Board Statement on Anonymous Online Attacks

This post has been revised to include a letter from members and a response to that letter:
 
The SCS Board of Directors has approved the following statement (January 22, 2019):
 
The SCS Board of Directors condemns the practice of writing and circulating anonymous ad hominem attacks. Frank exchange among its members, including openly expressed criticism, are ideals of a scholarly community.  Anonymous attacks contradict the principle of frank exchange.
 

Letter to President Mary T. Boatwright, President-Elect Sheila Murnaghan, Immediate Past President Joseph Farrell

25 January 2019

Dear colleagues:

We write in response to the SCS Board of Directors’ statement on anonymous online attacks, published on the SCS website on January 22nd, 2019, which reads as follows:

The SCS Board of Directors condemns the practice of writing and circulating anonymous ad hominem attacks. Frank exchange among its members, including openly expressed criticism, are ideals of a scholarly community.  Anonymous attacks contradict the principle of frank exchange.

The statement dismayed us for a number of interrelated reasons. First, as was pointed out by Max Goldman, the statement seems to conflate “anonymity and ad hominem attacks, leaving it unclear what is being condemned.” Indeed, the statement seems to ignore the long and complex history of anonymity and pseudonymity. Of course the motivations for anonymity have varied considerably, but many essays have indeed been written anonymously to protect the author and were central to the formation of a productive discourse because they allowed for frank exchanges that were committed to ideas and less structured by the interplay of personalities, power dynamics, and politics. Indeed, anonymity remains a central pillar of peer review for exactly this reason. For the past three hundred years, anonymity has served to protect individuals in precarious positions who express uncomfortable or subversive sentiments. Anonymity was and is critical for speaking truth to power.

Second, despite valorizing “the principle of frank exchange,” the statement is conspicuously silent on what exactly has precipitated this condemnation, and which specific attacks it is condemning. If the SCS Board values open and frank exchange, including openly expressed criticism, then why does its statement refuse to engage in these practices? Simply put, the statement fails to live up to its own ideals.

Indeed, due to the statement’s lack of clarity, many readers of the SCS statement will assume, rightly or wrongly, that the statement is a response to a pseudonymous article about Mary Beard published on January 3rd, 2019. While we cannot be sure of the motivations of the author of that article, we think that it is virtually certain that they preserved their anonymity because they are a member of our community (i.e., a member of the SCS) who wishes not to be subject to retaliation (conscious or not). Given the precarity of the job market in Classics, only a small minority of our colleagues could indeed feel comfortable criticizing a prominent member of our discipline; even tenured professors are subject to significant pressures.

Thus, the condemnation of the SCS Board effectively does two things. First, it risks characterizing the article mentioned above as an ad hominem attack without evidence or argument. It is not clear to us that the article meets this standard.  Second, especially because other anonymous attacks (aimed especially against scholars of color and junior women) published online at Famae Volent and its successor have not been similarly censured, it risks communicating that the SCS prioritizes the interests of its most powerful and prominent members to the detriment of the less powerful and prominent, precisely those members whose precarity is such that they feel the need to maintain their anonymity. It is, however, the responsibility of the SCS leadership to defend and support all of its members. Thus, while it seems appropriate to us that the SCS should unequivocally support members who are subject to unjustified or ad hominem attacks, when it comes to reasoned and evidenced-based disputes within the SCS, it is important that the SCS Board be seen to act as a fair and neutral arbiter rather than an enforcer of established hierarchies.

In our view, the Board is rightly concerned about such anonymous essays. The fact that people feel the need to write anonymously is indeed concerning and a sign of the substantial inequities within our community. The Board’s condemnation, however, simply reproduces the power dynamics that produced these essays in the first place. That is to say, the SCS Board has effectively created circumstances in which such essays can only be published anonymously, since the same content published by named authors would presumably be subject to similar condemnation. The SCS could use its power of the bully pulpit once again to censure them, a censure that could certainly produce very real and material consequences. The Board has thus virtually guaranteed that such criticism will be driven underground or conducted through private conversations.  If the SCS is truly committed to producing an atmosphere conducive to frank exchange, then it must seek to understand the dynamics at play that motivate anonymous essays in the first place. That is, we should be asking: Why are we in this position? What concrete steps can be taken to improve the situation? To find solutions to these difficult questions, careful thought and deliberation are required, and more importantly, listening seriously to the concerns of the widest possible cross-section of SCS members, especially those whose voices have in the past been marginalized. To be clear, we agree with the SCS Board that harassment and ad hominem attacks cannot be tolerated, but we do not think that the statement’s unilateral condemnation of an important form of speech is a productive way forward, especially in light of the power dynamics currently at work in Classics.

Dimitri Nakassis                                             

University of Colorado Boulder         

Jennifer V Ebbeler

The University of Texas at Austin

(Many others signed onto this letter. You can view a full list of signatories by clicking on this link.)

SCS Letter in Response

February 5, 2019

Dear Professor Nakassis and Professor Ebbeler,                                             

We now reply to your letter (1/25/19) sent in response to the SCS Board's statement on anonymous, ad hominem attacks (1/22/19). Your thoughtful letter and the number of its signatories underscore that this is a complicated issue impacting many different aspects of our profession, even our daily lives. We discern two main strands in what you write to us. One is a dissatisfaction with our not distinguishing among different types of behavior on social media and other online venues; the other is the conviction, suspicion, or fear that the SCS reproduces systemic and oppressive power dynamics. Because both issues are tied to much larger and endemic problems, no single response will address every related problem or speak to each constituent of the SCS. We respond nevertheless: we are committed to open dialogue and to listening to our members, especially those who feel marginalized. We encourage members and non-members alike to contact SCS via social media or via email to the Executive Director and SCS President. We will also pay attention to publicly posted blogs that offer thoughtful criticism and that are brought to our notice.

For some years the Board of Directors and several committees have discussed defining best practices about ethics in social media and online discourse. The statement issued by the Board of Directors on 1/22/19 was neither final nor complete, although it was a start. We see in particular that we were insufficiently attentive to the circumstances that can make anonymity necessary. In the coming months we will work on an expanded and more nuanced statement.

But no single statement can fix the underlying problem, for which we must think broadly and work steadily. Historical inequality and marginalization because of race, ethnicity, gender, and other factors have shaped the SCS just like other American institutions and our society at large. More recently we have seen the number of K-12 schools offering Latin drastically decreased, Classics departments in colleges and universities squeezed by having faculty “do more with less,” the number of contingent faculty increased, Classics and humanities generally devalued, and expectations for tenure and promotion raised. Many if not all classicists often feel isolated and beleaguered. This is especially true of those who are just starting their careers, but also affects more experienced colleagues who work without the benefit of long-term job security or, in many cases, a single, full-time position. The restructuring in 2017 of SCS governance, which resulted in six divisions and 35 committees, was made precisely to address such issues. Although some progress has been made, your letter and recent events show that we still have far to go.

Only by hearing challenges can we respond to them, and only by responding can we move forward. But we need collective action and thought. We welcome your energy and insight as we address the present and future of our shared discipline and profession. We are open to whatever suggestions you, and others, want to communicate.

Sincerely,

Mary T. Boatwright, President

Joseph Farrell, Immediate Past President

Sheila Murnaghan, President-Elect

Helen Cullyer, Executive Director

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Like many others, I'm trying to funnel the anger and frustration that I felt at our panel on the "Future of Classics" at the Annual Meeting in San Diego toward taking action that can make a difference, even on a small scale.  At the panel Professor Sarah Bond and Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta promptly condemned the comments a speaker from the audience made about Dan-el as well as her intellectually and politically regressive defense of classical studies.   My thoughts here are intended to carry forward their energetic advocacy. 

To combat racist attitudes and assumptions that persist not only at the margins of the field but among and around us, we must act now on our home campuses and schools.  Here are five ideas to get us started.  There are many more.  It’s important to note that at some schools, faculty and students are already acting on these ideas or better versions of them.  They arise from my experience as a university administrator, where I've seen countless discussions about diversity go in circles until faculty, students, and staff commit together to do specific things within a short time frame.  They are designed for use at college and university campuses, the world I know best, but K-12 teachers and scholars are included here, and I welcome ideas from this crucially important sector of our field. 

Ideas for action in the coming 30-60 days 
 

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 02/15/2019 - 7:16am by Joy Connolly.

We have now reviewed the video of the Panel on the Future of Classics, which will be disseminated online today, February 14, 2019. 

The video makes it clear that what was said to Prof. Padilla Peralta was: “You may have got your job because you’re black, but I would prefer to think you got your job because of merit.”

Despite this factual correction to Presidential letter of 1/10/19, the SCS leadership stands by the substance of the Presidential letter and the actions taken onsite in San Diego, which have been reviewed by the Professional Ethics Committee. We repeat here that the future of classical studies depends on expansion, inclusion, and focused attention on and action to remedy the under-representation of people of color in Classics.

Mary T. Boatwright

SCS President

(Update: the Future of Classics video is now available on the SCS YouTube Channel)

View full article. | Posted in Presidential Letters on Thu, 02/14/2019 - 9:27am by Helen Cullyer.

Celebrating the Divine — Roman Festivals in Art, Religion, and Literature

University of Virginia, 30–31 August 2019

Festivals are ubiquitous in the life of the Roman world, and so are their depictions in ancient art and texts. Reliefs, mosaics and paintings, but also coins all show scenes of festivity. Very often, these images reflect on the relationship of humans and gods and the special encounter between both spheres that takes place in a festive context. In literary texts, feast days often occupy a prominent position: they are crucial for the preservation of memory and identity, but they also mark fateful beginnings or momentous endings in a narrative and act as privileged sites of self-definition for individuals or the community.

This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together scholars of literature, art, and religion to examine how Roman festivals are represented in different media and to explore the functions of such representations.

Possible questions include, but are by no means limited to the following:

How does one depict the particular type of event that is the festival? Is there a typical ‘festive scenery,’ and what are its elements? What are the techniques used for depicting the festive encounter of mortals and gods? How can the secret rites of the Mysteries be represented?

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 02/11/2019 - 10:06am by Erik Shell.

The conference is organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Science of Montenegro and will be held in Herceg Novi, an ancient town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and an intersecting point of different cultures during ancient and medieval times.

As one of the institutions participating in the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action entitled Reappraising Intellectual Debates on Civic Rights and Democracy in Europe, the Center for Hellenic Studies organized a series of lectures, presentations and round tables, participated by eminent experts in philosophy, history, political theory, theology, classics, and other disciplines. As the final phase of the project, the Center deemed opportune to initiate a debate on the achievements, values and guide marks that Hellenic political philosophy can have for contemporary Europe, in which the apprehension of the political is chiefly reduced to the interests of powers and corporations, being thus exclusively linked to the technique of conquering and maintaining dominance.

Ancient Hellenic conception, that gave birth to notions like freedom, democracy, parrhesia, publicity and other, reminds us that ancient Greeks understood politics not only as a fundamental designation of human beings – as, according to Aristotle, anyone who does not partake of society is either a beast or a god – but also as inseparably linked to ethics.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 02/11/2019 - 10:02am by Erik Shell.

The program submission system is now open and accepting proposals.

You can visit the main page at https://program.classicalstudies.org/

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 02/11/2019 - 9:31am by Erik Shell.
Apadana Hall, 5th century BC carving of Persian and Median soldiers in traditional costume. CC BY-SA 3.0.

'Addressing the Divide' is a new column that looks at the ways in which the modern field of Classics was constructed and then explores ways to identify, modify, or simply abolish the lines between fields in order to embrace broader ideas of what Classics was, is, and could be. This month, Prof. Catherine Bonesho, an Assistant Professor at UCLA who specializes in the ancient history of Judaism and the Near East, speaks to classicist and Herodotus scholar Prof. Rachel Hart. 

Where you work—and who you work with—can make a world of difference. A good chair, a charged computer, and my books were at one point all I thought I needed in my research. However, while still a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I realized that it’s not just where you work or what your work is, but the colleagues you work with. 

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 02/07/2019 - 8:15pm by Catherine Bonesho.

Resolution approved by the Board of Directors of the SCS, Jan. 6, 2019

The SCS Board of Directors approved the following recommendation at its meeting on January 6, 2019. It will be communicated to journal editors and to classics editors at relevant presses, that is, those whose publications fall under the responsibility of the American Office. We will also investigate whether the recommendation can be more widely discussed and adopted.

Board Resolution

In view of the ever-growing number of articles and chapters in collective volumes that the American Office for L’Année philologique is responsible for processing, it is the strong recommendation of the SCS that journal and volume editors regard it as a best practice and a routine adjunct of the publication process that each article or chapter be accompanied by a brief abstract and a list of keywords.

To ensure the utility of abstracts and keywords for the efficient compilation of data for APh, please take note of the following guidelines:

1. The abstract should give a concise but informative summary of the article’s or chapter’s content, indicating important points of argumentation and main conclusions.

2. The abstract should refer to the types of evidence adduced in drawing these conclusions, and give specific information about the most important items.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 02/04/2019 - 2:03pm by Erik Shell.

Classical Charleston 2019: Diversifying Classics

The Department of Classics at the College of Charleston is pleased to announce the eighth annual colloquium of the Theodore B. Guérard Lecture Series, Classical Charleston: “Diversifying Classics.”

This colloquium focuses upon the ways in which Classics opens a window into a diverse and multicultural world, and how this diversity allows for a variety of methodological approaches and applications for cross-comparative cultural study. Discussion also turns to the structural elements that historically have constrained these approaches, and a wider discussion on how to move the discipline (and the perception of the discipline) forward into a redefinition of Classics for the 21st century.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 02/04/2019 - 9:11am by Erik Shell.
The Classical Association of New England Summer Institute
July 8-13, 2019 / Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

E Pluribus Unum

The organizers of the 2019 CANE Summer Institute invite you to join us for a weeklong examination of peoples and cultures that comprised the Classical Greek and Roman worlds.  We will not only look at the various components of the ancient world, but we will also consider what it meant for those components to be unum.  The institute’s events and discussions will also consider modern and contemporary reflections of nationhood. 

Whether you are a high school or college teacher of Latin and/or Greek, History, English, the Arts, or other related disciplines, an undergraduate or graduate student, or a devoted lifelong learner, you will enjoy a thoughtful and enriching experience that includes a wide variety of mini-courses, lectures, workshops, reading groups, and special events while also offering many opportunities for conversation and collegial interaction among participants. CE credits available.

For more information www.caneweb.org

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View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 02/01/2019 - 8:08am by Erik Shell.
Pieter Coecke van Aelst, the elder (Flemish, 1502-1550). 'Saint Jerome in His Study,' ca. 1530. oil on panel. Walters Art Museum (37.256): Acquired by Henry Walters. Image via Wikimedia under Public Domain.

Literary translation is a scholarly and a creative act in which a reader of the Greek or Latin becomes the writer for new readers. Like all readers, translators interpret the text, and in the field of classics, apply their scholarship and their poetic abilities to put the text into a modern language. Since many readers of our translations cannot read the original, they depend on us to transmit the voice of the original writer and to be transparent in our choices. By that I mean that the translator should proclaim whether the translation is aiming for accuracy (and what that means in particular), whether it adds or subtracts from the source text (such as Richmond Lattimore inserting his own lines into Sappho’s fragments), whether the work is an adaptation rather than a translation (clearly proclaimed in Luis Alfaro’s “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angelos”).

Diane Arnson Svarlien and I co-organized “A Century of Translating Poetry” (the first panel sponsored by the Committee on the Translation of Classical Authors). The panel had a good mix of scholars, including active translators (both organizers, Gonçalves, Hadas, and Wilson), two non-translators (graduate student Lee and professor Vandiver), a poet (Hadas) and a performer of Latin poetry (Gonçalves). We had a lively discussion after the five talks with about forty audience members in a packed small room.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/31/2019 - 8:37pm by Diane Rayor.

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We have now reviewed the video of the Panel on the Future of Classics, which
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Celebrating the Divine — Roman Festivals in Art, Religion, and Litera
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The program submission system is now open and accepting proposals.

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