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. 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]
1. Anti-Racism in the Classics Curriculum
During the 2020-2021 academic year (and beyond), Haverford Classics is committed to renewing and expanding anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable teaching practices. We acknowledge that the actions outlined below are only preliminary steps, and look forward to developing more extensive plans for the future of our department in conversation with students, alums, allied faculty, librarians, and other experts.
Courses on Classics and Social Justice
- This fall, the annual BiCo Classics Senior Seminar will focus its secondary reading on anti-racist and other socially just modes of scholarship. Students will engage with anti-racist work in the field, study ongoing efforts to support and advocate for diverse Classics students and scholars, and help develop resources for centering the work of BIPOC classicists. [status: planned fall 2020]
- In the past, courses whose primary focus was race, gender, or other aspects of identity were offered periodically as opportunities arose; this year, we commit to regularizing these course offerings as stable, recurring elements of our teaching. In Spring 2021, we will offer the first version of a new course that we plan to make a permanent element of our Classics curriculum, “The Future of the Past.” [status: planned spring 2021]
- As this course recurs in our regular two-year cycle of offerings, our faculty will each engage with different questions and topics related to a socially just vision for Classics.
- 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.
- Prof. Farmer will offer the first iteration of this course as a 200-level CSTS class in spring 2021.
2020-21 Event Series
As we renew and reimagine our commitment to anti-racism, we plan to hold a series of events during the coming academic year to showcase and encourage anti-racist work and art in our field. More information on how to participate in these events will be circulated as the fall semester approaches.
- The faculty in the department will participate in a Special Session of READS: Steps Towards an Anti-Racist Restructuring of Classics, a program organized by EOS: Africana Receptions of Ancient Greece and Rome. Taking up EOS’ and Lauren Michael Jackson’s call to “get down to the business of reading,” Prof. Shirazi will organize and lead discussions of the two texts: Frantz Fanon’s “Concerning Violence” (from The Wretched of the Earth, 1961) and Margo Hendricks’ “Coloring the Past, Rewriting Our Future: RaceB4Race” (2019), within the Haverford community, before participating in the special sessions of READS on October 16th. Other courses in the department (including Prof. Farmer’s Senior Seminar and Prof. Silverblank’s “Beasts, Hybrids, and Giants: Confronting Monsters from the Past”) will feature these texts in the syllabus and seminar discussions, and the entire Bi-Co community will be invited to participate in these conversations. [status: fall 2020]
- Our annual Classics Marathon, to be held in October, will feature a work of classical reception by a Black artist. Texts currently under consideration include Derek Walcott’s Omeros and Wole Soyinka’s Bacchae: A Communion Rite. Our Marathon series offers in alternating years an all-day drop-in reading of a long ancient text such as Homer’s Odyssey or Apuleius’ Metamorphoses and a staged reading of a play or other shorter text. We decided last spring that as of fall 2020 we would start including examples of classical reception among these readings; this allows for greater breadth of cultural context and a greater variety of authorial voices. [status: fall 2020]
- Our Senior Majors’ Visiting Speaker this year will be Curtis Dozier (Vassar), director of the Pharos Project, which documents and combats white supremacist appropriations of the ancient past. Prof. Dozier was chosen by the participants of this year’s Senior Seminar, which will host his visit, as well as engaging in anti-racist readings leading up to it. Prof. Dozier’s talk and reception, which will be open to the community, will be held on Nov. 19th, 2020. [status: fall 2020]
- Prof. Shirazi will be co-organizing a workshop with Alessandro Giammei (Italian Studies, Bryn Mawr) on Zombie Philologies. The series, supported by a Mellon Tri-Co Seed Grant, will invite members of the Tri-co community: [status: beginning fall 2021 and continuing]
- 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.
- When Haverford faculty suggest speakers for the Classics Colloquium, we will take special care to seek out and recommend BIPOC scholars. [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. 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 have begun work on a new bibliography focused on anti-racism in Classics. In consultation with our research librarians, we are working to develop this bibliography as a tool that will help students study: anti-racist work in Classics; classical reception by BIPOC artists; and scholarship by academics of color, particularly Black academics. Students in this fall’s senior seminar will assist with the formation of this bibliography; we will use our work to actively support and build on existing anti-racist research in classics, such as the “Black-Centered Resources for Ancient Mediterranean Studies” bibliography. [status: ongoing, begun summer/fall 2020]
- As a department, we commit to developing more equitable course syllabi.
- 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]
- 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, begin summer/fall 2020]
- Recognizing that student voices must be part of curricular reforms, and that students must be compensated for the work they do to help us improve our curriculum, we will continue to work with the BiCollege Teaching and Learning Institute to hire student consultants who can help us identify and remedy issues of inequity in our courses. [status: ongoing, planned 2021–22]
- 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 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; if invited, we will actively engage in future conversations about the program. [status: ongoing]
- 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, spring 2021]
- 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, 2020–21]
- 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 2021–22]
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 plan to engage in sustained conversation about the name, tracks, and requirements of our program. Equity and access will be a focus during these discussions.
- Consider the structure of and relationship between existing majors and minors [status: BiCo conversation planned for 2020–2021]
- Consider the requirements of the existing and/or revised majors and minors, with particular attention to the nature of the language requirement [status: BiCo conversation planned for 2020–2021]
- Consider, in the context of program structure and requirements, the name of the department as well as of particular major tracks, bearing in mind the issues raised by the name “Classics.” [status: BiCo conversation planned for 2020–2021; survey of dept. and major names at peer institutions, completed by student employee, winter 2020]
- Regularize the inclusion of students in these conversations, including, for example, in our new planned Community Conversation program. [status: BiCo conversation planned for 2020–2021]
3. Student Support & Departmental Climate
Support for students studying at Haverford
- Create 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), will present 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. This expanded list will be featured on our new website, classics.sites.haverford.edu, and made available both to students in our classes and to the broader community. [status: launch summer 2020]
- Make visible the new departmental “How to Get Help” page within our courses and syllabi. [status: ongoing, launch fall 2020]
- 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 volunteer to serve as advisors through the Horizons Leadership Institute, which supports “first-generation to college, low income, or from backgrounds under-represented in higher education.” Members of the department have participated in this program since its foundation in 2014. [status: ongoing]
- 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]
- 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 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:
- The faculty in the department will participate in a Special Session of READS: Steps Towards an Anti-Racist Restructuring of Classics (See “Events 2020–2021” above for details).
- We will apply to bring to campus (in person or virtually, if on-campus visiting is curtailed by the COVID emergency) the Race Forward Equity Training, in which Professor Ava Shirazi participated while at Princeton, and invite participation by all BiCo faculty studying the ancient past. [status: planned for 2020–2021]
- When Professors Farmer, Mulligan, and Shirazi will all next be in residence, we hope 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]
- 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, planned launch in 2020–2021]
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 host a series of conversations (likely over lunch) about issues that concern, interest, or excite our students. One of the first of these conversations will focus on questions about the department’s name and major tracks. [status: ongoing; planned launch in fall 2020]
To parallel our process of encouraging student feedback within and about our courses, we will regularize a Departmental Suggestion Box for gathering feedback about the department and program [status: ongoing, planned launch in summer/fall 2020]
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.
- 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]
5. 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]