The members of the department want to make Classics welcoming for all students, especially those who may be encountering the field, its texts, and frameworks for the first time; it is crucial that we identify and change ways of teaching and aspects of our discipline that might make students in underrepresented groups feel that their ideas, identities, or questions are unwelcome.
The action plan articulated below is neither exhaustive nor sufficient but we share it in its current form here in the spirit of transparency and in the hope that it provides a locus for dialogue, continual improvement, and long-term accountability. We have made checking-in on the plan a permanent agenda item in our regular departmental meetings. In implementing the plan, we will work closely with our counterpart department at Bryn Mawr, and Bryn Mawr’s departmental plan of action may be found here.
We recognize that this will be an ongoing process and we invite community feedback, suggestions, and collaborative discussion regarding these initiatives. To encourage this exchange, we have established a Department Suggestion Box. [you will be asked for your Haverford credentials to access the Box, but comments may be left anonymously]
Table of Contents
- Equity in the Classics Curriculum
- Courses on Classics and Social Justice
- 2020-21 Event Series
- Equitable Teaching Practices
- Future Plans
- Program Accessibility
- Student Support & Departmental Climate
- Support for Students Studying at Haverford
- Support for Students Studying Abroad or Outside the Quaker Consortium
- Continued Faculty Education and Training
- Inclusive Faculty Mentoring
- Fostering Dialogue and Transparency
- Community Conversations
- Departmental Feedback
- Senior Exit Interviews
- Equity in Faculty Hiring
- Student Collaboration in Hiring
- Fall 2020 Student Strike
1. Equity in the Classics Curriculum
During the events of the 2021-2022 academic year, Haverford Classics renewed its ongoing commitment anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable teaching practices. We acknowledge that the actions described below are only a partial snapshot of the work being undertaken by the broader BiCo Classics community, and that this work must continue to develop in conversation with students, alums, allied faculty, librarians, and other experts.
Courses on Classics and Social Justice
- The annual BiCo Classics Senior Seminar continued to engage in a curriculum of secondary reading on anti-racist and other socially just modes of scholarship. Students engaged with anti-racist work in the field, studied ongoing efforts to support and advocate for diverse Classics students and scholars, and helped develop resources for centering the work of BIPOC classicists. This model will be further developed and implemented again next year. [status: premiered 2020-21, continuing into the 2022-23 senior experience]
- In 2020, we committed to regularizing courses whose primary focus was race, gender, or other aspects of identity as stable, recurring elements of our teaching. In Spring 2021, we offered the first of a series of courses we are calling “The Future of the Past.” [status: executed 2021, ongoing]
- Topics may include: concepts of race and ethnicity in the ancient Mediterranean; the history of slavery, or the works of authors who experienced slavery; histories of racism and anti-racism in classicizing education; BIPOC receptions of classical literature; Queer Theory in Classics; disability in ancient culture and in works of classical reception. We’d love to hear from students about topics within this framework they would be eager to study.
- Past courses:
- In Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, Prof. Whitcomb offeedr a Classics-oriented writing seminar for first-year students on “Cleopatra” and “Constructions of Race and Ethnicity in the Ancient World.”
- In Fall 2021, Prof. Silverblank offered a Classical Studies seminar called “Refashioning the Classics: Voicing Myth,” which is cross-listed in Comparative Literature. This course will engage with questions of identity politics, canon, and marginalized voices in the social and political construction of mythology and literature.
- In Spring 2021, Prof. Farmer offered the first course in “The Future of the Past”series: “Marginalized Identities in Antiquity.” This course explored processes of identity formation, normativity, and exclusion in ancient Greece, focusing particularly on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. The course emphasized student-led teaching; after a proposal and selection process, students chose to teach modules on the gendering of emotions in Greek poetry, on sex work in the Roman Empire, and on fascist receptions of Greece and Rome in early 20th-century Europe. You can view the syllabus here.
- In Fall 2018, Prof. Silverblank offered a Classical Studies seminar called “Narratives of Disability in Ancient Greek and Roman Literature,” which was cross-listed in Health Studies and Comparative Literature.
During the 2020-21 academic year, as we renewed and reimagined our commitment to anti-racism, we held a series of events to showcase and encourage anti-racist work and art in our field. Moving into 2021-22, we plan to continue this emphasis in our events; further details will be forthcoming as the semester approaches.
- Inspired by the teach-ins organized by students and faculty during the Fall 2020 student strike, Haverford Classics organized a series of workshops during the 2020-21 year. You can use the links below for information and resources related to these workshops. We are in the process of planning new workshops for the fall 2021 semester, and welcome feedback and suggestions.
- Fall 2020: Racism and Classics; Race in the Ancient Mediterranean
- Spring 2021: Naming Our Field; Be Not Afraid of the Dark
- The department has supported and participated in several events hosted by the new BiCo student group, SPEAC: Students Promoting Equity in Archaeology and Classics.
- In March 2021, we provided financial support for and attended SPEAC’s inaugural conference, Now and Then: (In)equity and Marginalization in Ancient Mediterranean Studies.
- In April 2021, several of us attended the SPEAC reading group discussion on Mathura Umachandran’s “Fragile, Handle With Care: On White Classicists.”
- We encourage all interested students to get involved with SPEAC, and plan to continue supporting and participating in the group’s activities. (See also above, on our collaboration with SPEAC to redesign our Elementary Latin curriculum).
- Our annual Classics Marathon
- The 2021 event featured works of classical reception by Black poets, including Phillis Wheatley, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Derek Walcott, Rita Dove, Nabila Lovelace, Inua Ellams, Nicole Sealey, and others. You can view the program, with links to texts and author biographies, here. [status: completed fall 2021]
- Senior Majors’ Visiting Speaker
- Fall 2022: the BiCo Seniors invited and will host Sasha-Mae Eccleston (Brown University) as the 2022 senior majors’ speaker.
- Fall 2021: BiCo Classics seniors selected and invited Prof. Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Princeton) as the 2021 senior majors’ speaker.
- Fall 2020, we hosted Curtis Dozier (Vassar) for the lecture “Descendants of Achilles: White Supremacist Narratives About Greek Antiquity.”
- During the 2020-21 academic year, Prof. Shirazi, alongside Alessandro Giammei (Italian Studies, Bryn Mawr), worked on laying the groundwork for a virtual collaborative project titled Zombie Philologies. The project, supported by a Mellon Tri-Co Seed Grant and launching in 2021, will invite members of the Tri-co community to:
- to actively engage with recent theoretical turns in literary and cultural studies, such as critical fabulation and queer temporality, to question the very aura of objectivity that philology has acquired in the last century;
- to work together on developing a decolonized approach to philology and textual studies that responds to students’ frustration with the white affectivity and Eurocentric detachment of traditional syllabi on the canon.
- [status: ongoing]
- When Haverford faculty suggest speakers for the Classics Colloquium, continue to take special care to seek out and recommend BIPOC scholars. Recommendations made by faculty, staff, and students, including the newly formed Bryn Mawr SPEAC student organization, have already begun to increase the diversity of the colloquium speakers. [status: ongoing]
Equitable Teaching Practices
Haverford Classics has long sought to practice equitable and inclusive teaching, drawing on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, creating free digital resources and audio recordings for Classics students, and offering courses that center questions of identity and exclusion.
In 2022-23 the members of the Department will be engaging in sustained conversation and planning around accessibility and pedagogical innovation under the auspices of a grant from the TLI/Cantor Fund for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching a Learning. Faculty will work with a small team of two-three paid student consultants and engage in a deep and sustained (yearlong) exploration of excellence in teaching in that discipline. The Fund is designed to advance innovation and excellence in teaching and learning, and in particular, to support students from a wide variety of backgrounds. This work will focus on our elementary and intermediate language sequences and our 100-level course in translation; but we anticipate our efforts will touch all aspects of our curriculum.
Here are a few of our short-term goals for creating more equitable classrooms.
- Responding to students’ calls for better resources to support just and equitable research and teaching, we outlined plans for new bibliographical resources focused on antiracism in Classics.
- Webpages and syllabi now direct our students to the ongoing work of the “Black-Centered Resources for Ancient Mediterranean Studies” bibliography.
- Students in the Fall 2020 Senior Seminar compiled comprehensive bibliographies of the work of BIPOC Classicists. Students have been encouraged to use this work to supplement the Black-Centered Resources bibliography.
- [status: ongoing, begun summer/fall 2020]
- As a department, we commit to developing more equitable course syllabi.
- In Spring 2021, Prof. Mulligan, Prof. Conybeare, and Prof. Farmer met with a group of volunteers from SPEAC to discuss adopting a new Elementary Latin textbook: Suburani. This new textbook foregrounds non-elite characters and experiences, draws on inclusive teaching methodologies grounded in second language acquisition research, and emphasizes cultural and historical material alongside language learning. After positive feedback from students, both BiCo departments will be adopting Suburani in Latin 001-002 for the 2021-22 year. After a successful inaugural year at Haverford, this has been renewed for 2022-2023 year.
- Recognizing that structural biases often lead the work of scholars of color to be under-read or ignored, we will include the work of BIPOC Classicists in all syllabi of courses focused on secondary reading. [status: ongoing]
- Sample Syllabus: CSTS 398 (Senior Seminar: Fall 2020)
- Sample Syllabus: WPRP 134 (Corruption, Conversion, Change: Fall 2020)
- Sample Bibliography: LATN 201 (Vergil: Fall 2020)
- In courses (such as elementary language courses) that don’t emphasize secondary readings, we will address and contextualize depictions of enslavement, racism, misogyny, ableism, and other forms of violence and discrimination in our primary texts and textbooks. [status: ongoing]
- To ensure that our syllabi achieve these standards, we commit to holding departmental syllabus workshops focused on questions of diversity and inclusion whenever new course proposals are submitted, and to revisiting existing syllabi to ensure they meet our evolving standards of equitable and anti-racist teaching. [status: ongoing]
- We value the role that students play in the education of their peers and include Teaching Apprentices in our Elementary and Intermediate languages courses to better support student learning and communication. We have identified this as a locus where improved training of and cooperation among our TAs will benefit all constituencies. [status: ongoing]
- We understand that students’ experiences in our classrooms are shaped by complex, intersectional identities; our work towards anti-racist teaching practices must, therefore, be integrated with our other efforts to improve accessibility. We plan to continue expanding our initiatives for accessible teaching, including further incorporation of UDL and anti-deficit principles in designing syllabi, producing audio recordings of translations of ancient literature, developing ancillary resources for those who are encountering an author, genre, or idea for the first time, and implementing course designs that foster student attainment of course goals (e.g. clear expectations, alternative grading modes, assignment choice, multiple paths for success, etc.) [status: ongoing]
These plans for the coming academic year must — and will — be only one step towards an anti-racist, equitable future for Classics. Looking further to the future, we plan:
- To support the concentration in African and Africana Studies; we will continue to offer courses that can be cross-listed with the program. [status: ongoing]
- For example, in Spring 2021, CSTS 223 (Marginalized Identities in Antiquity) and CSTS 222 (Creating Classics: A Visual Workshop on Pasolini and Greek Drama) were cross-listed in African and Africana Studies.
- To continue to support efforts to develop institutional and curricular support for Transnational Studies. [status: ongoing]
- To refocus our goals for a departmental Film Series to feature films and filmed stage productions that address issues of race and discrimination. It has long been a departmental desire to hold more film screenings, in connection with courses but open to others and followed by discussion. Initial possibilities include Theater of War’s Antigone in Ferguson and Prometheus in Prison. [status: ongoing]
- To create more opportunities for our students and faculty to serve communities off-campus, especially communities of color. One initial hope is to pursue a recent invitation to work with Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia, a charter school focused on delivering classically-focused pre-college education to students from underserved communities. [status: ongoing, begun summer 2020, additional planning, 2022–23]
- To renew our series “Classics and Beyond,” a biennial residency at Haverford that features innovative and ethically engaged performance and scholarship in the field. This will provide a further venue for our students to engage with anti-racist work and with the scholarship of academics of color. [status: ongoing, next iteration 2023–25]
2. Program Accessibility
We are committed to creating a program that is accessible to all students, regardless of previous training or experience. Responding to advice received during the External Review (2019–2020) and student feedback, we are engaged in sustained conversation about the name, tracks, and requirements of our program. Equity and access will be a focus during these discussions. In May 2022, revised requirements for the BiCo majors and minors were approved. These revisions combine the existing four majors and 3 minors into a single major and minor, each with two tracks; count all coursework in the department, including elementary languages; seek to foster connections outside the department in space and time, especially by explicitly recognizing coursework on other classical languages.
We also continue to discuss changes to the names of the departments, bearing in mind the issues raised by the name “Classics.” We have taken steps to include students in these conversations, including by holding our spring 2021 workshop “Naming the Field.”
3. Student Support & Departmental Climate
Support for students studying at Haverford
- We have created a departmental “How to Get Help” page, modelled on the course-based “How to Get Help” pages that most of our course websites have included since 2018–2019. This consolidated page, which has previously featured some internal and external resources (like LIFTFAR and Sportula), presents a more comprehensive set of resources for students of color and for all students interested in deepening their commitment to anti-racist work, including resources suggested by students and alumni, and we invite the community to continue helping us expand these recommendations. [status: launched summer 2020; now included in course materials and available through official department website]
- Continue working to mentor students from underrepresented groups through existing Haverford programs, and commit to advocating for improvements to those programs based on student feedback and experiences.
- We continue to serve as advisors through the John P. Chesick Scholars Program for First-Generation/Low-Income Students. Members of the department have participated in this program since its foundation in 2014. [status: ongoing]
- Through the Horizons program, Prof. Farmer participated in a workshop on Nov. 17th, 2020, featuring the work of Dr. Tieka Harris (College of New Jersey) entitled “Blackness as Wealth: Using the Community Cultural Wealth Model to Support Black Students”
- We have routinely sponsored and mentored students in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, which supports students from underrepresented groups in pursuing research and graduate school. [status: ongoing]
- We continue to serve as advisors through the John P. Chesick Scholars Program for First-Generation/Low-Income Students. Members of the department have participated in this program since its foundation in 2014. [status: ongoing]
- Continue to work actively with Institutional Advancement and other sources of funding to expand resources in this area. The department annual budget includes only a few hundred dollars in discretionary funds, which are all already devoted to student activities. When we receive (usually small but appreciated) gifts from alumni, we convert these into student grants. [status: ongoing]
Support for students studying abroad or in courses outside the Quaker Consortium
The Department recognizes that our students remain vital members of our community even when they are engaged in academic and pre-career work away from campus. We commit to mentoring them during their planning process, to supporting them during their time away, to hearing feedback on their experiences when they return, and to deploying this feedback in subsequent mentorship and support.
- Contact students while they are studying away from campus or on leave about their experience and inquire about potential support they may require [status: ongoing; begun for students with funding to study during the summer, students studying abroad, 2018–19; planned expansion to include personally-funded summer programs and activities]
- Conduct “Return Interviews” with students when they return to campus [status: ongoing; begun for students who returned from study abroad in fall 2019; planned expansion to include other programs and activities]
- Report the results of these interviews to members of the department and, as appropriate, generate actions for Departmental Action Plan. [status: ongoing; begun fall 2019]
Continued Faculty Education and Training
As part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, individual members of the department have been seeking to further educate themselves on diversity and anti-racism and seek paths for active involvement. Over the past few years, faculty have participated in training for the Horizons Advising program, attended workshops on bias in the faculty search process, taken part in reading groups and internal college dialogues on racism, attended panels and workshops at conferences, and participated in the training organized by the group Academics for Black Lives. Among our plans for future education and training are these:
- In Spring 2021, Prof. Farmer participated in the pilot of a new college program, “The 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge.” After the successful pilot, this program was launched for all faculty and staff at the college; Prof. Farmer served as a discussion group facilitator.
- The faculty in the department participated in a Special Session of READS: Steps Towards an Anti-Racist Restructuring of Classics (See “Events” above for details).
- We have applied to bring to campus (virtually, since on-campus visiting is curtailed by the COVID emergency) the Race Forward Equity Training, in which Professor Ava Shirazi participated while at Princeton; because this organization has been inundated with requests, we are still on the waiting list, but we hope we will be able to host a session for the faculty in both bi-co Classics departments in the 2021-22 academic year.
- When Professors Farmer, Mulligan, and Shirazi will all next be in residence, we will apply to take part in the TLI/Cantor Family Fund program for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning, in which faculty work with a small team of two or three student consultants and engage in a deep and sustained (semester-long or yearlong) exploration of excellence in teaching in that discipline. The Fund is designed to advance innovation and excellence in teaching and learning, and in particular, to support students from a wide variety of backgrounds.[status: planned application in fall 2022 for implementation in 2023]
Inclusive Faculty Mentoring
We have established formal and informal mechanisms to mentor tenured, tenure-line, and visiting colleagues. Our weekly department meetings go beyond necessary administrative items and often feature conversation about new teaching or research methods or challenges that have emerged in our teaching or research. These lunches also include set times to present about research, allowing colleagues to try out new ideas and receive feedback as they develop articles and prepare talks. In addition, the Chair annually visits classes and offers formal feedback for junior and visiting faculty. [status: ongoing; this has been disrupted in recent years but is planned to resume in 2022-23]
- In order that our observations may be not only supportive but multivocal, faculty will develop a practical plan to visit each other’s classes to observe, learn, and engage in conversation on different methods and approaches. [status: ongoing]
4. Fostering Dialogue and Transparency
We appreciate and draw inspiration from Haverford’s traditions of shared governance and student-faculty conversation and collaboration. Introspection about our practices has made clear that, although conversations and collaborations have happened, our practice would be stronger and welcome more voices if it were regularized and expanded.
We will continue to host a series of conversations about issues that concern, interest, or excite our students. The first of these conversations focused on questions about the department’s name and major tracks; see above on “Events”. [status: ongoing; launched spring 2021]
To parallel our process of encouraging student feedback within and about our courses, we regularized our Departmental Suggestion Box for gathering feedback about the department and program [status: ongoing]
Senior Exit Interviews
Since 2017, Haverford faculty have conducted exit interviews for majors and minors. We will continue these and will incorporate this feedback into our departmental planning and action.
- Make available multiple faculty to conduct personal exit interviews with senior majors and minors after final grades have been assigned [status: ongoing; begun 2017 for Haverford majors; expanded to minors, 2018; invitation extended to Bryn Mawr majors and provided a choice of faculty, 2019; majors only, 2020]
- Seek feedback specifically about how Classics-at-large and Classics-in-the-BiCo could become more open to students from diverse backgrounds. [status: ongoing, begun 2018]
- Report the results of these interviews to members of the department and, as appropriate, generate actions for Departmental Action Plan. [status: ongoing; begun fall 2017]
Equity in Faculty Hiring
We are committed to the diversification of our department. With our recent hire (2019–2020), the department has reached its historical staffing level of three tenure-line faculty. But we are committed to expanding the department’s curricular reach and diversity through two paths:
- our hiring of visiting faculty, who typically play a major role both in teaching and in the Bi-Co Classics community, and whom we work to support and mentor; [status: ongoing]
- seeking out and forging innovative pedagogical connections, engaging with emerging areas of curricular energy, and proposing others that we hope may gain support for additional tenure-line faculty. [status: ongoing]
In any future searches, we will build on previous best practices, as set forth by the College and as further developed in relation to our field. Section B of our Faculty Handbook, on Affirmative Action hiring, states the college’s commitment to the diversification of its faculty and provides guidelines for active recruiting, advertising in appropriate venues (such as The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education), and the inclusion of the Affirmative Action Officer at every stage of the search at which a decision is made whether to carry candidates on to the next stage or not.
In our most recent search, as before, we followed these procedures; we also described the position in as open a way as possible (no specific subfield required, interdisciplinary interests encouraged) and honed our basic requirements to appeal to candidates with a wide variety of academic backgrounds and interests. Candidates in this search were asked to explain how they would contribute to the diversification of the departmental curriculum and to describe their background in or plans for inclusive pedagogy and for mentoring in a diverse student body. We also implemented anti-bias procedures presented at the CITE workshop Professor Farmer has attended. Two of our four finalists were persons of color.
We will also bear in mind that it is occasionally possible for a department to request that it be allowed to carry out a targeted hire (without the usual processes) when a particular opportunity arises to invite to campus a candidate who would contribute to diversity. If we see (or can create) such an opening, we will pursue it.
Student Collaboration in Hiring
Haverford searches include two students as full members of the search committee. These students read applications, participate in decision meetings, help host finalists, communicate regularly with students about the search, gather student feedback on finalists, and participate in consensus on all search committee decisions. Haverford and Bryn Mawr students provide feedback on teaching demonstrations, meal conversations, and public lectures. We also solicit and receive feedback on candidates from Bryn Mawr graduate students. Responding to comments in exit interviews conducted after the last search, we plan to have student committee members observe the teaching demonstration as well as the meal and lecture. We also propose in the interests of transparency to regularize meetings with students at the outset of the search process to ensure that they are fully informed and have an opportunity to express their goals and concerns for the search. [status: searches conducted 2017–18, 2019–20; implement regularized information sessions during next search]
5. Fall 2020 Student Strike
In the fall 2020 semester, Haverford students including the Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing Further Inaction, the Black Student League, and others organized a strike to demand antiracist change at the college. On Nov. 3rd, the Classics Department published a statement in support of the strike. Classes in the department were initially suspended to enable students to participate in the strike; on Nov. 10th and 11th we offered a pair of workshops focused on racism and antiracism in our field. We continue to hold workshops and conversations inspired by the achievements of students working for equity at Haverford during and after the strike.