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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(From the Cornell Chronicle)

Classics scholar David Mankin, beloved by Cornell students for his inspiring and idiosyncratic teaching style, compassionate mentorship and the signature black sunglasses he wore to class, died April 24 after a brief illness. He was 61.

Mankin, associate professor emeritus of classics, was the longtime instructor of Greek Mythology, a perennially oversubscribed course with an enthusiastic following. Many students described it as one of the most memorable and meaningful courses of their Cornell careers.

He was a scholar of Latin prose and poetry, with publications including commentaries on the “Epodes of Horace” (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and on the concluding book of Cicero’s “On the Orator” (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

“Dave Mankin’s knowledge of Latin authors and scholarship was superb, and he was strongly committed to undergraduate teaching; students took his classes in droves, and recommended them to their friends,” said Hunter R. Rawlings III, Cornell president emeritus and professor emeritus of classics. “In this era of declining enrollments in humanities courses, Dave Mankin countered the trend with remarkable success.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 3:11pm by Erik Shell.

"The Landscape of Rome's Literature"
Seminar at the annual conference of the Association of Literary, Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW) 
Oct. 3-6, 2019 

The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
http://alscw.org/events/annual-conference/alscw-2019-conference/

This call for papers is for the seminar "The Landscape of Rome's Literature," one of many seminars that will occur during the ALSCW 2019 annual conference.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 10:25am by Erik Shell.
"The Roman Republic in the Long Fourth Century"
May 16–18, 2019
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111 East Pyne
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"The Roman Republic in the Long Fourth Century" investigates the transformation of the Roman Republic from the sack of Rome in 387 BCE to the war against Carthage in 264 BCE. As has long been recognized, this crucial moment saw the formation of the Republican state's political structures. Less acknowledged is that this political transformation accompanied radical changes in Rome’s society and economy, as well as in the very character of its cultural production. The aim of this conference is to offer a timely reassessment of state formation in this period and to relate this dynamic process to a wider context of change. The result will be a more holistic view, highlighting the period’s significance for our understanding of the Roman Republican history and providing a basis for future study.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 9:52am by Erik Shell.
Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa
 
University Carlos III of Madrid
19-21 February 2020
 
Organised by
Valentino Gasparini & María Fernández Portaencasa
(Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

Call For Papers (ENGLISH)

The LARNA project (Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa), based at the Institute of Historiography ‘Julio Caro Baroja’ (University Carlos III of Madrid) and funded the Autonomous Community of Madrid, invites researchers of ancient history, history of religion, archaeology, anthropology, classical studies, and further related fields to discuss the topic of Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 04/29/2019 - 2:51pm by Erik Shell.

Multi-Society Statement on Proposed Cuts at the University of Tulsa

The undersigned associations urge the University of Tulsa to reconsider and rescind its recent recommendations calling for the elimination of undergraduate majors in philosophy, religion, theater, musical theater, music, languages, law, and of several graduate and doctoral programs, including those in anthropology, fine arts, history, and women’s and gender studies and to eliminate undergraduate minors in ancient languages and classical studies.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Mon, 04/29/2019 - 9:09am by Erik Shell.

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 blog post, we aim to highlight three programs in which Classicists are sharing the joy of studying Greece and Rome with their communities..

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:12pm by Mallory Monaco Caterine.
We would like to alert classicists to a recently-identified website (classicalbulletin.org) that presents itself as that of The Classical Bulletin (a now-defunct periodical) and offers open-access publication for a fee. The site fraudulently uses logos and trademarks, and the names of institutions and individuals, including the names of alleged editors.  Institutions named include The Canadian Classical Bulletin, two Xavier Universities, the Institute of Classical Studies in London, and Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. None of the institutions or persons mentioned have any connection to the website.  Thanks to @rogueclassicist for uncovering the details.
 
The official site of the Canadian Classical Bulletin is: http://www.cac-scec.website/canadian-classical-bulletin-ccb/
 
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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 04/25/2019 - 12:38pm by Erik Shell.

12th Annnual West Coast Plato Workshop

San Diego State University, 24-26 May

Friday (May 24)

3-4:30pm: Drinks and Refreshments

5-6:30pm: Keynote Public Lecture: Deborah Modrak (University of Rochester)

7-9pm: Dinner for Speakers, Commentators, and Chairs


Saturday (May 25)

9-9:30am: Coffee and Refreshments

9:30-10:45: Invited Speaker: Adam Beresford (University of Massachusetts at Boston)

Commentator: Jan Szaif (University of California at Davis)

11-12:10pm: Oksana Maksymchuk (University of Arkansas): An Anthropological Defense of the Measure Doctrine in the Protagoras

Commentator: Grant Dowling (Stanford University)

12:15-1:30pm: Lunch and Business Meeting

1:45-2:55: Marta Jimenez (Emory University): Protagoras and Socrates on Courage and Knowledge

Commentator: Ryan Drake (Fairfield University)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 9:35am by Erik Shell.

(Republished from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

In a career that lasted over 70 years, Jerry Clack wore many different hats.

From a youthful stint at the Swedish Legation in Washington and four years with UNESCO to public relations and accounting positions with AAA, Coca-Cola and the American Heart Association, he went on to assume directorship of Allegheny County’s chapter of The March of Dimes in 1953. His 15-year tenure with March of Dimes saw the development of two anti-polio vaccines, that of Jonas Salk at University of Pittsburgh and the oral vaccine of Albert Sabin.

Mr. Clack died Monday at Shadyside Hospital due to heart failure.

The son of Mildred Taylor Van Dyke of Pittsburgh and Christopher Thrower Clack of Boydton, Virginia, Mr. Clack was born in New York City on July 22, 1926. Because his father was a foreign representative of the Pittsburgh-based Blaw-Knox Company, he spent his early years in Europe, mostly in London and Dusseldorf. After his father’s death, he returned with his mother to Pittsburgh, attending the Fulton School and Peabody High School.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 8:43am by Erik Shell.

by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad and Christopher B. Polt

In this post, Profs. Gellar-Goad and Polt clarify their position in the debate over holding the annual CAMWS meeting at BYU for the 2023 annual meeting and why they view BYU as an unsafe conference site for LGTBQ+ classicists.

On Saturday, April 20, the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS) rescinded its earlier decision to hold part of its annual meeting on the campus of Brigham Young University (BYU) during its 2023 conference in Provo, Utah.

CAMWS leadership had selected Brigham Young University (BYU) to host its 2023 annual meeting — despite the fact that serious concerns about the safety and inclusion of its LGBTQ+ members at such a conference site were voiced before and after that decision was made — and dismissed repeated requests for compromise that would safeguard LGBTQ+ colleagues. Over the last 18 months we tried to work with, and within the structure of, CAMWS to address this issue quietly and amicably. We did so in an attempt to save everyone a great deal of anguish and to avoid unnecessary negative attention for the Classicists at BYU. Ultimately, however, we felt compelled to call on CAMWS publicly to change course, and CAMWS leadership did so only in the face of significant public pressure by Classicists across the world.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 8:13am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.

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