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From the SCS Leadership

As we all contend with the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 Coronavirus, I want to start by highlighting a gratifying fact: the indispensable expert and voice of reason, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, majored in Classics as an undergraduate at Holy Cross!  This is a timely and inspiring reminder that Classics majors go on to distinguish themselves in many different careers and to perform many kinds of vital service.

I also want to emphasize that, despite the ongoing crisis, the SCS is fully up-and-running. Our three fulltime staff members, Helen Cullyer, Cherane Ali, and Erik Shell, have made a seamless transition to working remotely, thanks to careful advance planning on their part. They are maintaining regular business hours even as they work remotely, and are available to help our members however they can.

We have, inevitably, been making other necessary adjustments to our operations.  As has already been announced, we have extended the deadline for submissions to the program for the 2021 Annual Meeting, and our award letters to fellowship recipients will include provisions for deferral of the award if that becomes necessary.  We have now decided to conduct the June meeting of the Program Committee virtually rather than in person.  Other committee and board meetings in 2020 will now be held by remote means. Some of these were already planned as virtual, while others will be virtual in response to COVID-19.

There are, of course, many reasons for concern about how the disruptions caused by the pandemic are affecting members of the Classical Studies community, many of whom are devoting large amounts of time and energy to the transition to remote teaching.  Thanks are especially due to the K-12 teachers who are delivering a fulltime curriculum to students whose access to broadband internet is especially variable, while dealing with a host of other issues, including the needs of those who qualify for school meals. We applaud your service to the students who represent our future.  We are also mindful of the extra stress on graduate students, international students, contingent faculty, and those at early stages of their careers.  The Board of Directors has voted unanimously to endorse a statement by the American Sociological Association calling for adjustments to the review and reappointment processes for tenure-track and contingent faculty. 

In addition, the SCS is calling on all Colleges and Universities offering degree programs in Classical Studies to make fair and compassionate accommodations to their students.  We ask that, where possible, graduate fellowships be extended by a semester or a year, although we realize that this may not possible at all institutions owing to financial pressures.  We also ask that other appropriate adjustments be made on a program-by-program or case-by-case basis, recognizing that the structures and requirements of graduate programs vary widely, and that students whose research requires physical access to museum or library collections or study abroad are disproportionately affected. These accommodations might include extension of the date by which admitted students are required to respond to offers, uninterrupted access to health insurance, enhanced access to electronic resources provided by libraries and publishers, the postponement of exams and other requirements, and extensions to the expected time to degree. We note how important it is for graduate students to be heard, to be given transparent information, and to feel fully supported as they face an even more uncertain academic job market.

With regard to undergraduate programs, we urge institutions to make fair and compassionate accommodations to displaced students. These might include efforts to assure that all students have well-functioning access to remote content and judicious reconsideration of grading and evaluation procedures. Many institutions have already made most or all courses pass / fail or made adjustments to their regular grading scheme.  We also hope that, when current undergraduates eventually apply to graduate programs, their Spring 2020 performance will be evaluated with appropriate understanding of the difficulties they faced. 

Finally, we realize that most if not all students graduating this summer with a Classics degree will not be able to attend graduation ceremonies, which normally mark important milestones and honor significant achievements.  We hope that institutions will find ways to celebrate their graduates remotely. In addition, SCS plans to recognize these students by publishing a list of all Classics graduates in North America in this academic year, at every level from BA through PhD.  The Executive Director will reach out to department chairs in April in order to gather information on eligible students.

I wish you all as healthy and productive a Spring as is possible under the current circumstances.  Take care!

Sheila Murnaghan

SCS President

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