Classics and Social Justice Meeting at CAAS, October 2017

Notes compiled by Maxine Lewis, University of Auckland.

Comments and themes emerging from the check-in and follow-up discussion:

1) Pedagogy, including making Classics a more racially diverse and aware field, emerged as a key priority for many people at the meeting that they want to work on either individually or collectively.

  • People suggested sharing syllabi, e.g. Ted Gellar-Goad (Wake Forest University) and Hannah Čulik-Baird (Boston University), perhaps via the www.classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com site. This is currently happening.
  • Eidolon and Diotima both also have syllabi up Diotima’s link is here: http://www.stoa.org/diotima/
  • Norman Sandridge (Howard University) has experience building collaborative syllabi. He can share/give some training. He uses a free platform (https://scalar.usc.edu/ )and has created a leadership course with different modules every week.
  • Rachel Lesser (Gettysburg College) knows of an LGBTQ website with syllabi. Contact her for information [rlesser@gettysburg.edu].

Some issues were raised around working with students in activist modes, including:

  • Student apathy (Nancy Felson, University of Georgia),
  • The difficulty of engaging students when classes are very large (Darcy Krasne, Columbia University),
  • Students who are very active on political issues but don’t see them as connected to their study of Classics (Norman Sandridge),
  • Lack of time for students preoccupied with e.g. making rent (Maxine Lewis),
  • Wider structural social/political issues governing students’ lives (Ted Gellar-Goad).

Some responses to those issues:

  • Where possible dispel the model of the teacher as authority figure,
  • Highlight connections between material in the classroom and contemporary social/power structures; the material is relevant to social justice (Melinda Powers).
  • There was robust discussion around the idea of “mentoring up”, where students from marginalised backgrounds work with academics from more privileged backgrounds so that the academics get a better idea of how to serve that student body. There was disagreement about the feasibility for students, who have enough to do; Norm Sandridge and Rachel Lesser report positive experiences at their colleges, Norm with Black students and Rachel where groups of trans students are doing education for non-trans staff.

2) Some people raised the issue that they do some social justice work but it is not connected to their work as Classicists. There was some discussion around this, including about what purpose the Classics and Social Justice Network is going to serve on this front (e.g. is it for people to network and share activist work they’re doing outside Classics, or inside, or both, or to plan joint collective actions, etc). This is a continuing topic (at SCS and elsewhere).

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