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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The Fragment (Research Institute)

The 2020/2021 academic year at the Getty Research Institute will be devoted to the fragment. Issues regarding the fragment have been present since the beginning of art history and archaeology. Many objects of study survive in physically fragmented forms, and any object, artwork, or structure may be conceived of as a fragment of a broader cultural context. As such, fragments catalyze the investigative process of scholarship and the fundamental acts of the historian: conservation, reconstruction, and interpretation. The evolution of an object—its material and semiotic changes across time, space, and cultures—can offer insights into the ethics and technologies of restoration, tastes for incompleteness or completeness, politics of collection and display, and production of art historical knowledge.

While the fragment has been described as the central metaphor of modernity and the paradigmatic sign of a contemporary worldview, its history as a trope runs much deeper. Cultures of the fragment have flourished throughout history under such guises as the reuse of architectural parts and the cult of relics, the physical and conceptual image-breakings of iconoclasm, and the aesthetics of repair. Fragmentation can occur through artistic processes, acts of destruction, or forces of nature. It can be willful, accidental, or inevitable, but it is necessarily transformative.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 08/07/2019 - 9:55am by Erik Shell.

The SCS Committee on the Awards for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the College Level has revised the guidelines for award nomination. One to three awards for excellence in the teaching of Classics will be given to college and university teachers from the United States and Canada. Thanks to a very generous gift to the Society’s Gatekeeper to Gateway Campaign for the Future of Classics from Daniel and Joanna Rose each winner will receive a certificate of award and a cash prize of $500. In addition, each winner’s institution will receive $200 to purchase educational resources selected by the winner. The awards will be presented at the Plenary Session of the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in January 2020.

New nomination process for 2019: In order to simplify the nomination process, increase the number of nominations, and encourage the submission of comparable information for each candidate, a new nomination process is being piloted for 2019 (see below). Feedback on changes is welcome and may be sent to the Executive Director.

For more information about the award, you can visit the page here: https://classicalstudies.org/awards-and-fellowships/awards-excellence-teaching-classics-college-level-0

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 1:02pm by Erik Shell.
Header Image: Late antique mosaic likely depicting Theseus sailing away from the Labyrinth (Utica, Tunisia, 3rd C CE, now at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Image by Sarah E. Bond).

'Addressing the Divide' is a new series of columns 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, Kathryn Topper addresses the divisions between Art History and Classics.

For specialists in Greek and Roman art, professional life is an endless navigation of disciplinary divides. Often it seems like we belong to a disciplinary no man’s land – too archaeological for other art historians, too art historical for field archaeologists, and too visual for text-oriented Classicists whose training has predisposed them to doubt the intellectual seriousness of scholars who study something as seemingly straightforward as pictures.

The uneasy position of ancient art historians relative to the allied disciplines arises from historical factors, but it’s also a consequence of the nature of our material. When you work in a field in which reconstruction and interpretation almost invariably go hand in hand, you tend to need all the tools in your own toolbox, and in the neighbors’ toolboxes, too. As a result, historians of ancient art spend a lot of time working in disciplines dominated by colleagues whose priorities and training are very different from our own.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 08/01/2019 - 9:09pm by Kathryn Topper.

National Humanities Center

Residential Fellowships 2020-21

Call for Applications

The National Humanities Center invites applications for academic-year or one-semester residential fellowships. Mid-career, senior, and emerging scholars with a strong record of peer-reviewed work from all areas of the humanities are encouraged to apply.

Scholars from all parts of the globe are eligible; stipends and travel expenses are provided. Fellowship applicants must have a PhD or equivalent scholarly credentials. Fellowships are supported by the Center’s own endowment, private foundation grants, contributions from alumni and friends, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Located in the vibrant Research Triangle region of North Carolina, the Center affords access to the rich cultural and intellectual communities supported by the area’s research institutes, universities, and dynamic arts scene. Fellows enjoy private studies, in-house dining, and superb library services that deliver all research materials.

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019. For more information and to apply, please visit the link below.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 07/30/2019 - 12:37pm by Erik Shell.
The Conference on Mediterranean and European Linguistic Anthropology 2020
 
Following the growth of The Global Network for Linguistic Anthropology, we announce The COMELA 2020, The Conference on Mediterranean and European Linguistic Anthropology 2020.

Purpose and Structure - Over 500 scholars globally will gather to present papers and engage in progressive discussion on the Linguistic Anthropology, Language and Society, and related fields, of The Mediterranean and Europe. The COMELA is fully Non-Profit, where all publishing with the JOMELA (its scholarly journal) is free, as the COMELA refuses to implement a pay to publish system. The COMELA sources funding/grants to assist people in impeded economic positions, who require funding to access the COMELA Conference, and display strong ability in their work. COMELA proceedings will be indexed with SCOPUS and will contribute to ranked and cited publications for all those accepted to present, as well as publishing papers in Top Tier Journal Publication Special Issues.

Location - American University of Greece, Athens, Greece

Date - September 2-5, 2020

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 07/29/2019 - 9:38am by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Calling all Actors, Designers, and Creatives—to participate in a staged reading of

The Gladiator
by Robert Montgomery Bird

Directed by Rob Groves

Friday, January 3, 2020

SCS/AIA Annual Meeting, Washington D.C.

The Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance's annual tradition of staged readings at the annual general meeting will continue this year with a production of an engaging example of Classical reception, Robert Montgomery Bird's 1831 retelling of the Spartacus story, The Gladiator!

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Tue, 07/23/2019 - 9:24am by Erik Shell.

I have always been a proponent of reading outside of one’s own field. We are all pressed for time, of course, and keeping up with the scholarship in our own areas of expertise is itself a constant challenge. But reading outside of our traditional areas of study is one of those intellectual activities in which even a little goes a long way towards exposing us to real and imagined worlds that can allow us to better reconstruct the ancient Mediterranean.

As an ancient Mediterranean historian, I have gained most from my reading in (loosely) adjacent historical fields, especially early China and early modern Europe. I have also benefitted from exploring research in social-scientific disciplines with which history is in ongoing dialogue, especially sociology and cultural anthropology. My reading in these fields could hardly be called systematic, but it doesn’t matter. The time spent reading outside of ancient Mediterranean history almost always repays the reader by presenting new questions, new approaches, and new ways to think about familiar material.

However, today I want to explore something a little different: how my ideas about the Roman Empire, my research and teaching focus, have been shaped by creative literature—an essential tool, I have found, for facilitating the leaps of historical imagination necessary for an empathetic (if ultimately incomplete) understanding of a world so alien from our own.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 07/22/2019 - 2:21pm by Carlos Noreña.

Classical Representations in Popular Culture

Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)

Area Chair: Benjamin S. Haller (bhaller@vwu.edu)

41st Annual Conference, February 19-22, 2020
Hyatt Regency Hotel & Conference Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico

http://www.southwestpca.org

Proposal submission deadline: October 31, 2019

Proposals for papers and panels are now being accepted for the 41st annual SWPACA conference.  One of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary academic conferences, SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas, each typically featuring multiple panels.  For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit http://southwestpca.org/conference/call-for-papers/

Classical Representations in Popular Culture

Papers on any aspect of Greek, Roman, or Mediterranean antiquity in contemporary or popular culture are eligible for consideration.

Classical Representations welcomes submissions on a broader range of topics including:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 07/19/2019 - 1:29pm by Erik Shell.

Call for Lightning Papers: Classics and Civic Activism

Joint AIA/SCS workshop, January 2–5, 2020, Washington, D.C.

Organizers: Yurie Hong (Gustavus Adolphus College), Marina Haworth (North Hennepin Community College), Amit Shilo (UC, Santa Barbara), T. H. M. Gellar-Goad (Wake Forest University)

Classicists at all levels have knowledge, experience, skills, and contacts that can usefully contribute to civic activism outside of academia proper.  The Classics & Social Justice Affiliated Group has organized a workshop on the subject of Classics and Civic Activism for the upcoming AIA/SCS meeting. We invite proposals for a lightning round on outward-facing activism in which presenters will spend 3 minutes sharing their own experiences and making recommendations. These presentations will become integral to discussions among participants during the following breakout sessions.

The lightning round is the second of three parts of the workshop:

1) Three featured presenters from Indivisible, the National Humanities Alliance, and the American Federation of Teachers will offer guidance in community organizing, engaging with representatives, and other advocacy work, specifically focusing on how academics and educators can combine their skills and expertise with activism.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 07/19/2019 - 8:25am by Erik Shell.

The United States was more than a century old before it saw its first play staged in Latin. What follows is a story about its producers’ struggle for recognition and the external factors that doomed it to obscurity. Beyond a footnote in theatrical history, the 1877 production of a Jesuit Latin play at Boston College offers a glimpse into the fraught politics of education in the United States in the late 19th century, the origins of the modern college elective, and a form of Classical curriculum that might have been—if an ugly fight in Boston had turned out differently.

In April of 1894, Harvard’s production of its first Latin play had set Boston buzzing. The event  even rated a couple columns in the New York Times, which remarked:

Latin plays have been given in this country and in England, but never with the careful study of detail bestowed upon the Phormio of Terence, to be produced by Harvard students in Sanders Theatre this week… Educators from all parts of the country are expected to witness the production.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 07/18/2019 - 4:24pm by Christopher Polt.

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