources but not for library books, look for technology that will benefit Classics; requests for books need not be abandoned, but supplement them with other efforts. The development office will probably not try to redirect funding for Classics-specific purposes. If a local military buff, say, can be induced to contribute books about ancient warfare or fund a conference, it may be good for your program to start a special collection or organize such a conference even if this has not been a program emphasis. External friends and supporters are always good to have.
2. Understand the power structure of your institution. Who makes important decisions? What are their interests? As in the preceding, look for ways to take advantage of the special interests of these decision-makers.
3. Know your constituencies. At first you may think only of students in your courses, but Classics can also serve
- Faculty and students in many other areas
- Secondary school teachers and students
- The community
To the extent that you do serve these constituencies, they can be called on for support in times of need. For example, helping high-school Latin teachers strengthen their programs may not only provide you with some better prepared entering freshmen but with additional supporters in the community (teachers, students and parents). In this regard you should join and work with all relevant organizations, especially local, state and regional associations of Classics teachers. Information about these can be found from the SCS Home Page.
4. Build connections, especially with other departments and programs that are strong on campus. The field of Classics is intrinsically interdisciplinary and thus offers almost unlimited possibilities for making connections with other areas and programs. Even professional schools like business (the ancient economy), medicine (ancient medicine), and law (Greek or Roman law) can find connections with Classics. Enrollments in your courses are your principal source of income, and broader demand is a justification for new faculty lines. Seek out strong faculty and programs and look for ways to work together. Be creative and you can not only make your own programs more interesting but at the same time can generate important support for Classics elsewhere on campus.
Follow these links for more specific information about:
- Reports from 2011-2019 can be viewed within the Vice President of Professional Matters Reports
Send comments to
Jeffrey J. Henderson
William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Greek
Department of Classical Studies
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215