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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CALL FOR ARTICLE PROPOSALS

Elementary-level foreign language instruction: from theory to practice

Editor: Ekaterina (Katya) Nemtchinova, Seattle Pacific University, katya@spu.edu

The articles in this volume will:

  • focus on adult learners in a formal classroom setting (e.g. college or university classes);
  • address facilitation of linguistic, communicative, and cultural competence in the framework of reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills;
  • describe successful instructional strategies and collaborative projects;
  • discuss empirical research findings and their implications for classroom teaching;
  • present innovative materials and techniques that enhance teaching and learning;
  • offer practical teaching suggestions that would work in any adult elementary-level language classroom.

The book will consist of the following tentative sections: 

  • Grammar and vocabulary
  • Speaking and listening
  • Reading and writing
  • Intercultural competence
  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Teaching with technology

Your Article Proposal should include

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 06/05/2019 - 2:14pm by Erik Shell.

The Ancient Philosophy Society was established to provide a forum for diverse scholarship on ancient Greek and Roman texts. Honoring the richness of the American and European philosophical traditions, the APS supports phenomenological, postmodern, Anglo-American, Straussian, Tübingen School, hermeneutic, psychoanalytic, queer, and feminist interpretations of ancient Greek and Roman philosophical and literary works.       

THEME: Although papers on all topics relating to the continental interpretation of ancient philosophy are welcome, this year’s conference organizers are especially interested in assembling one or two panels relating to the themes of xenia or ‘hospitality’ and the xenos or the ‘foreigner, stranger,’ thereby bringing the ancients into the urgent contemporary conversation about social/political issues such as immigration, national identities, and border policy. 

Submissions cannot exceed 3000 words in length (not including notes) and must be prepared for blind review.

Send to:  APS2020@depaul.edu

The conference hosts at DePaul University this year are Michael Naas, Sean D. Kirkland, and William McNeill.

Deadline November 22nd, 2019.

For more information visit: http://www.ancientphilosophysociety.org

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View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 06/03/2019 - 11:02am by Erik Shell.

ELEATICA 2019 - PROGRAM

The eleventh edition of ELEATICA - International Session on Ancient Philosophy, will be held on September 18-21, 2019 at the Fondazione Alario per Elea-Velia Impresa Sociale (Ascea Marina, Salerno, Italy, in the vicinity of the archeological area of ancient Elea). This time the main lectures will be given by Prof. Richard McKirahan (Pomona College, Claremont, Los Angeles, President of the International Association for Presocratic Studies).
Here is the conference programme:

Eleatica 2019
ARISTOTELE E GLI ELEATI

Wednesday, September 18

14:15 Courtyard of Palazzo Alario: Welcome and Registration

15:15 Palazzo Alario, Sala Francesco Alario: Opening Ceremony
Marcello D’Aiuto (President of the Fondazione Alario per Elea-Velia impresa sociale).
Francesca Gambetti (Scientific Direction of Eleatica – Univ. Roma Tre - SFI)

15:30 ‘I nostri libri’
Stefania Giombini (Scientific Direction of Eleatica – Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona, Univ. Girona)

16:00 1st Lecture: ‘Un Parmenide aristotelico’, Richard McKirahan
Chair: Bernardo Berruecos Frank (UNAM)
Discussant: Massimo Pulpito (Scientific Committee of Eleatica - Cátedra Unesco Archai)

17:30 Debate

Thursday, September 19

08:00 Visit to Paestum (with tastings of local gastronomy)

Friday, September 20

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 06/03/2019 - 8:24am by Erik Shell.

Call for Abstracts

The Second Annual St Andrews Graduate Conference in Ancient Philosophy

The Soul in Ancient Philosophy

11-12 October 2019

 We are delighted to announce our upcoming graduate conference on ‘The Soul in Ancient Philosophy’ taking place at the University of St Andrews, Scotland on the 11th and 12th of October 2019.

The keynote lectures will be delivered by Professor Dorothea Frede (Hamburg) and Professor Hendrik Lorenz (Princeton).

The soul has been of central importance in the ancient philosophical tradition, from the earliest Greek thinkers to the Neoplatonists. For ancient philosophers, the soul helps to account not only for various kinds of life on earth, such as human, animal, or even plant-life, but also the heavenly movements of the stars and planets. While the soul is often viewed as a principle of motion, in humans it is associated with a wide range of important phenomena, such as cognition, love, death, reason, emotions, and feelings. Moreover, the soul is sometimes seen to have a life of its own apart from the body, so that a distinction can be drawn between embodied and disembodied existence and experience. In this way, the soul naturally brings together a range of different philosophical concerns, including epistemology, ethics, psychology, the natural sciences, cosmology, and eschatology. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 06/03/2019 - 8:18am by Erik Shell.

From time to time, T.H.M. Gellar-Goad will be checking in with a member of the discipline to see how they conceptualize or define “productivity” in their own work and in the profession. We’ll ask them the same set of five questions and share their responses, plus perhaps a photo or two from their experiences. These Perspectives on Productivity will present views from a diverse cross-section of our field, people from all sorts of backgrounds, working in all sorts of areas, and at all stages in their Classics-related journeys. Today we hear from Erik Shell, the Communications and Services Coordinator at the Society for Classical Studies. 

What does "productivity" mean to you as a member of the discipline?

I expect it means something different to me than the academically engaged portion of the Classics community. I do not research in Classics anymore nor do I intend to start up my old research; I do not teach nor do I have an opportunity to start teaching again. With that in mind I see productivity as the process of working toward two different goals: legacy and yield.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/31/2019 - 7:50am by Erik Shell.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I want to talk about domestic violence and Game of Thrones.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 05/27/2019 - 6:44am by Serena S Witzke.

The new Classics Everywhere initiative, recently launched by the SCS, supports projects that seek to introduce and engage communities all over the US with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. During the first round of applications, the SCS funded 13 projects, ranging from performances and a cinema series to educational programs and inter-institutional collaborations. In this post we focus on four programs that engaged audiences with the study of Greek and Roman antiquity and its connection to our modern world through the visual and performing arts.

The mythical past was a great source of inspiration not only for the Athenian 5th century playwrights, but also for many artists in the performing and visual arts ever since. The Greeks performed and dramatized stories from a mythologized history to explore emerging tensions between family and community values, gender dynamics, human relationships, the definition of justice, and the role of the divine world in human life. Putting these stories on the theatrical stage during their city’s most important festivals served to encourage audiences to think about the organization and structure of their society, their policies, and values.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/23/2019 - 8:04pm by Nina Papathanasopoulou.

Topic:  Hindsight in 2020

The saying “hindsight is 20/20” refers to the notion that it is easier to evaluate choices and understand events and their consequences after they have already occurred. Your task is to imagine how a historical, literary, or mythological figure from antiquity might have acted differently if they knew then what we know now. You may choose to focus on a single event and its repercussions or examine a pattern of behavior or a general character trait in light of current knowledge.

Contest Parameters and Judging

This contest is open to any student enrolled full-time in high school anywhere in the world during the current school year. An award of $250 will be given to the author of the best entry, which may take the form of a short story, essay, play, poem, or original literary work of any other sort.

Entries will be judged on accuracy to ancient sources, appropriate use of those sources, originality, quality of material, thematic development, correctness of English style, and effectiveness of presentation.

Contest Guidelines

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:19am by Erik Shell.

At a 2010 forum at the New York Public Library featuring Harvard professor Cornel West and Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), Prof. West recalled one of his seminars at Princeton, which had featured a panel of Jay-Z, Toni Morrison, and Phylicia Rashad. West recalled discussing how Plato “made the world safe for Socrates, so the people would remember the name of Socrates forever,” and Jay-Z replied, “Well I have been playing Plato to Biggie’s Socrates.” As it turns out, there is a great deal of classical allusion to unpack in the world of hip-hop, many embedded within the lyrics of Jay-Z.


Figure 1: Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates (1787).
(Image via Wikimedia Commons).

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/16/2019 - 4:42pm by Samuel Ortencio Flores.

"Motion and Migrancy in the Formation of Roman Literature"

Joy Connolly, Interim President and Distinguished Professor of Classics, Graduate Center CUNY

8th Floor Faculty/Staff Dining Room, Hunter West Building
SW Lexington Ave & 68th St.
 
Friday, May 17th, 2019
  • 4:30 - 5:00 Pre-Lecture Reception
  • 5:00 - 5:30 Student Award Ceremony
  • 5:30 - 6:30 Lecture
  • 6:30 - 7:00 Post-Lecture Reception

This lecture is free and open to the public.

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(Photo: "Empty Boardroom" by Reynermedia, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/14/2019 - 2:09pm by Erik Shell.

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