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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Classical Memories Modern Identities Series

Editors, Richard Armstrong and Paul Allen Miller

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:34pm by Erik Shell.

Residential Fellowships 2021-22

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 8, 2020. For more information and to apply, please visit the link below.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:24pm by Erik Shell.

In support of racial justice, the SCS Executive Committee has approved donations to the National Bailout Collective and African American Policy Forum. Many thanks to SCS members who suggested these organizations. The SCS Executive Committee has also approved a donation to the William Sanders Scarborough Fellowship Fund of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:35am by Helen Cullyer.

Dear members and past annual meeting attendees,

Many thanks to all of you who filled out our recent virtual annual meeting survey. Based on your feedback, AIA and SCS have decided that it would be best to spread a virtual meeting over six days from January 5 -10, 2021. We plan on opening registration on or around October 1, 2020 and will publish registration rates by early September. We have begun work on a schedule and appreciate your patience as we continue to work on the logistics and program.

Helen Cullyer, Executive Director, SCS

Rebecca King, Executive Director, AIA

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 08/03/2020 - 10:35am by Helen Cullyer.

GREEK LITERARY TOPOGRAPHIES IN THE ROMAN IMPERIAL WORLD

The Pennsylvania State University, 16-18 April 2021

Workshop Organizers:

Anna Peterson, Penn State

Janet Downie, UNC-Chapel Hill

Keynote Speaker:

Jason König, University of St. Andrews

Confirmed Speakers:

Pavlos Avlamis

Artemis Brod

William Hutton

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 7:27am by Erik Shell.

After many years of offering free language courses to students of popular modern languages such as French, Spanish, Chinese, and German, and to people interested in learning rather more obscure languages such as Esperanto, Klingon, High Valyrian, and Navajo, Duolingo added a Latin course. The course was prepared for Duolingo by the Paideia Institute and was road tested by a group of Duolingo learners before it was made available to the general public. For the past eleven months the Duolingo Latin course has been available for free across all iOS and Android apps as well as on the Duolingo website

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 7:06am by .

The Department of Latin Literature at the University of Basel, Switzerland, is pleased to invite applications for the second round of the Basel Fellowships in Latin Literature. The Visiting Fellowship programme offers an opportunity for early career researchers as well as established scholars to pursue their research in the framework of a fully funded visit of up to three months at the Department Altertumswissenschaften of the University of Basel. During their stay Visiting Fellows are entitled to make full use of the excellent resources of the University Library as well as the departmental library, Bibliothek Altertumswissenschaften, one of the world’s leading research libraries for the study of Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations and the Classics.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 6:29am by Erik Shell.

The National Humanities Alliance has been researching the field of undergraduate humanities recruitment for more than a year now, identifying compelling initiatives, effective strategies, and leaders in the field. The pandemic, severely strained budgets, and the national reckoning with racial injustice are changing the context in which colleges and universities grapple with strategies for recruiting students to the humanities. NHA has invited deans and humanities center directors to talk with them about how this new context affects their efforts to promote the value of studying the humanities to undergraduates. 

The View from the Dean's Office

Tuesday, July 28th, 1:00 pm, EDT

Deans from a range of institutions will share the recruitment strategies they’ve honed and how they intersect with the current moment. 

Panelists:

Jeffrey Cohen, Dean of Humanities, Arizona State University 

Lena Hill, Dean of the College, Washington and Lee University

Debra Moddelmog, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of Nevada, Reno 

Moderator: Scott Muir, Project Director, Study the Humanities, National Humanities Alliance

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 07/27/2020 - 1:16pm by Helen Cullyer.

Identity in Vergil: Ancient Representations, Global Receptions

Symposium Cumanum 2021

June 23-26, Villa Vergiliana, Cuma

Co-Directors: Tedd A. Wimperis (Elon University) and David J. Wright (Fordham University)

Vergil’s poetry has long offered fertile ground for scholars engaging questions of race, ethnicity, and national identity, owing especially to the momentous social changes to which his works respond (Syed 2005; Reed 2007; Fletcher 2014; Giusti 2018; Barchiesi forthcoming). The complexities of identity reflected in his corpus have afforded rich insights into the poems themselves and the era’s political milieu; beyond their Roman context, across the centuries his poetry has been co-opted in both racist and nationalist rhetoric, and, at the same time, inspired dynamic multicultural receptions among its many audiences, from Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech to Gwendolyn Brooks’ The Anniad (e.g. Thomas 2001; Laird 2010; Ronnick 2010; Torlone 2014; Pogorzelski 2016).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 07/23/2020 - 12:02pm by Erik Shell.

The new Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, supports projects that seek to engage communities worldwide with the study of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. As part of this initiative the SCS has been funding a variety of projects ranging from reading groups comparing ancient to modern leadership practices to collaborations with artists in theater, music, and dance. This post centers on two performances of ancient plays that were canceled when the pandemic put a halt to them last March.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 07/22/2020 - 12:03pm by .

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