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Classics Advisory Service 1994-95

Report to the Board of Directors, American Philological Association from Michael Gagarin, Director

The Campus Advisory Service of the APA is now in its 25th year of providing assistance to colleges and universities in initiating, reviewing, and strengthening programs involving the languages and civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome. Its most visible accomplishments have involved the support and occasionally the rescue of threatened departments and programs, but perhaps its more important, if less publicized, work is the constant provision of advice and support for programs being reviewed or otherwise seeking to improve themselves. Officially sanctioned outside reviews have been a great help both in advising faculty about strengthening a program and in persuading administrators of the value of a Classics program.

My first call after becoming Director of CAS (on September 1, 1995) was from an institution where one of the two classicists had just retired and the department Chair (not a classicist) wanted help in establishing the case for a permanent replacement. He and other faculty strongly supported Classics, but they needed advice about Classics programs and help in persuading the higher administration of its value. In my view, the health of Classics in America -- and contrary to some published reports, the profession overall is healthy --lies in these small programs with a handful of majors, where two or three or four classicists teach Latin and a little Greek, keep up a regular cycle of Classical Civilization courses for students' general needs, and contribute to a multitude of campus-wide, interdisciplinary programs. In such situations the retirement or ineffectiveness of a single professor can put the entire Classics program in jeopardy; and yet, these are also the programs that have contributed the most to the growth of Classics in recent decades and will probably continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Thus the task of CAS is threefold.

  1. To assist institutions wishing to review Classics programs by providing outside reviewers and lending the APA's support to their recommendations.
  2. To assist programs threatened with elimination or reduction.
  3. To assist programs, especially small programs, in strengthening their programs and adapting to changing needs.

We will, of course. continue to provide these services as needed, but we must be careful not to let the second of them consume such a large share of time and energy that they detract from what, in my view, is the greater need for preventive help (task 3). Ideally, we should be working with Classics programs long before a crisis develops, both to ensure that no crisis materializes, and where possible to make the case for strengthening and adding to the program. I hope to focus somewhat more of the time and energy of CAS on this area.

To this end, I would like to work together with the staff of the APA (who have already gathered a large amount of relevant information) on developing a resource guide of "strategies for success" aimed primarily but not exclusively at smaller programs. Such a guide would draw on the experiences of a variety of successful programs and would include case histories. As a first step I am planning a panel for the 1996 APA meeting on "Small Classics Programs: Strategies for Success." I would like to hear from anyone with relevant experience to share or anyone who might wish to participate in this panel.

I do not intend to neglect larger departments, some of which have suffered substantial cuts, while others have seen corresponding growth. I intend to focus on their situation (with which I am, of course, more directly familiar) in the future.

Michael Gagarin
Director, Classics Advisory Service

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