Sad Day at MSU: Last Classics Major Graduates

Excerpts from an item at the Lansing State Journal:

Andrew Crocker wasn’t in East Lansing on Friday. He didn’t put on cap and gown along with Michigan State University’s 6,951 other graduates. He was in Dublin, Ohio, where family matters brought him some months ago.

His graduation merits notice because it marks an ending. Crocker was the last classical studies major at MSU.

“It’s sad to be the last person,” he said, earlier this week by phone, “especially because I loved it so much.”

Classics was one of a spate of programs placed on the chopping block in the fall of 2009. The university was both responding to declines in state support and taking the opportunity to reassess its priorities.

[...]

Classical studies has a different sort of historical resonance, of course. Prior to the Civil War, most American colleges required heavy doses of Latin and Greek, and even classes in the sciences would often evoke Aristotle and other ancient authorities. It was a part of the backbone of American higher education, even if more modern subject matter and more experimentally oriented methods would ultimately make it an optional rather than a required part of the curriculum.

It was different at Michigan Agricultural College, which began as a school for farmers’ sons. Latin and Greek weren’t part of the curriculum at first. The practical arts and sciences took precedence. Virgil, Homer and recitations of hic, haec, hoc would come later.

“The university has a mission, I think, to preserve and transmit cultural heritage and values, and they’ve decided that people aren’t interested in that anymore,” said John Rauk, a professor of classics at MSU, who now mostly teaches general education courses and introductory Latin.

Formally, the program isn’t gone yet. As Karin Wurst, the dean of the College of Arts and Letters noted, it will remain on moratorium through the next academic year, meaning it won’t accept any new students.

But a moratorium is frequently a first step toward eliminating a program and with no majors and one of the three remaining classical studies professors, William Tyrrell, retiring this spring, few seem to expect that it will come back.

The university has been “retreating from the humanities in a significant way,” Rauk said.

“It’s the end of something that didn’t need to be lost, I think.”

Tyrrell was harsher. He said MSU was “giving up its commitment to what a university should be.”

MSU is a big place, of course. There are other professors, in art and history and other departments, who teach courses on the ancient world. But the offerings are diminished, in Latin and Greek especially.

It is the only Big Ten school without an active classics major.

Students now have to go elsewhere to learn the language of the Spartans.

“Once you know the ancient world, you can really see the reverberations today and how we as modern people look back and interpret the ancient world and use that to create our own identity,” Crocker said.

He began studying Latin in high school. At MSU, he discovered an interest in classical archeology. His plan is to brush up on his ancient Greek, his French and his German and apply to graduate school.

Studying classics made him a better student and a better person, he said.

“I’m hoping the university will come to its senses and reinstate it,” Crocker said. “If it doesn’t, that’s a great loss.”

… didn’t know they taught Dorian Greek at MSU. For some background on the demise: Classics Threatened at MSU!!!

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Classics Threatened at the University of Alberta?

Sharing an item from Tom Sienkewicz

Cuts at the University of Alberta include Classics

In a memo dated August 16, 2013, Dean Lesley Cormack of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta announced plans to suspend twenty undergraduate programs and concentrations, with new admissions to be halted immediately. These suspensions are in response to a reduction in government funding of $56 million for the university.

At http://artssquared.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/open-letter-from-alexander-beecroft-classics-comparative-literature-university-of-south-carolina-ba-ualberta-1995/ you can read a letter of concern about this decision by Alexander Beecroft, an alumnus of the University of Alberta, an Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, and a CAMWS member. Prof. Beecroft has also initiated a petition to Dean Lesley Cormack, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta to save these programs. You can read about this petition at

http://www.change.org/petitions/dean-lesley-cormack-faculty-of-arts-university-of-alberta-save-20-undergraduate-programs-at-the-university-of-alberta.

Si vales, valeo.

Tom Sienkewicz

CAMWS Secretary-Treasurer

I’ll append some press coverage … we’ve seen this ‘argument’ from the beancounting administrators before:

Program in Peril: Philology at UPatras

University of Patras

University of Patras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a different sort of ‘peril’ … they’re not talking about eliminating the department which includes Classics, but relocating it some 280 km away to a place of little reputation, for want of a better term. Here’s where you can sign the petition:

Classics Threatened in Russian Universities!

This one’s potentially confusing as there are two petitions kicking around, one in Russian:

… and one in English (which, according to Boris Kaiatchev in the Classics International Facebook group, is specifically aimed at folks outside of Russia because one of the criteria affecting all this is ‘the degree of internationalization’):

The Russian one has a link to read the petition in Russian, and it seems specific to St Petersburg; the English one seems more general. It was suggested the English one might be better for folks like us to sign, but if one would like to sign the Russian one, here’s a guide (courtesy of Edith Hall) of what the various blanks on the side mean:

Monitoring the Crisis: Birmingham

Just to keep the pot stirring, this item appeared at Birmingham UCU:

Greek, Latin and Ancient History have been taught at Birmingham since the foundation of the University in 1900 and are now under threat from dangerously short-sighted management practices. Yet, lecturers at UoB are now prevented by a bizarre confidentiality clause from bringing to public attention the serious threat posed by a proposal involving imminent redundancies in Classics and Ancient History. UoB’s proposal to make redundant a quarter of the Classics and Ancient History team at the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity is bewildering, especially in a year when student fees have climbed to £9,000 pa and the Government’s own UniStats website is focusing on student teaching experience as the core of university value.

UoB claims to be committed to Classics and Ancient History, but the plan to close the IAA, recently submitted to University Council, tells a different story. Although this year’s admissions round has been difficult across the sector, management has made an arbitrary decision to use 2012 admissions as a baseline, and as a spurious rationale for compulsory redundancies. A detailed plan for generating new business and increasing the numbers of the desired ABB+ students, produced by long-standing and senior members of IAA, has been ignored in favour of seeing this short-term ‘solution’ through. If the Head of College has his way, three prize-winning educators and leading scholars in Classics and Ancient History are in the firing line along with the quality of the student experience. The plan to replace two out of the three permanent staff with fixed-term, teaching-only posts is at odds with UoB’s status as a Russell Group university, apparently publicly committed to research-led teaching.

Indeed, Classics and Ancient History is facing a 25% reduction in non-professorial staff, with inevitable repercussions on the breadth of research and teaching available to students. In addition, the serious decline in Archaeology staffing will reduce the choices available to Classics and to Ancient History students, endangering recruitment and potentially leading to further redundancies in the future. The redundancies, rather than any institutional changes, are at the heart of the matter. We welcome some of the proposals, which provide an opportunity to respond to challenges related to student recruitment without the large number of job losses envisioned.

One element of the Review points the way forward. One group within the IAA, the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, has been given several years to fuse with the History department. No job losses are currently envisioned within the Centre, even though it currently recruits no undergraduate students of its own (unlike the other areas of the IAA where some areas facing redundancies have comparatively strong undergraduate recruitment). This is a far-sighted policy which will enrich the variety of modules available within History and boost the overall number of high calibre students applying to the University through that programme. It also reflects an important truth: many subjects have difficulty recruiting not because of any failing among staff but simply because the A level subjects which act as feeders have comparatively small student numbers. The University clearly believes that if students recruited via the much larger cohort of A-level History students are given access to Byzantine courses they will find them attractive. This move also helps ensure that the History degree has a distinctiveness compared to other History degrees nationally. This policy, which maintains as much of the skills’ base of the University as policy, and which also gives the University the best chance to recruit the highest quality students, is also one which should be applied to the other areas of the IAA (including Archaeology and Ancient History), and not just the Centre for Byzantine Studies. Surely Stonehenge and Roman Britain are as much part of British History as Clement Attlee’s government? Surely courses on those subjects are just as likely as one another to attract and enthuse the very best students?

Is it just me or is almost every single case we’ve looked at of a program in peril — if not every single case — based on deception and/or distortion of the reality of the situation? Is it just me or do administrator types seem to think Classics is an easy target that no one will care about? We will fight them on the beaches … we will fight them in the departmental coffee lounges …  Cha ghèill! Cha ghèill! Cha ghèill!

Birmingham Crisis Redux … in a Bad Way

Yesterday Edith Hall informed the Classics International facebook group that the crisis at the University of Birmingham which we learned about last summer was going down the road everyone feared. Here’s a somewhat edited version of her comments:

Yesterday, selected non-professorial Classicists, Ancient Historians and Archeologists received letters from the (Classicist) Pro-Vice-Chancellor Michael Whitby informing them that their posts have been selected to go into a pool from which redundancies are proposed. Three redundancies in Classics/AH out 12 lecturers, senior and junior; in Archaeology, five lecturers out of seven plus all 8.8 Research staff. Professors are completely protected.
These proposals will be presented to the College Council on Wednesday 3rd October, which is terrifyingly soon. Since writing to Professor Whitby himself has so far had little effect, members of this group are encouraged to write immediately to the Vice-Chancellor himself,
Professor David Eastwood,
The University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT
United Kingdom.

email: d.eastwood AT bham.ac.uk,

I have no idea of the identity of the source of any of the information I have posted here, which has arrived anonymously. The contents of the letter to staff in the redundancy “pool” can only be disclosed with Professor Whitby’s written permission or it will be treated as a disciplinary matter.

… note that date of October 3 … obviously any emails would best be sent as soon as possible.
Some background:

Update on the Threat to Classics at UVa

Wow … reaction to this one was rather swift, compared to many, many others. Judging from the talk on the Classics list yesterday, we might be dealing with a reporter or administrator who was a little ‘loose’ when they were talking and Classics aren’t really threatened at all. Inside Higher Ed also had a piece on the firing of Teresa Sullivan, which included this bit, inter alia, about Classics (tip o’ the pileus to John McMahon for passing this along):

[...] Consider classics. The department’s website features a quote from Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder: “To read the Greek and Latin authors in their original is a sublime luxury…. I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich source of delight.”

Classics at UVa is very much alive because it is alive statewide in high schools. In 2012, Virginia had the third-highest number of students of any state (behind only New York State and Massachusetts) who took the National Latin Exam, which is offered to high schools nationwide. This strong history of Latin high school enrollments in the state has translated into strong interest in the classics at the university.

John F. Miller, chair of the department, said in an interview Sunday that student interest is so high that the department typically offers four to five sections of advanced Latin for undergraduates, typically has about 70 students at any one time majoring in classics, and graduates up to 20 a year. The Ph.D. program is small (appropriate, Miller noted, given the academic job market in the humanities) and typically graduates one or two new Ph.D.s a year.

Miller said that he woke up this morning to find e-mail messages from people around the world expressing shock and asking, “What’s going on there? What can we do to help?”

In his interactions with administrators at Virginia, Miller said, he has received strong support and encouragement, so he was “flabbergasted” that board members consider classics an “obscure” department that could be eliminated. “It makes me feel mad. It’s an embarrassment to the university,” he said.

Jefferson and Modern Languages

While Jefferson loved the classics, he also believed it was crucial to study modern languages. In fact, in a move that went against the norms at the time he founded UVa (when leading universities in the United States focused language study on Greek and Latin), Jefferson included in his original plan for the university a School of Modern Languages, with instruction in Anglo-Saxon, French, German, Italian and Spanish. [...]

Besides the reduced threat to Classics, I hope folks notice the connections made there to strength in Classics at the university level and strength in Classics at the high school level …

Classics Threatened at U-Va?

This one’s just starting to filter through the Classics list (tip o’ the pileus to Patrick Rourke and Susan Lusnia) … The Washington Post has a lengthy piece on the University of Virginia’s ousting of their President Teresa Sullivan … the reasons,  inter alia:

Leaders of the University of Virginia’s governing board ousted President Teresa Sullivan last week largely because of her unwillingness to consider dramatic program cuts in the face of dwindling resources and for her perceived reluctance to approach the school with the bottom-line mentality of a corporate chief executive.

[...]

The campaign to remove Sullivan began around October, the sources said. The Dragas group coalesced around a consensus that Sullivan was moving too slowly. Besides broad philosophical differences, they had at least one specific quibble: They felt Sullivan lacked the mettle to trim or shut down programs that couldn’t sustain themselves financially, such as obscure academic departments in classics and German.

Obscure???? They’ve got more than ten faculty there, many of whom seem to  be in endowed positions (to say nothing of one member being Director of Undergraduate studies and another being Director of Graduate Studies) … whatever the case,  it seems like a messy situation and probably should be a heads up for the Classics department at U-Va and, of course, all of us folks who will be rising to defend it …

Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity Threatened

University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just starting to hear about this one … the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham is the latest department to be threatened by beancounters who just don’t get it. There’s a blog to follow developments at:

… and a petition here  … we’ll keep an eye on this one as not a lot of info about it seems to have been released; in case you’re wondering, Classics and Ancient History are under their umbrella … visit the IAA’s website here

 

Classics Threatened at the University of Pittsburgh

Tip o’ the pileus to John McMahon for sending this in … from Inside Higher Education comes another sad tale (and, as often, the way in which it was done is bizarre):

Long considered one of public higher education’s finest destinations for graduate work in the humanities, the University of Pittsburgh has cut off admissions to master’s and doctoral programs in German, religious studies, and classics in response to reduced state aid.

Some students and faculty fear those departments may soon be totally eliminated, and online petitions are circulating demanding that admissions be restored in classics (620 signatures) and German (1,460 signatures). “This represents a significant step back from one of the university’s oldest and most lasting commitments, from a subject to which so many others owe an immense debt,” reads the classics petition. The German petition laments that the decision “sets a precedence for the dismantling of the humanities based on profit-orientation.”

If eliminated, these departments wouldn’t be the first casualties of the nation’s newly condensed college coffers. But the fact that these cuts loom at Pittsburgh – and in programs with students who have turned down offers from elite private universities — poses larger questions about the university’s commitment to graduate humanities education and whether this decision is a harbinger of future cuts.

Provost Patricia Beeson declined repeated requests for an interview, citing “end-of-semester duties.” But the independent faculty newspaper, the University Times, attributed a statement to Beeson saying the suspension of graduate admissions could be a precursor to the total elimination of those departments. A campus spokesman said those departments wouldn’t be closed, but then said Beeson’s statement was portrayed fairly in the Times.

Students already enrolled in the three programs will be able to finish their degrees, and those already admitted for the fall are still allowed to come. Undergraduate programs won’t be affected, university spokesman Robert Hill said. He added that Pittsburgh’s commitment to graduate programs in the humanities remains unchanged.

But the real question is less what those three departments will look like in five months, and more what they’ll look like in five years. “A best-case scenario will be that somehow these cuts can be reversed,” said Edwin Floyd, classics department chair. “A probable scenario would be that there would be no [classics] department. Faculty will be absorbed into two or three other departments.”

Pitt declined to make any administrator available for comment, but agreed to have Hill answer written questions. Hill said there were no immediate plans to close any of three affected departments, and reiterated that the graduate programs were only having their admissions suspended, leaving open the possibility that those suspensions could be lifted.

Asked whether other programs could face similar changes, Hill said “We have nothing to announce, but we are constantly evaluating programs.”

The German, classics and religious studies programs were identified for admissions suspension “based on a set of criteria that included scale of the program; costs vs. revenues; national positioning of the programs; external perception of the programs; and student qualifications, graduation rates, honors, and placements,” Hill wrote. The university wouldn’t say how much money it expects to save.

Faculty Assembly President Michael Pinsky declined to comment, saying it was an “internal issue” going through “appropriate channels.” But David Givens, a doctoral student in religious studies and president elect of Pitt’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, said his constituents are concerned their program could be next. “Students are worried about — both within the College of Arts and Sciences and outside — is this a trend?” he said. “Are our programs at risk?”

Floyd, the classics chair, and John Lyon, the German chair, criticized not only the decision but also the way it was made. Both said they were called into the dean’s office — along with their religious studies colleague who didn’t return a message seeking comment — on Monday, April 2, and were informed that the university was considering suspending graduate admissions to their programs. That Thursday, Floyd and Lyon said, the dean called to tell them that decision was going into effect.

Both chairs said they were given no chance to state their case for maintaining graduate admissions. “There was no real conversation,” Lyon said. “We were told.”

When asked to clarify the role of faculty chairs in the decision making process, Hill wrote that they were indeed consulted. He declined to expand on that explanation.

“The decision to suspend admission to these programs was a difficult but necessary step given the current budget situation, and was made in consultation with, and informed by the input of, the Dietrich School Deans, members of the Dietrich School Council and the school’s Planning and Budget Committee, as well as the recommendations submitted by the Dietrich School chairs and directors,” Hill wrote.

While Lyon disagrees with the decision to target the German department, he said he understands the need for the university to trim its budget. But he said doing so without meaningful consultation with those impacted — which he says happened here — is irresponsible.

“There’s financial exigency,” he said. “The university has to make cuts somewhere. It’s how they go about doing it and the process.”

The petition on the Classics side is here

Classics Threatened at Royal Holloway

I don’t know about others who have done Classics on this side of the pond, but while I was formally pursuing degrees in Classics, there always seemed to be a perception that Classics in the UK was safe and stable, and sort of a model for what Classics programs would like to be. In the past couple of years, however, it has become clear that departments in the UK are as increasingly fighting for their survival as their counterparts on this side of the pond are. In the past, we’ve mentioned the potential loss of paleography at King’s College, for example (although we note that KCL is advertising for someone to fill the post) and somehow missed mentioning (apologies to friends at Leeds!) the travails Leeds Classics was going through (they now appear to be in some sort of bureaucratic wait-and-see holding pattern). The latest, however, is possibly most surprising — Royal Holloway has just heard the dire news … here’s one version from the Orbital:

Less than one year after its formation, the Department of Classics and Philosophy faces dissolution.

College Council has proposed changes to discontinue the Classics BA degree and to cut over half of Classics staff. Under the plans, Classics degrees are expected to be phased out over three years, starting with a reduction in student numbers as of September 2012.There will be a 90 day consultation period before any changes go ahead.

Affected staff were briefed on the proposals prior to their discussion at College Council. They have also been offered counselling in ‘managing change.’

Remaining Classics staff would move to the History Department and Philosophy posts would be relocated in the Department of Politics and International Relations. Classics is expected to have a presence on Modern History courses. Those students presently enrolled will not be affected.

Head of Department, Anne Sheppard, earlier this year denied rumours that the Department may close. “I do not think there is any risk,” she said.

Mary Beard, professor in classics at Cambridge, believes the plans signal a ‘slow death’ for the department. “There will be no language teaching, which – in my view – always take the stuffing out of any classical enterprise,” she said.

“Royal Holloway is a good Classics department; and if you excise it from Royal Holloway, you impoverish and devalue all the humanities there.”

Academic Affairs Officer and Classics student, Carl Welch, believes the Students’ Union needs to campaign around the proposals. “The Classics department at RHUL is well respected, with pre-eminent scholars,” he said.“I find this decision to be vastly at odds with [Principal] Layzell’s plans as a whole.”

Anne Sheppard, the head of department, circulated a letter which appeared on the Classicists list which boils things down a bit more clearly:

Proposals for cuts affecting the Department of Classics and Philosophy at Royal Holloway

The College Council are setting up a formal consultation process over proposals for the following cuts affecting the Department of Classics and Philosophy:

1. From September 2012 student numbers will be reduced to 40 per year, for BAs in Classical Studies and Ancient History as well as Joint Honours. The Classics degree will be discontinued.

2. The Philosophy staff, including one Ancient Philosophy post, will move to the Department of Politics and International Relations.

3. A Research Professor, currently shared with English, will move into the English Department.

4. Of the remaining 11 posts, 6 will disappear by 2014, leaving 5 staff who will then move, as a unit, to the History Department.

The consultation, which has not yet started, will run for 90 days. The Department will be responding fully to the planning documents that are to be circulated. [...]

Elimination of a pure Classics degree, of course, means no more Classical languages at Royal Holloway; along with that would go the only Classical versification course in the UK (according to a mention in the Facebook group … more on that later). Mary Beard’s initial reaction is bang on (inter alia):

Well I am hugely relieved for the people whose jobs were on the line. But dont cheer too soon; this looks to me like the slow death, rather than the quick death, model. There will be no language teaching, which — in my view — always take the stuffing out of any classical enterprise. What keen classics student would opt for this? And bet you anything, as soon as one of those classicists in history leaves or retires, they will be replaced by some one in British 19th century, or South East Asian post-colonial.

Mary Beard also made a followup post, digging for the real reasons for this attack … the whole thing should be read, but here’s her (again, bang on) conclusion:

So the proposal is to cut all study of Classics in the original language, and invest entirely in History and Classical Studies (‘where demand is still strong’…this is a demand economy obviously, not an EDUCATIONAL university). And the remaining ‘classicists’ will move to History, ‘to enable the shared teaching of ancient history, leverage of research leadership and shared administrative support’. (‘leverage of research leadership…’? what does that mean — especially when you are cutting the whole linguistic side of this operation.)

Now, I know that outsiders like me can never really understand what is going on inside another institution. I have no idea what the student questionnaires are like, or the potential research submissions to the next Assessment Exercise. There will be all kinds of things going on that I know nothing off.

All the same, it doesnt take much to smell a commercial argument for academic change here.

That said, I’ve mentioned the existence of a facebook group for all this (I’ll give a link at the end), which already boasts over 3000 members and has generated about 30 pages of discussion/debate. Interestingly, the principal of RHUL felt a need to comment on the existence of the Facebook group in a post relayed via Sophia Haque:

This is a message from Royal Holloway’s Principal, Professor Paul Layzell:

“I am concerned to see this debate on Facebook and would like to add my contribution.

Classics has a strong tradition at Royal Holloway, and I believe it plays an important part in the academic portfolio of our institution. It is for this reason that we are currently exploring options to ensure that we can continue to include Classics in our programme of teaching and research. It is not our intention to ‘close Classics’ as some have interpreted our proposals, but to retain it in a form that is sustainable in the long-term.

‘Do nothing’ is not an option. As things stand, the department runs at a considerable deficit which we cannot address through growing student numbers because of the cap government places on our total student numbers. This situation will be made worse if proposals in the HE White Paper remove around 7% home/EU undergraduate numbers from institutions.

As a relatively small institution, we cannot afford heavy cross subsidies that might undermine the financial sustainability of our institution as a whole. Instead, we must find ways to ensure that each of our subject areas delivers research and teaching of a sufficient quality, that is popular with students, and affordable to us and them. We have put forward proposals to enable Classics to do just this, and we have invited our staff to put forward their own ideas. Our intention is protect a discipline that we value, and secure its long term future within our College.

I had hoped that we would be able to have those discussions within our community, rather than in the public domain. I am concerned that public debate will only worsen the situation; prospective students could easily misunderstand our proposals to sustain Classics with the incorrect impression that ‘closure’ was imminent. Such an impression would almost certainly result in the failure to attract students, with dire consequences.

I invite staff, students and alumni to engage with us in the debate within College. By Monday, we will have a site within our intranet, that will allow us to debate these issues amongst ourselves, and work out the best solution together. We are at the stage where we have identified a problem, and I would urge you to work with us to solve it, rather than challenge us publicly and exacerbate the situation beyond remedy”.

You can read some reactions to this in RHUL’s student newspaper: Principal asserts public debate over Classics proposals ‘will only worsen situation’. FWIW, I always get suspicious when powerful folks ‘don’t want to argue in front of the children’ …

Subsequent inquiries about this ‘discussion’ to take place on Monday (for how long?) suggests ‘outsiders’ won’t be allowed to voice their concerns thereon. Until then, the head of department has requested (in the same letter mentioned above):

Letters of support will be very welcome. These should be addressed to the Principal, Prof. Paul Layzell, but should be sent in the first instance NOT directly to him but to the Department, so that we can collect them to use as we see fit.

… they seem to be thinking primarily of actual paper-based letters, but Anne Sheppard’s email address is available here. The folks on facebook seem to be adamant that Mr. Layzell should not be mailed directly at this point.

An online petition has not been started near as I can tell, but other channels to voice support and/or monitor the situation would include the aforementioned facebook group:

… and on Twitter:

… not sure how the #SOSRHUL hashtag is working out …

We’ll keep monitoring events as they unfold …

Latin at Waterloo Collegiate Institute Threatened!

Long-time readers of rogueclassicism will know that one of my ongoing bugbears is the sorry state of Classical knowledge up here in the Great White North and the lack of general recognition of the value of such basic things as Latin. And so, it was with great dismay when Anna Norris brought to my attention the fact that a Latin program down the highway from me was facing cuts … here’s the incipit of an online petition for same:

On April 21, various grade 10 and 11 students at Waterloo Collegiate Institute were called down to the guidance office. They were dismayed to find that the Grade 11/12 Latin class for the 2011-2012 school year was cancelled due to the ‘small’ number of people signed up (15). The class has run with numbers like this before.

WCI is one of two schools in the Waterloo region to have a Latin Program. Next year, it will be the only school. What the students would love to do is continue to learn this language, and learn more about the fascinating culture and history that has greatly influenced modern society. However, their opportunity to do this has been jeopardized. The WCI Latin students are a passionate group of people that love the course. They want to continue their education in Latin.

… I’m sure these budding Latinists and Classicists could use some support from the Classics community at large; here’s where you can sign the petition:

[note that the particular petition site these folks are using asks for a donation; you do NOT have to donate for your signature to be recorded, as far as I can tell]

Latin Threatened at UMaine!!

University of Maine Flag
Image by jimmywayne via Flickr

Not sure how I missed any previous coverage of this … from the Maine Campus:

A Jan. 24 letter from University of Maine President Robert Kennedy to Faculty Senate President Michael Grillo indicates that three majors — Latin, German and women’s studies — are a step closer to the chopping block.

In response, fourth-year Latin and history student Jeremy Swist, with the help of faculty members, has circulated and submitted to administrators a 674-signature petition urging the university to “preserve a commitment to the liberal arts by maintaining full faculty positions in the Classics and courses in Latin and Greek grammar, literature and culture from the introductory to the 400-level.”

The petition features influential signees, including former UMaine President Peter Hoff, former Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Yale University ancient history professor Donald Kagan, British classical scholar Peter Green and Irish classicist and philosopher John M. Dillon. It also features the signatures of a number of UMaine professors and students, as well as from individuals in Asia and Europe.

“Basically, it’s just a network of history professors, classics professors, [people from] various departments, well-wishers — a lot of connections,” Swist said.

On the petition, Dillon called the situation at UMaine “a sad descent into barbarism.”

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Jeffrey Hecker said the wording of the petition could be somewhat misleading, directing signees to make untrue assumptions about the situation.

“There are some misconceptions there. We don’t have a department of classics,” Hecker said. “We have a single faculty member in our budget for teaching classics. We offer a Latin major and we offer courses in classics and offer classes in Greek.”

Hecker said the notable scholars on the list make him take the petition “very seriously,” but the misconceptions in the letter and the current budgetary situation override their pleas.

“I’m supportive of the spirit of the letter, but no university, at least I don’t think a university, would respond to a group of outsiders by making a commitment to whether people would be hired or not hired,” Hecker said. “That’s just not a reasonable way to run the place.”

Last semester, the faculty senate passed a resolution to support recommendations made by the four-person Program Creation and Reorganization Review Committee to continue with Kennedy’s suggestions to suspend bachelor’s degree programs in theater, forest ecosystem science, wood science and technology, and aquaculture made in April 2010.

However, the PCRRC also supported a one-year delay of April’s final recommendations by Kennedy to suspend majors in German, Latin and women’s studies.

“Unfortunately, I cannot endorse the PCRRC recommendations with respect to the suspension proposals relative to German, Latin and women’s studies,” Kennedy wrote to Grillo. “I believe that the decision I reached last spring at the conclusion of the university’s inclusive, comprehensive review process, although painful, is the correct decision under our current circumstances.”

Those involved directly with the Latin and classics fields are wondering how a major with one administering faculty member, Associate Professor of Classical Language and Literature Tina Passman, and a mere six degree students would save enough money to warrant the axe.

“I just think it’s a utilitarian outlook that doesn’t see the immediate benefit of these academic languages — German and Latin,” Swist said. “It’s the point of view that these disciplines won’t earn you money upon graduation. You don’t go to college to earn money. You go to college to become a well-rounded citizen and develop your intellectual capacity.”

Hecker said the decision to eliminate the major was strictly based on low enrollment and student retention. There are currently six students majoring in Latin at UMaine. In the last six years, Hecker said, there have been anywhere from zero to six students seeking majors in that field.

Only one student in the last five years, he said, earned a Latin degree. Lower-level courses, he said, have “reasonable enrollment” and are viable options to be kept.

“In essence, by retaining the major, we are committing Dr. Passman’s time to do that in the future. When I looked at it, it’s very hard to justify that resource for such a small number of students,” Hecker said.

Passman, reached Friday, said she has been the only person teaching Latin on campus for 25 years, “except for an adjunct or two.”

She said she does not understand why Kennedy would move to suspend the major now, as she has tenure and will not be asked to stop teaching even upper-level Latin courses due to the retention of a Latin minor.

“Why doesn’t he just wait until I retire?” she said. “I’m tenured and I’m going to be teaching Latin until all the current students receive their degrees. … The minor will necessitate that many of the same courses be available for students.”

“There’s not one cent that is saved — not one cent — by eliminating the Latin major,” Passman continued.

Passman said Hecker has been very supportive throughout the process and that he does not want to burden her with teaching Latin, as she also teaches classics and will serve as the director of the minor in peace and reconciliation studies next semester.

“The short-term savings are very small,” Hecker said in response to cost-savings concerns. “In the long-term, though, if we in fact move toward suspending it now … professor Passman will at some point retire or take a position somewhere else and we can then make our hard decisions within that sort of framework.”

Jay Bregman, a professor of ancient, intellectual and jazz history, echoed Passman’s sentiments about cost-savings and was strong in opposition of Kennedy.

“There’s one professor here — Tina Passman. That’s the major. It costs nothing … as a major. [Kennedy] just basically wants to do it because he’s basically a perverse S.O.B. who seems to have a hang-up about it,” Bregman said. “This guy is bad news.”

In 2001, Bregman said, Kennedy wanted to eliminate German and Latin to much opposition from faculty. Phi Beta Kappa, the history honors society, threatened to leave because of a bylaw within its national guidelines at the time that said any university with a chapter had to have a Latin major, he said.

“He was stomped,” Bregman, a 35-year veteran of UMaine, said. “Then, he got to be president. Because, basically, what this character does is find ways to amass power.”

Bregman called Kennedy “by far the worst president I’ve ever seen at this university by a mile.” He also said the president has moved the university in the direction of a technical school.

In the petition, James Warhola, a professor of political science, wrote it is “simply not acceptable for a state university to lack courses in the classical languages of Greek and Latin. The University of Maine is just that — a university, not a technical-vocational school.”

Michael Palmer, also a professor of political science who teaches political philosophy, wrote that until now, he has “never seen liberal education held [in] such low repute” at UMaine.

Bergman said the effects of losing the Latin program at UMaine could have a devastating impact on state education.

“It has been an old prophecy that this was going to happen,” he said. “But when it happens in a state like Maine, the place can really get hurt. It’s a small school.”

Passman said there are approximately 60 high school Latin programs in the state. She said she would continue to work with these programs and deliver her classes online, a process made easier as she converted her curriculum into an electronic format in the late 1990s.

“Nothing has changed except for the fact that we won’t have a major at the flagship institution,” she said. “It also means that anyone who wants to be a Latin teacher in this state will have to go elsewhere.”

Kennedy, through UMaine spokesman Joe Carr, declined a request for comment, citing time constraints.

Check out the original article for links to the letter and the petition …

n.b. If your program is in peril, please send details etc. to rogueclassicism so we can make the Classics community aware (800+ folks read rc on any given day) …

Saving Latin in Scotland – Followup

In today’s Scotsman:

IT IS the dead language of ancient Rome, the Declaration of Arbroath, law books and medical terminology.

But a new campaign is using that most modern of inventions – Facebook – to wage a battle to save Latin in Scottish schools.

An online bid to protect qualifications in the study of the ancient language is picking up global support with the rallying
cry “Heri, hodie, semper!” – “Today, tomorrow, always!”

The campaign was launched in response to proposals by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to cut back the exam options available to pupils.

Entry-level exams in the subject could go, deterring pupils from taking the language at a higher level, say opponents.

The plans have been branded “elitist nonsense” and a “regression to past inequality” by allowing only the brightest pupils to gain qualifications and axeing options for youngsters with lower academic ability.

Helen Lawrenson, a recently retired teacher of Latin and English in Fife who launched the online campaign, said: “I would argue that Latin isn’t a dead language, but a timeless language.

“And the acquisition of Latin is undoubtedly an advantage in the study of law and medicine.”

The Facebook page has attracted support from pupils, teachers and academics around the world, many of whom have also written to the SQA and education minister Mike Russell in protest.

via Modern drive for ancient language – Scotsman.com News.

Classics and Latin Threatened in Scottish Schools

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the people/institution mentioned in the post, not to rogueclassicism!)

Dear all,

I am contacting you in anticipation that you will be able to assist in efforts to ensure that Latin does not disappear from the curriculum in Scotland, particularly in the state sector. The examination board, the SQA, proposes not to develop qualifications in Latin at the first/lower levels, contrary to the Curriculum for Excellence.. Qualifications for Classical Studies have now been secured but is essential to secure a discrete Latin qualification at National Level 4 to ensure parity of esteem and progression with other languages.

If there are no qualifications at the first/younger levels for pupils, schools will inevitably remove Latin from the school curriculum.

A Facebook has been set up outlining the concerns encouraging classicists and those who care about education to contact the SQA and Michael Russell, the Education Secretary for Scotland to ensure a “re-think” of these proposals, which appear to discriminate against Latin.

Could I ask you to look at the Facebook page, simply titled Keep Latin and Classical Studies in Scottish Schools, and give your support to ensure that a classical language remains available to pupils in Scottish schools. (You do not need to be a Facebook user to access these pages.)

Regards

Shona J.A. Harrison
Classics Teacher

With apologies for cross-postings. The link to the Facebook page for the campaign (which also gives details of email addresses at the Scottish Qualifications Authority where letters of concern might be sent) is:

Bruce Gibson

Latin Major at LSU Threatened!

This one doesn’t appear to have been widely bruited about yet, but an item in the Baton Rouge Advocate shows that Latin (among other majors) is on the chopping block for that always-questionable ‘budgetary reason’ (with the usual platitudes about having to make ‘tough decisions’ yadda yadda yadda). As expected, the Louisiana Classicist blog is on the case:

We await the petition …

Trinity College’s Classics Threatened

From the Tripod:

Trinity College’s Classics Department is in danger of being dissolved and replaced as an interdisciplinary program.

This process involves numerous steps, the first of which is the notification of Department Chair and Associate Professor of Classics Dr. Martha Risser by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC).

The EPC consists of various members of the Trinity Faculty, including the Dean of the Faculty, who serves as the chair but does not vote. There also are six elected tenured members of the faculty on the EPC, who must have been at Trinity for at least five years. These six members serve three-year, staggered terms on the EPC, and none of the members may serve consecutive terms.

There is at least one, but no more than three, representatives from the following departments: the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities/arts. The EPC also cannot have more than one member from any one department.

Now that the EPC has delivered a notification of its thoughts to Risser, a series of rigid steps will follow. Risser will first have to present a statement to the EPC, which she says “will vote on whether or not to bring a motion to the faculty, requesting permission to conduct an inquiry into the possibility of discontinuing the Classics Department and organizing an interdisciplinary program in its place.”

If the committee decides to bring a motion to the faculty, they will do so and wait for the faculty to vote. If the motion is approved, the EPC will conduct an inquiry and decide whether or not it is necessary to discontinue the Classics department. If they decide in the affirmative, they will allow the faculty to vote on the motion. If that motion is also passed than the ultimate decision lies with President James F. Jones, Jr.

“The questions concerning the role of a traditional classics department have been around for a great many years,” said Jones, “Several different solutions have been tried: from the Five-College Consortium model in Massachusetts to the IT classics network in the South sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. We here are trying to think of ways to increase the role of classics by extending traditional language (Greek and Latin) and literature offerings to classics studies. Some may wish for days of yesteryear where, at Trinity and elsewhere, Latin and Greek were required. But those days are never going to return, however much we might pine for them. The Dean is trying to think, with senior faculty here, of ways to extend our offerings rather than to have to justify tiny-enrolled courses for a very few.”

Jones also was sure to point out that his opinion was just one of many.

“I should state my own prejudices. I was a student at a military academy in the South where, if one were in the upper form, one had to read all the way through Ovid, Cicero, Livy, and Virgil. If I live long enough, I hope to end my career where I first started it: teaching Caesar, Cicero, Ovid, and Virgil in the morning and coaching soccer in the afternoon.”

The Classics Department was recently looked at by external reviewers who came to Trinity last spring and argued against the replacing of the department with a program. According to Risser, they recommended both of the vacant tenure-track positions be returned to the Classics Department and filled as soon as possible.

Risser also noted that the only NESCAC school without a Classics Department is Bates, where an interdisciplinary program is anchored by three tenured professors who specialize in Greek and Roman literature.

“Some have expressed concern about enrollments,” said Risser, “While it is true that some of our classes (e.g. Advanced Greek) are consistently small, others (e.g. Mythology, Ancient Warfare, Ancient Athletics) are large. Our average enrollments are equivalent to those of other departments.”

When asked about her own thoughts on the possible changes to the Classics Department, Risser expressed her uncertainty of the future.

“I really do not know what will happen, but I hope Classics will always be valued at Trinity. Classics has a long tradition of being an interdisciplinary field in which we examine the societies, cultures, values, laws, arts and ideas that form the core of the world in which we live. Through studying the ancient Greeks and Romans, our students become acquainted with the cultures that are at the very foundation of Modern Western and Middle Eastern civilizations, and gain understanding of the rich classical tradition that is still present in our lives today.”

A group in support of keeping the Classics Department has been created on Facebook by Trinity alumnus James Sickinger ’86, who majored in Classics while at the College. According to the Web site, the group is “intended to serve as a focal point for fostering support for the Classics Department at Trinity College, which is threatened with elimination. It will serve as a forum to provide information and foster communication.” At the time of press, the group had 340 members.

via College’s Classics Department Faces Possible Changes in Future – News.

Facebook seems to be blocked where I am right now; I’ll post the site later or, if some intrepid soul has access, please post it in the comments.

Another Program in Peril

The incipit of a piece in Inside Higher Education … I suspect the situation at Centenary College is rather more common than we might know:

In this era of financial turmoil in higher education, many arts and humanities programs have found themselves in the cross hairs of budget cutters. Some proposed cuts have quickly attracted national or even international opposition. Think of all the outrage, for example, about Brandeis University’s plan (since put on hold) to sell off its noted collection of modern art, or of the budget cuts that for a time endangered the future of the Louisiana State University Press.

In both of those cases, and many others, prominent academics and scholarly associations organized petitions, lobbied key decision makers and shouted to anyone who would listen that these cuts simply could not be made. Thousands of students in California are expected to rally across the state today to protest various cuts to California’s colleges and universities.

But there are also a lot of people and programs this year that are being eliminated with hardly any attention at all. These programs are on hit lists precisely because they are small, because they are not famous and thus they don’t have thousands of supporters organizing petition drives and rallies.

Stephen Clark has since 1988 been the only classics professor at Centenary College, a liberal arts institution in Louisiana. This week, the college decided to eliminate the Latin program, which has been the focus of his career as a tenured professor. While there is an appeals process, the college earlier indicated that tenured professors in departments that are closed would probably lose their jobs.

At Centenary, much of the discussion about which programs to eliminate focused on size, and Clark makes no claims that Latin classrooms are packed. Enrollments of five to seven students are good for upper division courses and most years there are only a few majors, sometimes just one.

more …

via News: Turning Off the Lights – Inside Higher Ed.

Cuts at King’s College London?

An excerpt from Mary Beard’s latest:

Now it is the turn of King’s College London – which is planning (very confidentially, so far) to lose up to 22 posts in Arts and Humanities by the end of the academic year. This means that at least one subject (which ought to be a protected species) will disappear.

[...]

Anyway, at King’s this will mean (so they themselves predict) taking Byzantine and Modern Greek into Classics (that’s maybe no bad idea), losing four lecturing jobs in German, Spanish and Modern Greek (so much for our country’s language provision) — and it will mean removing Palaeography entirely. Those fighting to keep their jobs will be asked (among other things) to show how much research income they have brought in.

Palaeographers may be a quirky crowd. But King’s has the only established chair in the subject in the country, and a tradition of tremendous research in the subject (recently exemplified by Julian Brown and Tilly de la Mare) going back decades. The only way that we can hope to understand books and manuscripts of the past (not just how to read them, but also to work out why they were as the were.. and what difference it makes) is to keep the study of palaeography alive. It is the underpinning of history and pre-modern English literature and has crucial links with Classics and the transmission of classical texts,

This point was made firmly in the last round of university cuts — where the King’s provision was explicitly singled out as distinguished.

All we can do is write to the Principal of King’s and make a plea for preserving the infra-structure of intellectual culture. Once these skills disappear, you never get them back.

Dr Beard’s post has links to the relevant folks to send your indignant mail …

via A Don’s Life by Mary Beard – Times Online – WBLG: University cuts, redundancies – and bye-bye palaeography at King’s College London.

… and I note now the existence of a Facebook page for this: Save Paleography At King’s London

On the web:

Another Department in Peril: UMD College Park?

In the wake of the threat to Classics at MSU, it has been brought to my attention that the Classics program at UMD College Park is also threatened, although to what extent at this point isn’t certain (merger with other departments is the current suggestion … maybe). From what I’ve been able to gather, UMD has had major cuts imposed on it by the state and the fallout of that can be seen in this item from the Diamondback:

The classics department may be merged with another department as part of the university’s ongoing push to cut costs and increase efficiency in the face of severe state budget cuts.

The move could insulate the department, which houses three undergraduate majors and a popular Greek and Roman mythology class, from reductions that would devastate a small department but could be weathered by a larger one, arts and humanities college officials said. But classics Chair Hugh Lee feared the department could lose some of its independence.

“In some ways I have a little bit of sadness because I think the classics department is now in its golden age, and the faculty are very active nationally and internationally,” Lee said. “In an ideal world, I think we’d like to stay independent.”

Lee said he believed the department was targeted for a possible merger because it is small and does not offer a doctorate. The department includes 40 undergraduate students and about a dozen graduate students.

A merger might be necessary to protect small departments such as classics from a bleak budgetary future, arts and humanities college Dean James Harris said.

“Part of it is looking to the future. In other words, … we’re trying to position units to put them in the best situation to cope with the future, and the future doesn’t look good right now budgetarily, and it’s especially true of small units,” Harris said. “Can they survive on their own?”

A merger could save money on operating costs by pooling resources like paper, copiers and telephone service, Harris said, and by reducing the number of staff members. For example, one secretary could serve two combined departments. While Harris doesn’t plan to lay off any staff at the moment, vacant faculty and staff positions may go unfilled, he said.

Lee said he hoped the classics department would be able to keep the same number of students after the merger, but many details about the structure of the new department would need to be worked out. How many classes would every faculty member be expected to teach in a merged department? Who would be responsible for sitting on various university governing bodies?

“There’s no clear model for this kind of merger that I know of,” Lee said. “But I think we would probably have to give up some of our resources — some of our budget would have to go over to the larger unit.”

No final decision has been made on whether to merge the classics department, Harris said. The college is also considering merging the African American studies, American studies, women’s studies and LGBT studies programs. Across the university, departments are being forced to offer fewer and larger courses because of declining university fundraising and $86.2 million in state budget cuts over the past two years.

There is no timetable to make a decision, Harris said. It is unclear which department classics could merge with, although Lee said he has already talked with the English department and the languages, literatures and cultures school.

Lee said he hoped the academic quality of the department can be maintained.

“When Maryland talks about its peer universities … they all have free-standing classics departments,” he said. “I think we’ve over the years tried to build up a department; even though we don’t have a Ph.D., our teaching and our scholarship is something that the university can be proud of.”

Anyone else having 80s/90s flashbacks?

Classics Threatened at MSU!!!

This seems to be a developing story but it doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention as these things normally get, so … let’s begin with the incipit of a news release (full of the usual bureaucrateze) from MSU:

As Michigan State University continues to shape its future and look for ways to reduce expenses while maintaining quality, efficiency and effectiveness, the MSU Board of Trustees today received a report outlining a series of recommendations that could do just that.

At its Oct. 30 meeting, the board was presented outlines from Provost Kim Wilcox and Vice President for Finance and Operations Fred Poston that are part of the university’s ongoing budget-reduction process. Wilcox told the board that he is endorsing a series of changes that have been identified at this stage of the planning process.

“We are in the early stages of a focused MSU budget reduction process,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We have committed to making that process transparent. As we saw at today’s meeting many voices will continue to be heard as we work through the process.”

As many as 30 academic majors, specializations and other programs could be affected. It could also include the closures of two departments – the Department of Geological Sciences and the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. While communicative sciences and disorders could be closed, graduate degree programs would continue, relocated within the Department of Communication.

Of concern to us, of course, is the threat to the Classics program, which currently resides in a department along with French and Italian . According to a powerpoint included on another page of the MSU site, the plans are to add Portuguese and Spanish to the mix to create a Romance Languages department. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing — it’s done at numerous other universities with varying degrees of success — but there are also plans to eliminate the major in Classical Studies, for reasons which seem vague and bizarre. It’s also bizarre that the only degree program in the College of Arts and Letters that IS threatened is something as seminal as Classical Studies.

Below I reproduce a letter from the faculty in Classical Studies at MSU which appeared on the Latinteach list that deserves wider dissemination on this issue:

Statement on Proposed Elimination of the Classical Studies Major at Michigan State University:

On October 30, Michigan State University Provost Kim Wilcox recommended the elimination of the Classical Studies Major as well as several other programs as part of a budget reduction plan that he presented to the Board of Trustees. The budget challenges facing the University are indeed severe, but cutting Classics will not result in any budget savings, and it is detrimental to our students, our faculty and to the reputation of the University itself.

Provost Wilcox admitted on October 30 that he did not know what, if anything, would be saved by cutting programs, and our Dean, Karin Wurst, has only referred vaguely to the “current economic climate” as justification for eliminating the program. This is disturbing given the urgency of realizing actual savings in the budget, because nothing is saved by eliminating Classical Studies. There are no administrative costs for Classical Studies, no dedicated support staff, no graduate students, no temporary instructors, no lab or material costs, and the current faculty will remain on staff.

In a recent e-mail to our current majors, the Dean claims that in the last five years we have had only a total of 11 majors. Our current major did not exist five years ago. It was first offered in January of 2006 and students did not begin enrolling in significant numbers until fall of that year. In fact, we have had an average of 24 majors enrolled each of the past three years, and we have graduated six majors in each of the past two years. These numbers are above average for other programs of comparable size in our College.

The Dean has also claimed that our courses are too specialized and that we do not reach a broad student audience. This reflects a profound misunderstanding of the nature of our program and the typical enrollments in our courses. For example, CLA 160, which is offered this semester, has 160 students with 47 different majors represented from across the University. This would seem, by any definition, to be a “broad” audience. We offer three or more civilization courses each semester and enrollments typically range from 30 to 200, with only a small minority in Classical Studies. All of the courses that support our major attract a diverse student audience and have strong enrollments, as shown by the fact that we have an average of 34 students per class (including the upper-level language) in the current academic year.

The Dean has told us that after the elimination of our program we will all be assigned full-time to general education. This means that of all the faculty in programs that may be affected by proposed cuts we will be only ones who will not be allowed to teach in our discipline.

The elimination of the Classics program along with all Greek, Latin and Classical Civilization courses not only makes no sense in budgetary terms, it also strikes at the heart of the mission of MSU as a land grant institution.

In 1855, the Michigan legislature passed Article 13, Section 11, which founded the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. Article 13 became the model for the Morrill Act, signed by President Lincoln in 1862, which established MSU and other Land Grant institutions. Section 4 of the Morrill Act authorized the sale of public land to create endowments for states to establish colleges of agriculture and the mechanic arts “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics.”

“Classical studies” in this context can only refer to Latin and Greek and related fields, and it is the only discipline in the humanities named in the act. This wording was part of an addition to original version of the Morrill Act that had been vetoed by President Buchanan in 1859, and it shows that Lincoln and other supporters of the Act recognized that the discipline of classical studies is essential part of the educational goals the public land grant schools, and this continues to be recognized by land grant universities across the country.

Cutting Classics clearly contradicts the Morrill Act, and it would give MSU, “The Pioneer Land Grant University,” the embarrassing distinction of being the only Land Grant university in the Big Ten and in the CIC that does not offer Classics.

Michigan State University is a premier land-grant university, but it is also preeminently an AAU university, one of only a handful of public universities that have such distinction. To cut Classics is to negate our intellectual heritage and to deny generations of students training in the core discipline of liberal arts education.

The economy poses serious challenges to universities across the country, especially so in Michigan. In the case of Classical Studies, however, MSU seems to have lost sight of budgetary goals as well as educational values. The hasty and unnecessary elimination of Classical Studies undermines the University’s claim to be a center of learning and a leader in global education. There is nothing to be saved by cutting Classical Studies, but much to be lost by our students, by our faculty, and by the University itself, all for no reason.

We urge colleagues in the profession and in the liberal arts in general, as well as informed and concerned citizens across the state and county, to write letters to our chief academic officers, President Lou Anna Simon, Provost Kim Wilcox, and dean of the College of Arts and Letters Karin Wurst in support of retaining and indeed fostering the study of Classics at Michigan State.

Sincerely
The Faculty in Classical Studies
Michigan State University

contact information for MSU administration:

Lou Anna K. Simon, President presmail@msu.edu
450 ADMINISTRATION BLDG .
EAST LANSING MI 48824-1046
517-355-6560

Kim Wilcox, Provost kwilcox@msu.edu
429 ADMINISTRATION BLDG.
EAST LANSING MI 48824-1046
517-355-1524

Karin A. Wurst, Dean, Arts and Letters: wurst@msu.edu
320 LINTON HALL
EAST LANSING MI 48824-1044
517-355-4597

Just to add some fuel to the fire, there’s something ‘not quite right’ about all this in general. Back in September, the president of the university — Lou Anna K. Simon — wrote a brief letter which suggests all these challenges would be guided by some “overarching design principles”, which include, interestingly enough, under the rubric ‘research’:

As a comprehensive, international, research university built on land-grant traditions, continue to strengthen the liberal core in arts, humanities, social sciences while focusing on areas of traditional strength, opportunity, and need including …

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is confused as to how one can strengthen arts, humanities and social sciences, while hobbling the discipline which pretty much is the basis for all of them. In any event, we also note that an online petition has been set up (and as of this writing has 350+ signatures).

Please find a way to get the point across to the powers-that-be at MSU that the young (comparatively speaking) Classical Studies major is something worth saving …

Business Saving Classics at UIC?

I thought we had mentioned the problems at  UIC before, but I can’t seem to find it. In any event, here’s a very interesting item from the Chicago Flame:

In an effort to heighten student interest in the university’s small but well-recognized Classics department, a recent alumnus has organized a team of 24 business students to launch a marketing campaign that promises to brand a new name for the studies.

Lorenzo Varela, coordinator of the project, responded immediately to the threat of elimination of the Classics department.

Beginning in the upcoming fall semester, Ancient Greek 101 will be suspended for an indefinite period of time. Meanwhile, Latin is not entirely suspended but will be “curtailed.”

With not enough enrollment in the two languages and with the university facing severe budget cuts, the decision on whether or not to keep or cut the programs is a difficult one to make.

Varela, who graduated from UIC last fall with a degree in Entrepreneurship, began to recruit students from the College of Business Administration with the offer of internship credit for their work.

“My personal belief,” Varela said, “is that this department applies to everybody – even the Business department. The skills they teach you, such as critical reasoning, interpreting and analyzing data, you know, you can use that for anything. It’s so versatile. If only the program would have been more marketed or crossed with other majors, it could survive.”

Along with representatives from the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the marketing team hopes to raise both interest and enrollment for Ancient Greek 101 and Latin courses, and to encourage more students to major in the Classics.

Current initiatives include redesigning the department website, posting flyers to advertise the courses, creating a logo, and soliciting sponsorships from businesses in the Greek community.

In addition, the Classics department will sponsor “The Apology of Socrates,” a one-man play by Yiannis Simonides, with the financial help of USG and the Greek community. The event will take place on March 30 in Lecture Center F3 at 4 p.m. While the play is intended to show Plato’s relevance to students in the present time, how much interest it can raise remains uncertain.

“The bottom line is money,” Jeff Melichar, a third-year English education and Classics double major said. “Unless there’s an endowment or contribution from someone, it’ll be hard to convince the higher-ups to keep the program at full strength. Fundraisers probably wouldn’t help much either, but if we can just get one really generous millionaire to throw some money our way, things would improve a great deal.”

Currently UIC is the only public university in Chicago to offer Ancient Greek and Latin. Alumni of the languages are reported to have greater success entering into Law and Medicine. They also report higher scores on standardized tests, such as the GRE and LSAT.

“If the Greek and Latin majors are suspended,” said Nanno Marinatos, Professor and Director of Studies of Classics, “the entire Classics Department will wither away. No serious scholar will ever want to come to UIC to teach high-school level mythology and literature classes.”

“Teaching Greek authors in the original is a way for faculty and students to maintain high-level performance at UIC which aspires to be a world-class university,” Marinatos continued. “We wish to maintain a serious profile in the international community to which we belong and by which we are highly esteemed.”