Classically Inclined

November 18, 2014

Good news from the Swedish Institutes

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 8:31 am

It’s always nice to be able to share good news when protests against unjustified cuts to the humanities are successful, so it was with no small delight that I saw this e-mail on the Classicists e-mail list yesterday:

To all of you who signed the petition against the closing down of the Swedish Institutes at Athens, Rome and Istanbul we want to express our sincerest gratitude. Today, to our great relief, the Swedish government officially announced that they will NOT cut our funding. The massive protests from the international scholarly community certainly contributed greatly to this result and on behalf of the Swedish Institutes at Athens, Rome and Istanbul we thank you all deeply.

Congratulations to all our Swedish colleagues who have been working so hard to explain the work of the Institutes to hitherto unaware politicians, and credit where credit is due to the politicians for listening, however belatedly. Fingers crossed this is the last we hear of this sort of thing for a while.

(The text of the formal announcement is here, in the original Swedish.)



October 27, 2014

Departments under threat: the Swedish Institutes at Athens, Rome and Istanbul

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 7:25 am
Tags: ,

Technically these are not departments under threat, but the impact on the classical scene will be significant nonetheless. On Friday, the following e-mail was circulated to the Classicists list by Dr. Jenni Hjohlman, the editor of Opuscula, the Annual of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome:

Yesterday the Swedish Government announced that they will end all state funding for the Swedish Institutes at Athens, Rome and Istanbul from 2017. Our research Institutes have no private funding and will therefore have to close down and terminate their work within two years.

The decision has been made without any prior consultation or investigation of the consequences: the Institutes will not be able to fulfil their responsibilities of taking care of archaeological material or sites in the Mediterranean and providing education with the fields of Classical Archaeology, Classics, Art History, Architecture and Social sciences, nor to conduct and publish research, give conferences, host cultural activities, take part in heritage management or run our research libraries in the Mediterranean countries.

The decision would be a huge tragedy for Classical research and education in Sweden and we ask you to consider signing the petition against it:

Please enter through “Skriv på listan” (Sign the list). Add your “förnamn” (name), “efternamn” (surname), emailadress (for verification only), “postort” (city), and “ämne/titel” (title/subject). Press “spara” (save) and sign through the verification email.

The Swedish Institutes work in much the same way as, for instance, the British Schools at Athens and Rome do – they are research-focused institutions which provide fantastic resources for scholars working in each city to use while on site, as well as creating a community of scholarship within the national context and reaching out to the other international institutions in each city, facilitating a broad intellectual and cultural exchange of ideas. Basically, if these institutes close, then we lose a vital and significant group of talented scholars working in a wide number of classical fields.

I have two particular colleagues in mind as I post this petition. The first is Ida Östenberg, a wonderful Swedish academic who thinks very interesting things about the Roman empire – she’ll be debating the relevant minister on the radio today (good luck!) and has a long history of working with the Institute for her own research. The second is Mary Harlow, who has again worked with Swedish research teams on ancient fabric and clothing, with some fascinating results. Both of these scholars have generated work that’s directly fed into my own research – and I’m somebody who works mainly with text. I can only imagine the impact on colleagues working in archaeological fields (where the Swedish team have, for instance, done sterling work on the Prima Porta site).

Do sign this petition, and let the Swedish government know there is an international strength of feeling in support of the wonderful research and collaboration that the Institutes support.

April 30, 2014

Good news from Classics at Leeds

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 9:13 am

The threat to the department of Classics at Leeds mainly took place during 2010 and 2011, before this blog really got off the ground. Since then, the department have been working behind the scenes to agree a solution which would provide long-term stability for them. It was thus with great pleasure that I saw the latest announcement about that conversation, from which I provide the incipit here:

As followers of this blog will know, the Department of Classics at Leeds has been under university review since August 2010, and its future has been subject to varying degrees of uncertainty ever since.

Today, however, the University has formally approved a plan for Classics to exit the review process. From 1st August 2014 the Department is to be integrated into our School of Modern Languages and Cultures: the School is to be renamed ‘of Languages, Cultures and Societies’, the better to reflect the wide range of its research specialisms; within the School, Classics will be administratively partnered with Italian.

This means that the threat to job security has been lifted, and we are now in a position to plan positively for the future. Indeed, we will shortly be advertising at least one new permanent post. We look forward to benefiting from the economies of scale in administrative and support structures which integration into the larger unit will bring, and to exploring the exciting potential for collaborative research and teaching with our new modern-linguist colleagues.

You can read the full post, with more details, here.

November 4, 2013

Departments Under Threat: The University of Crete

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 7:57 am

Another petition via the Classicists List from Lucia Athanassaki, Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Crete:

I am writing to ask you to sign the petition for the Support of the University of Crete:

We have started this petition because, as you will read in the Petition Background, the Ministry of Education has decided to suspend 49 of our already small administrative staff. This is yet another of the austerity measures that have already affected us (budget cuts, freeze on appointments, etc.). We hope that a strong international appeal on behalf of the University might influence the Ministry to reconsider its decision. I will be glad to answer any  questions you have on this matter. Thanking you in advance.

October 14, 2013

University College Cork – an update

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 10:14 am

A pleasing e-mail came over the classics list over the weekend :

I have just received news that proposals to close the Department of Classics in Cork and transfer its staff to the Department of History have been withdrawn. Classics maintains an independent identity at University College Cork – for now, at least. Sincere thanks for all of you who signed the petition, and for all of you who wrote to the President of UCC to make your feelings on this matter known.
That sounds like the end of the matter for now – let’s hope it stays that way.

October 10, 2013

Departments under threat: The Free University of Brussels

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 8:54 am

‘Tis the season, apparently, for university administrations to be making ill-advised decisions about the future of the discipline. The latest e-mail on this subject comes via Koen Verboven of Ghent University, and concerns the Free University of Brussels:

In 2012, the Faculty of Arts decided to gradually cut down Latin as a major subject. However, the detailed budget plan now anticipates the abandonment of all Latin courses, as well as the introductory courses of Ancient Greek and most subjects relating to classical culture. By this radical cutting off of the classical roots, the faculty loses an essential component to the understanding of western philosophy, art, history, language and literature.

By this petition, we ask the preservation in the long term of one Latin professorship at the Free University of Brussels. We are convinced that such position can serve the purpose of not only the faculty of arts, but also the entire university community. 

To sign the petition click:

September 27, 2013

Departments under threat: University College Cork

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 4:17 pm

You may have picked up that another Classics department is under threat, this time the department at University College Cork. The suggestion seems to be that the Department should move into the School of History, but the current plans seem to suggest this would lead to a considerable loss of autonomy, and thus language provision would be put seriously at risk. What’s more, as Jeroen Wijnendaele informs us on the Classics list, UCC is the only classics department in the south of Ireland, meaning that any loss of provision would have serious access consequences.

The Classical Association of Ireland have posted a suggestion for a template letter on their Facebook account, along with details of how to get in touch with UCC’s president, Dr. Michael Murphey. I ask that you consider doing so.

Update, 1st October: there is now also a petition to sign.

In other sad news, Twitter reports that Robinson College, Cambridge, are planning to stop offering places to students who wish to study classics. Given that I believe all the other colleges still offer classics places, this isn’t quite the same as a threat, but it’s still an upsetting move from one of the newer colleges. It sounds as if there’s still room for negotiation and manoeuvre, and nobody is yet coordinating anything so far as I can tell, but watch this space.

Update, 30th September: I can offer more cheering news about Robinson College, having e-mailed over the weekend. It is true that classics is not being offered this year, but apparently this is due to an early retirement that was finalised late enough for the College not to be sure it would have adequate provision for in-coming first years. I am informed that this is a temporary situation and that the College is in discussion with the Faculty about how to best resolve the situation. So cautiously good news, but worth keeping an eye on over the coming year.

May 8, 2012

Departments under threat: Graduate Classics at Pittsburgh

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 1:43 pm

This one has been all over the Classicists e-mail list over the weekend, but in case you haven’t seen it, there is a petition which can be signed – I repeat the text here:

On April 5th, admission to the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate program in Classics was “suspended.” 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. It was when speaking of the Greek and Latin classics that Thomas Jefferson said, “I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich source of delight.” Like the founders of this university, Jefferson would be unable to understand the administration’s decision.

This “suspension” will have significant effects beyond the Classics Department itself. Until this decision, The University of Pittsburgh had a highly-regarded interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Classics, Philosophy, and Ancient Science (CPAS) that allowed students to participate in classes and research across the three relevant graduate departments: Classics, Philosophy and History & Philosophy of Science (for the program’s web page, see At present there exists a community of graduate students with similar interests across the three departments. The Classics Department has contributed a significant proportion of the students in this program; without these students, the CPAS community, and thus the experience of the relevant students in the other two departments, would be significantly impoverished. In addition, students from various graduate programs throughout Arts and Sciences regularly find their way into classics courses as they discover that Latin or Greek are essential to their own course of study. Such considerations do not seem to have been adequately weighed by the administration when deciding to suspend the graduate program in Classics.

No less disturbing than the ramifications of this decision is the way the decision was handled by the administration:

1. The decision to suspend Classics, as well as two other graduate programs, was made without any conversation with the departments involved, and no opportunity for discussion or compromise has been provided.

2. The administration cites financial difficulties due to “deep and disproportionate budget cuts we have received in commonwealth appropriations.” While it is true that such cuts have indeed occurred, the reduction amounts to only 2.1% of Pitt’s operating budget.

3. The administration has based its decision on certain statistics in which the Classics Department is said to have done poorly. However, such statistics obscure the fact that over a period of years the University has gradually withdrawn significant resources from the Graduate Program. This includes the loss of two TA/TF slots, exclusion from teaching in CGS (formerly an important source of graduate student support), exclusion from fellowship opportunities open to other graduate programs, and the continuing vacancy, since January 2008, of a position in Ancient Philosophy in Classics that is of fundamental importance to the disciplinary integrity of the CPAS Program. The statistics that supposedly justify the decision to “suspend” the Graduate Program are thus the result of a consistent policy of reallocation of resources, and the “suspension” is itself a continuation of that same policy. Such realities sit uneasily with the administration’s claim that this move is motivated by financial necessity.

In short, with this “suspension,” the university is abandoning its own history, undermining its prestigious program in Classics, Philosophy and Ancient Science, and ignoring that tradition of consultation which alone forms the basis of sound decision-making. We the undersigned therefore urge the administration to reconsider its decision.

April 17, 2012

L’Annee Philologique under threat?

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 11:24 am
Tags: , ,

Alright, this isn’t technically a department under threat as per the tag, but it’s close enough. For those of you who don’t know L’Annee Philologique, it’s the major publication and electronic database for classics bibliography. It gathers together all the new publications in the field, and their on-line database is a major piece of research kit – frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do my work without it. However, news is now circulating of a threat to the German office. The regional offices are key to the work that L’Annee does – the APA has recently put considerable effort into making sure that funding exists for the North American office, for example. The text below is from the petition website and explains the problem in more detail; if you feel so moved, you can sign the petition here.

The Année Philologique, a critical and analytical bibliography of Greco-Latin Antiquity, has existed since the 1920s : over the years, its generalist orientation has made it a working tool that is useful for all, whatever one’s specialty may be. Since its creation and its dissemination on paper, it has been a bibliographical tool that is universally recognized, utilized, and appreciated by students of Antiquity throughout the world. Since 2002, its dissemination online has facilitated the access of an ever-broader public to the bibliographical data it offers.

However, this irreplaceable tool is threatened, in the very near future, with disappearing in its current form, and perhaps with simply ceasing publication.

The cause of this threat is simple : the German office of the Année Philologique, the Zweigstelle Heidelberg, must close its doors at the end of the fiscal year 2012, unless a durable source of funding is found. The Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, which has funded it until now, has let it be known that it will cut off all subsidies at that date. In so doing, it is applying the government’s decision to no longer fund continuing projects and positions, but to henceforth grant funds only to short-term scientific operations, answering to invitations to tender. If it were to take effect at the planned date, this programmed closure would have disastrous consequences for the entire project : with it, the totality of German-language research, whose importance for the classical humanities is known to all, would cease to be covered by our publication. Quantitatively, this would mean a decrease of approximately 30% of the bibliographical items made available to the public.

Unless a solution is found, the consequences will boil down to a sinister alternative : the transformation of a project of high scientific value into a bargain-basement search engine, or the outright disappearance of the publication.

We the undersigned express our indignation in the face of this blow against classical bibliography and, more generally, against the whole of humanist studies. We solemnly request the appropriate German academic and political authorities to find the means necessary for the preservation of this working instrument of undisputed scientific value.

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