Department and Field of Classics Statement on Diversity and Inclusion

December 22, 2020

The Cornell Department and Field of Classics announces the following actions within our own community to foster diversity and inclusion in Classics:

DIVERSIFYING OUR COMMUNITY

  • We affirm our commitment to diversity in hiring. To this end, we have welcomed Mathura Umachandran to Classics as a Mellon post-doctoral associate specializing in critical race studies and classical reception. Although currently constrained by budgetary limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to expanding representation at the faculty level as soon as we are able.
  • We affirm our commitment to access and inclusion. To build solid foundations for the diversity of our field, we have introduced 1) a Bridge MA Program that will offer a fully-funded fellowship to a student from an underrepresented group each year, and 2) a recruitment award for one incoming PhD student each year who qualifies for a Cornell diversity fellowship.

RESEARCH and COMMUNITY BUILDING

  • We have introduced a workshop on “Critical Conversations in Classics”, led by Nicole Giannella and Mathura Umachandran and open to all students and faculty, in order to encourage department-wide discussion of urgent social justice topics in scholarship, pedagogy, and academic community-building. These conversations alternate between 1) reading group format, giving us tools to work on our scholarship, community and institutions and 2) discussion group format, giving us space to think about what actions we as a community we should take. In Fall Semester 2020/21, the theme was “Antiracism, in theory and in practice”. We aim to hold four Critical Conversations per semester. Future topics include disability theory in approaches to scholarship and pedagogy, and how practical considerations and critiques of ableism can improve department climate and make the department more accessible.
  • In order to make space for scholars from groups historically underrepresented in Classics, we commit to inviting scholars from a more diverse range of backgrounds to speak at our research seminars and conferences. Those invitees whose visits have been postponed because of the pandemic are due to visit campus as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. We commit to co-sponsoring lectures with a wide range of departments and programs where relevant and possible.
  • We have formed a Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, with representation from undergraduates, graduates, staff, and faculty, to address issues relating to department climate, to draw up a community statement of values, and to propose further action items.
  • Our graduate students have formed a group, Diversitas, that provides among other things an anonymous platform for graduate students in or associated with Cornell Classics to raise issues relating to diversity and equity, to make announcements, and to request accommodations in the department via appointed representatives.

PEDAGOGY

  • We welcome students of all backgrounds and levels of expertise to the study of antiquity and have introduced an “Active Learning Initiative” focused on the development of introductory classes aimed at students across the university.
  • In line with Critical Conversations, we have introduced a series of pedagogy workshops for graduate instructors and faculty to develop inclusive teaching strategies and to address the teaching of difficult subjects like race, slavery, gender and sexuality, and sexual violence in antiquity. In the academic year 2021-2, we aim to hold four workshops, for which we will remunerate invited colleagues commensurate with their labour and in line with honoraria for research talks.
  • With a view to diversifying our curriculum, we are collectively engaged in revising and developing new ones. Recognizing that classical antiquity provides examples of many differing and contradictory social models and offers the opportunity to examine social inequality in many forms, we seek to offer courses that will foster awareness of, among other things, the uses and abuses of classicism, both historically and in contemporary culture. Courses that engage with social diversity and inequality in the ancient world and/or the complex legacy of classicism include (but are not limited to):
    • “Great Discoveries in Greek and Roman Archaeology”
    • “Statues and Public Life”
    • “Magic and Witchcraft in the Greco-Roman World”
    • “Egyptomania: Imagining Egypt in the Greco-Roman World”
    • “Cleopatra’s Egypt”
    • “Archaeology of the Roman World: Italy and the West”
    • “An Introduction to the Ancient World in 24 Objects”
    • “Archaeology of Roman Private Life”
    • “Slavery in the Ancient World”
    • “Identity in the Ancient World”
    • “Race and Ethnicity in the Ancient World”
    • “Homer and Global Modernity”
    • “Climate, Archaeology, and History”
    • “Archaeology of the Hellenistic Mediterranean”
    • “Classics and Contemporary Art”
  • Several of our faculty have revised and developed syllabi as part of Cornell’s Faculty Institute for Diversity.
  •  From Fall 2021, we will offer a 1-credit course on “Classics in the 21st Century” aimed at undergraduates who wish to learn more about the challenges of studying Classics today, including the problematic history of classicism and white supremacy, the complicity of Classics with empire and settler colonialism, and the various political uses of Greco-Roman myth. As an introduction to the discipline, we hope to offer undergraduates the chance to think through for themselves received ideas about what the classical past, and what our relationships to it, is.
  • In Fall 2021, Hayden Pellicia and Mathura Umachandran will offer a cross-listed seminar for advanced undergraduates and graduate students, investigating a critical disciplinary history of Classics.
  • We recognise that there are financial costs involved in studying Classics. We seek to address student hardship through financial support for The Sportula in addition to supporting the development of resources available for students at Cornell.

 

Fayum portraits from Roman Egypt.