Response from Graduate Students

The SCS has received a response from a group of graduate students to Professor Joy Connolly’s blog post Working Towards a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics. This repsonse is posted below.

The student authors are anonymous and neither SCS staff nor Officers know their identities. As agreed with the Communications Committee, this piece is not appearing on the SCS blog, since the current policy is not to publish anonymous submissions on the blog. However, the Communications Committee and SCS staff agree that it is important to give students a voice and publish their contributions to debates about the future. The SCS leadership recognizes that there are circumstances under which anonymity can protect younger and more vulnerable members of the profession (see the dialogue following the board statement on ad hominem anonymous attacks), and shares the hope of the students, expressed in their final paragraph, that we can move towards a future where the protection of anonymity will no longer be necessary. 

The SCS office requested just one edit, on placement service data, to the submission. The post has not been otherwise edited or revised.

Working Toward a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics: A Response

by Classicus Proletarius

In her recent blog post on the website of the Society for Classical Studies, “Working Toward a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics,” Prof. Joy Connolly (hereafter C) makes a powerful call to action in the wake of the events that transpired at the recent Annual Meeting of the SCS. We agree that young scholars should be encouraged and rewarded for articulating new and positive visions for the field and for striving to make it more inclusive. Above all, we agree that the Classics community needs to address what Dan-el Padilla Peralta here calls “the collective pathology of a field that lacks the courage to acknowledge its historical and ongoing inability to value scholars from underrepresented groups.” However, as graduate students who have been moved by C’s call to action, we are concerned by the potential outcomes and the limited scope of these proposals.

C’s recommendations concern two groups of the Classics community that are in very different positions: (1) faculty members with tenure, and (2) graduate students, adjuncts, postdocs, lecturers, contingent faculty, and other early-career scholars who are not protected by tenure. While we commend the recommendations directed towards tenured faculty, we are concerned that the suggestions listed under the heading “For departments undertaking searches” would compel graduate students and early-career scholars to express opinions in an environment that does not offer them true freedom of expression. In the course of their employment as teaching assistants and instructors at universities, graduate students lack the protections to question the ethics of teaching undergraduate courses in Classics that promote, in the words of the SCS Board of Directors, “a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.” We must use the course descriptions, syllabi, and textbooks that we are given and often have little say in shaping the narratives we are asked to impart to undergraduates. To pose a strenuous objection to these narratives on ethical or political grounds risks both our job security as graduate instructors and our reputation in the context of an ever-shrinking academic job market (more on this below). This is a worrying prospect for all graduate students and early-career scholars, but it is most troubling for those who have been historically marginalized and who are attempting to develop new narratives and extended political awareness within the field. It is neither just nor realistic to compel applicants and employees to express political positions in an environment that has never offered them institutional protection to do so.

There are also material obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve a just and inclusive future. The participation statistics from the AIA/SCS’s placement service tell a straightforward but brutal story: while the number of jobs listed has decreased only slightly between 2003 and 2018 (the total number of postings declined by 12.7%), the number of participants in the placement service grew steadily, increasing by 58.1% from 370 applicants in 2003-2004 to 585 in 2017-2018. Furthermore, there has been a steep increase in the number of contingent faculty positions over the last fifteen years. The percentage of tenured or tenure-track jobs out of the total number of jobs posted dropped from 59.6% in 2003 to 36% in 2018. Whereas roughly one in four participants in the placement service could get a tenured or tenure-track job in 2003, less than one in ten could land such a job in 2018. While we understand that the number of people enrolled in the SCS/AIA placement service is not necessarily a direct reflection of the number of applicants, the overall trend is discouraging. Although the statistical realities of the academic job market are rarely addressed in a direct and public way, they pose a fundamental challenge to any efforts to make the field more inclusive, especially given that many graduate students make large personal and financial sacrifices in order to pursue advanced degrees in Classics. And while choosing to pursue a job outside of academia is nothing to be ashamed of, most PhD students in Classics are given no guidance about how to navigate the non-academic job market. If the hiring rate for newly-credentialed K-12 teachers fell to less than 10 percent, it is hard to imagine that this would not be regarded as a major crisis that warranted immediate political action and structural reform.

The numbers speak for themselves: the chances of gaining stable employment as a tenure-track professor in Classics or an affiliated department has gone from bad to abysmal over the last several decades, and there is no indication that this will change in the near future. Meanwhile, contingent and temporary academic positions relegate many highly qualified scholars with PhDs to the ranks of what has been called the academic precariat, as the university moves toward a model inspired in part by the “gig economy.” This is, of course, part of a much wider problem in humanities departments and academia as a whole, and we are well aware that this problem begins with the university administration and not with the academic faculty. Yet we also believe that this problem demands a response from tenured faculty: the only people with the institutional protection to advocate for real change through political action.

Without the prospect of an economically stable future, we fear that none but the most privileged students will feel encouraged to join and advance in the field. This exclusion will disproportionately affect groups who are already underrepresented in the Classics community.  We worry that under these conditions, it will be ethically problematic to encourage students without independent wealth or an economic safety net to join the Classics community. As Carmen Machado wrote in a powerful reflection on adjunct teaching: “I want teaching to be a career, something that I can afford to keep doing. The irony of this setup has not escaped me: the adjuncts who teach well despite the low pay and the lack of professional support may inspire in their students a similar passion—prompting them to be financially taken advantage of in turn. It strikes me as a grim perversion of the power of teaching. A key lesson in higher education is that few things matter more than good questions—and, if we don’t speak up, students will never know what to ask.”

We are aware that this is a multifaceted problem that will require continued discussion from all members of the Classics community, which means including graduate students and contingent faculty. We end this response with a set of actionable proposals that we believe address some of the institutional and material realities that underpin discrimination and inequality. We propose that the 2020 Annual Meeting of the SCS hosts an action-focused meeting that addresses the issues we have raised above and creates a collective bargaining body, such as a faculty union, that seeks membership, negotiates with university administrations, and works toward the following goals:

  1. Change the name of the field and advocate for the study of ancient Mediterranean languages, history, and culture within the humanities without invoking an oversimplified and problematic notion of “Western Civilization.”
  2. Secure funds for undergraduate scholarships for students from underrepresented groups, including students of color, first-generation college students, and students from low-income families.
  3. Institute a form of affirmative action directed toward populations that are most underrepresented in the faculty and grad student body.
  4. Join the SEIU Faculty Forward Movement and work with the AAUP in order to advocate for a living wage for all professors and contingent faculty.
  5. Support graduate student unions and advocate for a living wage for all graduate student workers. This should include health insurance for graduate student workers and their families.
  6. Obtain paid maternity and paternity leave for all university employees.
  7. Encourage a reasonable retirement age for professors (i.e., 65).
  8. Establish university-wide general education requirements for undergraduates that include the study of the humanities and the humanistic social sciences, including literature, philosophy, history, art, and archaeology.

Finally, we want to address the anonymity of this statement. We are aware of the SCS’ recent board statement condemning “anonymous online attacks,” as well as the response defending anonymous speech as a valid method of communication in an environment characterized by stark imbalances of power. We believe that anonymity has allowed us to express ourselves more freely than would otherwise be possible. We hope that the Classics community can move toward a future where the protections of anonymity will no longer be necessary in order for all community members to engage in productive debates about the discipline.


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The American Academy in Berlin invites applications for its residential fellowships for the academic year 2020/21.

The Academy seeks to enrich transatlantic dialogue in the arts, humanities, and public policy through the development and communication of projects of the highest scholarly merit. Past recipients include anthropologists, art historians, literary scholars, philosophers, historians, musicologists, journalists, writers of fiction and nonfiction, filmmakers, sociologists, legal scholars, economists, and public policy experts.

Approximately twenty Berlin Prizes are conferred annually. Fellowships are typically awarded for an academic semester, but shorter stays of six to eight weeks are also possible. Benefits include round-trip airfare, partial board, a $5,000 monthly stipend, and accommodations at the Academy’s lakeside Hans Arnhold Center, in the Wannsee district of Berlin. 

For 2020/21, the Academy will also award three specially designated fellowships: two Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities, for work that demonstrates an interest in the topics of migration and social integration, race in comparative perspective, or exile and return. In addition, in memory of its founder, the Academy will name a Richard C. Holbrooke Fellow for a project that looks at diplomatic approaches to resolving major global issues, from armed conflicts to environmental challenges to the impact of new technologies.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Fri, 06/14/2019 - 10:00am by Erik Shell.

Congratulations to Davina C. Lopez (Eckerd College) and Pamela Zinn (Texas Tech) for their 2019 ACLS Development Grants!

You can read the full list of 2019 recipients on the ACLS website.

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(Photo: "library" by Viva Vivanista, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 06/13/2019 - 10:21am by Erik Shell.
The Sphinx of Naxos. Archaeological Museum of Delphi. Picture by Yoandy Cabrera

This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Yoandy Cabrera Ortega, who recently defended his dissertation on the portrayal of human emotions in ancient Greek myths and in modern literature from Spain and Latin America. 

My dissertation was an interdisciplinary one, intertwining different approaches and fields such as classical reception, queer studies, affect theory, and Hispanic studies.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 06/13/2019 - 8:46am by Yoandy Cabrera Ortega.

Can a computer understand the hendecasyllables of Catullus, the declamations of Seneca, or the letters of Pliny? Not yet, and maybe never in any conventional sense of this word. No one has succeeded so far in teaching a computer to comprehend language – that is, to reason about, generate, act upon and, importantly, communicate intentions through symbolic speech – let alone to appreciate texts written in a dead language with a sophisticated literary tradition. (Embodied cognitive science claims, in fact, that without a human body no computer can ever hope to achieve human understanding). But it is possible to represent the meanings of the Latin language in a way that can be manipulated and analysed by computers. The idea of training machines in these meanings forms the basis for the field of natural language understanding, which is a specialized kind of natural language processing (NLP) focused on modelling linguistic semantics.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 06/07/2019 - 6:48am by .

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.

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