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Since issues pertaining to social media continue to arise, the Society for Classical Studies wishes as a supplement to its earlier statement to caution its members and the members of its various affiliated organizations that they should take great care before making allegations on matters of fact about members of the scholarly community or repeating such assertions in their own media posts. Strong criticism is protected by academic freedom, but falsehood is not. Repeating false information or false rumors, or encouraging false inferences about another person, or about scientific or other factual matters, could hurt the public image and long-term health of our Society and our discipline, and could cause harm—both reputational harm and legal liability—to the original poster and to others. The SCS Statement of Professional Ethics prohibits harassment and intimidation, which can take place on social media, and the Committee on Professional Ethics may review complaints about such harassment.
The SCS Board of Directors has co-signed the following statement, which has been authored jointly by the American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America. As of June 16, 2021, 80 organizations have endorsed the statement.
You can read the full text and list of signatories below and read the press release by the American Historical Association here.
June 16, 2021
We, the undersigned associations and organizations, state our firm opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country that target academic lessons, presentations, and discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges and universities. These efforts have taken varied shape in at least 20 states; but often the legislation aims to prohibit or impede the teaching and education of students concerning what are termed “divisive concepts.” These divisive concepts as defined in numerous bills are a litany of vague and indefinite buzzwords and phrases including, for example, “that any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” These legislative efforts are deeply troubling for numerous reasons.
The SCS, consistent with its Statement on Professional Ethics, which addresses discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity, stands fully in support of transgender classicists. It condemms any harassment and bullying of anyone who is transgender or who advocates for transgender rights.
approved by the SCS Board, 4/30/21
Howard University is the only HBCU in the United States with a Classics Department, which has been a part of the institution since its inception in 1867. SCS has recently received the following news from the Department:
"Howard University has decided to close the Department of Classics as part of its prioritization efforts and is currently negotiating with the faculty of Classics and with other units in the College as to how they might best reposition and repurpose our programs and personnel. These discussions have been cordial, and the faculty remains hopeful that the department can be kept intact at some level, with its faculty and programs still in place."
The Executive Committee of the SCS has issued the following statement:
For several years, serious issues have arisen concerning online communications within the classics community. The SCS reminds its members to respect the dignity of one another in professional and private communications. These communications include, inter alia, social media posts and direct messages, private emails, and messages posted to email listservs. In view of these concerns the SCS Professional Matters Division is preparing guidelines for social media and other online communications.
Academic freedom and tenure are of fundamental importance, indeed the basis upon which America has achieved pre-eminence in higher education. Without its protections, faculty are at constant risk of arbitrary termination, with chilling and destructive effects on their ability to conduct groundbreaking research and provide state-of-the-art teaching. To enable termination of the appointments even of leading faculty members at any time and for any reason would inhibit the free flow of ideas, the building of stable departments, and the continuity necessary to conduct quality research and effectively teach students. The result for the university would surely be difficulty in attracting and retaining talented faculty, in securing research funding, in assuring current and potential students of a high-quality education with teachers and mentors who can be counted on to be there when they need them, and in living up to the expectations of our broader society, not least the citizens of Kansas. Academic freedom and tenure should be a line that no institution should be tempted to cross on any grounds short of actual exigency. Furthermore, members of the faculty accepted their positions in reliance on the existing policy, which was that in place at other institutions; this change is deeply unfair to them. Of course, the pandemic has caused financial crises in higher education, but that is why the policy allows for the declaration of financial exigency.
The SCS board of directors has endorsed a statement issued by the Middle East Studies Association on a proposed rule by DHS that would limit the duration of student visas. The proposed rule, if adopted, would mark the most sweeping change to student visa rules in decades. You can read the statement here:
Faculty, their administrations, and non-profit organizations, including SCS, around the country are engaging in the necessary work of addressing racism within their institutions. In recognition of this work and in support of it, the Executive Committee of SCS is reiterating the board statement of June 3, 2020:
From the SCS Board of Directors, approved 6/3/20
The Society for Classical Studies condemns the relentless horror of police brutality and murder of black men, women, and children, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Rodney King, to name just a few of the victims. Brutality perpetrated by the police and others stands with mass incarceration and unequal access to healthcare, education, and housing as symptoms of longstanding systemic, structural, and institutional racism in American and European cultures. These are deep problems in society that will not be fixed without radical policy changes at every level of government and across all institutions.
The SCS Board has endorsed a statement from the American Sociological Association calling on higher education administrations to revise a number of their academic policies.
Two main policy recommendations include recommending "that institutions make temporary adjustments to timelines for student progression and completion, including revising funding timelines as appropriate" and to adjust "expectations for learning and scholarship during this period...[including] alternate grading options or amended graduation requirements."
You can read the full statement here.