Demands to Address Anti-Blackness in the Department of Classics

Students and alumni of the Princeton Department of Classics

The letter addresses what it refers to as the “antiquated and insular” policies upon which the department rests. Demands seek to dismantle exclusionary and discriminatory practices, particularly pointing out how these have stifled undergraduate enrollment in the concentration. Issues particular to the Classics department include an almost exclusive focus on Ancient Greek or Latin without due attention to other ancient languages (such as Akkadian, Coptic, or Old Arabic) and a lack of engagement with classical reception, or the contexts in which classical texts are received.

The letter makes the following demands:

  1. Structural: Demands that the “Classics” track in the concentration be changed to “Classical Languages.” Along these same lines, the language requirement must be broadened to include languages other than Ancient Greek or Latin, given pre-college instruction in these are unequally distributed over lines of race, gender, and class. The letter also demands that the department acknowledge the importance of reception, rather than assuming that classical philology will be the ultimate goal of each undergraduate student’s course of study.
  2. Curricula: Demands that the department increase course offerings that examine the intersection of classics with critical race studies and gender and sexuality studies. Course curricula must include applications of ancient material outside of academia and their repercussions in current day—for example, the adoption of classical material by the founding fathers, white supremacists, and anti-racist protestors alike.
  3. Hiring: Demands increased efforts to recruit and retain scholars from broader geographic, racial, and ethnic demographics, and that undergraduate students be given the opportunity to provide feedback on potential hirees.
  4. Communication: Demands the allocation of resources toward community events that would bring together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff of the department. Additionally, a mentorship program pairing undergraduate and graduate students could be formed.

Princeton University is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Lenapehoking and the Lenape people. We pay respect to Lenape peoples past, present, and future and their continuing presence in the homeland and throughout the Lenape diaspora.