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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We, the faculty, students and staff of the Department of Classical Studies, endorse the commitment of the University of Michigan and the College of Literature, Arts and Sciences to diversity, equity and inclusion. We share the view that “it is central to our mission as an educational institution to ensure that each member of our community has full opportunity to thrive in our environment, for we believe that diversity is key to individual flourishing, educational excellence and the advancement of knowledge.”

We firmly believe that the study of Greek and Roman culture, including languages, literature, history and material culture, should be accessible and open to people of all backgrounds, both within academia and in the public sphere. We endorse an approach to Greece and Rome that acknowledges their interconnectedness with a variety of cultures from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa and beyond, and consider the explorations of those connections across time and space as central to our mission.

We emphasize that we, as scholars of Classical Studies and Modern Greek, engage in the critical interrogation of the ways that the classical past has been mobilized by the present in both positive and negative ways. We pledge to accelerate our efforts to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive community both within our profession and beyond.

Areas of Action

In Fall 2020, the department charged the DEI Committee with the following:

  1. Educate the community and ourselves regarding the meaning and importance of DEI within our department and the profession.
  2. Formulate and present to the department principles, guidelines and action items designed to advance DEI within our department and profession.

With a view to these charges, over the course of the Fall and Winter semesters 2020-21, the department has held a series of Community Discussions designed to educate ourselves on DEI as it relates to our department and academic field. After the initial series of Community discussions in the Fall, moreover, on December 9th, 2020 the community brainstormed concrete actions that our department can take to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Below are four broad areas of actions identified by the community, with some additional notes on actions we have already undertaken.

A. Curricular reforms: incorporate postcolonial and antiracist perspectives in our undergraduate and graduate courses; [To this end, we have created a learning community of interested faculty and graduate students that is developing materials for courses (modules) and a syllabus for a course on Race and Classics that examines critically the history of the discipline, its current configurations and its future; we also initiated a series of lightning talks designed to highlight the ways that faculty and graduate students are currently incorporating postcolonial and antiracist perspectives in their research, teaching and community service.]

B. Graduate Admissions and Program Requirements: re-evaluate admissions criteria to ensure that they do not disadvantage diverse applicants; re-evaluate program requirements to ensure that they strike a balance between traditional core competencies (e.g., in ancient languages, research and writing skills) and new directions (e.g., reception studies, recent developments in literary or social theory); as we expand our field to include students with diverse backgrounds, adjust our program requirements to make them more flexible in terms of the timing of achieving key competencies and more broadly conceived to include an expanded repertoire of interests and approaches; ensure that students have adequate support to attain core competencies through mentoring, peer tutoring and courses that meet students at the level that they are at and build from there. [While there is some room for collaboration between our three PhD programs on the last point, each program will need to commit to continually assessing and adjusting admissions criteria and program requirements to increase and sustain inclusivity]

C. Hiring: actively include DEI concerns in evaluation criteria for faculty and staff positions; for example, assess what candidates can contribute to making our field more diverse, equitable and inclusive; participate in the College’s antiracism hiring initiative, in collaboration with other departments.

D. Broadening our Community: initiate exchanges, collaborations and other forms of engagement with predominantly black or underrepresented minority serving institutions locally as well as nationally; amplify the voices of BIPOC scholars by inviting them for talks, lectures and other events; feature the work of BIPOC scholars in our courses, scholarship and other activities. Support organizations designed to diversify our field such as the Mountaintop Organization.

Programs to Build a Diverse Discipline

  • We implemented the first fully-funded Classical Studies Bridge MA Program. This one-year (three-semester program) provides promising students from non-traditional socio-economic backgrounds, ethnically diverse cultures, or first-generation college students in Classical Studies an extra year to develop research and language skills in Greek and Latin before starting a PhD. Admitted students transition to the PhD program with full funding, if they complete the program successfully.
  • We collaborated with the Onassis Foundation to establish the Onassis Distinguished Diversity Scholarships providing additional funding for our Bridge MA students. These funds are available for curricular enrichment, particularly through study abroad, including language programs and archaeology projects, as well as internship opportunities.

Current Initiatives

Here is a description of some of our current initiatives. Many of these activities have been organized by our standing DEI Committee that consists of faculty and graduate students.

  • We held a series of Community Discussions over Fall and Winter terms 2020-21 in which faculty and graduate students discussed key readings on racism and antiracism including Ibram X. Kendi How to be an Antiracist (2019) and Robin DiAngelo White Fragility. Why It is so Hard for White People to talk about Racism. (2018). Towards the end of the series, we developed a series of Action Items that will serve as a framework for our work moving forward.
  • We established a Classical Studies DEI GSRA-ship, a position held by Machal Gradoz in Winter 2021. Machal provided superb leadership and organizational skills for our DEI efforts, particularly the two items below.  
  • We established a Learning Community on Antiracist Pedagogy that met virtually over the Winter Term 2021. Starting with a workshop on antiracist pedagogy led by Whitney Peoples of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, we followed through with further readings and discussions of how to be actively antiracist in our teaching. One goal of the Learning Community was to develop a new course, Classics and Race, which will examine the ways that the discipline of Classics has played a role in perpetuating, and sometimes challenging, hierarchies of race, class and gender. We hope that this course will become a regular part of our graduate curriculum
  • We held a series of Lightning Talks featuring the antiracist research and pedagogy by faculty and graduate students at the University of Michigan. Presentations covered such topics as historical and inclusive approaches to archaeological labor (Caitlin Clerkin); queer theory and postcolonial theory as applied to Republican Latin poetry (Basil Dufallo); the challenges of decolonizing the Kelsey Museum (Nic Terrenato) and rethinking Great Books courses along antiracist lines (Alex Tarbet and Sara Ahbel-Rappe).
  • We began using our Rackham Diversity Grant to fund peer tutoring to provide additional support for students’ development of language skills (both ancient and modern languages).
  • DEI Community Discussions: A series of community discussions between faculty and graduate students on issues related to DEI. Our first discussion took place on October 7, 2020 and was attended by 37 faculty and graduate students. 
  • Service Days: A series of service activities supporting DEI in the wider community. Our first service event was a Walkathon in September 2020 which raised more than $3800 for a local food pantry and other charities.
  • We are part of the Mellon-Rackham Michigan Emerging Research Scholars Program that brings non-traditional undergraduate students to campus for two weeks during the summer to pursue their research interests under the guidance of our faculty, and to learn about the opportunities for further study at Michigan.
  • Our faculty participate in transformative teaching outside the university. They are instructors in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. They visit under-resourced high schools and promote higher education by sharing their academic and career journeys on the Wolverine Express. They have taught in the Warrior Scholars Program, a two-week intensive summer program that seeks to provide veterans with the skills to succeed in college. On our annual Copley Latin Day, we welcome high school students from Ann Arbor and Detroit, who explore all that the department has to offer.
  • We have organized an exciting series of MLK Day Events open to the general public that engaged with issues of DEI. Most recently, a local theater group, the Brown and Black Theater of Detroit, performed excerpts from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, highlighting the theme of identity. A lively community discussion followed.
  • The graduate students have organized Classical Intersectionality Reading Group, funded by the graduate school, on the topic of intersectionality and particularly the challenges of teaching in a way that is sensitive and inclusive to the many intersecting identities of the student population. Funding for the reading group has recently been renewed for a second year.
  • We have held a number of Teaching Workshops in collaboration with the Center for Learning and Teaching on themes relevant to DEI, including inclusive teaching, managing difficult moments in the classroom and the ways that Classical Studies courses can be revised to engage a diverse undergraduate population.
  • We received a Rackham Diversity Ally Grant in 2019 to expand on our DEI efforts targeting the graduate program. This grant will fund a series of community lunches for the entire department organized around diversity-related themes. It will also fund peer-to-peer and faculty-student mentoring and tutoring in the languages, among other initiatives.
  • We have gathered data on how our faculty and graduate students are accommodating students with disabilities in our courses order to better serve this population.

DEI Committee Members, 2020-21

Sara Forsdyke (Chair)

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Jonathan Ready

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Andrew Cabaniss, Graduate Student (IPCAA)

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Catherine Schenk, Graduate Student (IPGRH)

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Katie Mikos, Graduate Student (Lang. & Lit.)

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Aileen Das

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Despina Margomenou

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Lauren Oberlin, Graduate Student (IPCAA)

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Fernando Leme, Graduate Student (Lang. & Lit.)

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