The Classics Department at USC is deeply committed to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion both within the discipline of classics and in our society. Profound structural inequities that continue to the present show the need for institutional and social reform at many levels. We recognize the discipline’s historical complicity in the creation and perpetuation of many of these injustices, through (for instance) its promulgation of triumphalist, white supremacist narratives of the West, and reject these selective misappropriations in all forms. We also recognize the value that the study of classical antiquity has had in historical struggles against oppression and pledge continued commitment in this effort to ensure social responsibility in the pursuit of knowledge.
For decades, the department has been at the forefront of efforts to promote equity and social justice in scholarship and curricular initiatives that aim to open the discipline of classics to larger audiences. The study of ancient systems of dominance, submission, and oppression, we believe, has the potential to clarify and ultimately to dismantle social and political structures that perpetuate injustice in our own time. To this end, the department has regularly offered both undergraduate and graduate courses that explore the lives of often overlooked populations of the ancient world such as slaves and women. The large undergraduate lecture course, Diversity in the Classical Western Tradition, which is offered each fall, was first created in 1994 by the late Tom Habinek as a direct response to national outrage following the verdicts in the Rodney King trial in Los Angeles. Classics and Social Justice provides a wide-ranging introduction to the disciplines of classics and classical reception studies from a social justice perspective for first-year students. Other courses taught in the department, such as Ethics and Politics in Ancient Rome, Athens in the Age of Democracy and Empire, and Democracies Ancient and Modern, consider the ways in which the cultures of antiquity perceived and responded to questions of justice in a plural society.
Ancient ideas about race, ethnicity, and politics remain central to the scholarly research agendas of several members of the department faculty: Greg Thalmann and Claudia Moatti on ancient slavery; Susan Lape on race and citizen identity in classical Athens; Daniel Richter on ancient cosmopolitan thought and the history of appropriations of antiquity in modern discourses on race; and Brandon Bourgeois’ Hype4Homer project and work in the rapidly growing field of Classica Africana. Students and members of the faculty have been involved in outreach initiatives to expand access to study of the ancient world, such as the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which offered courses in Latin to area high school students, and the Warrior Bards project, which works each year with a cohort of U.S. military veterans to explore works of Athenian drama in relation to their own experiences.
In addition to these past efforts in research and curriculum development, we recognize that much work remains to be done. Current plans in the department for continuing in this effort to ensure a more just and inclusive future for classics include:
I. Formalizing training in DEI pedagogy as part of the regular teaching practicum completed by graduate students in the department; and introducing opportunities for all students and faculty to renew DEI teaching commitments and methodology at regular intervals through department-hosted workshops, invited speakers, and similar pedagogy-based events.
II. Increasing opportunities for access and structures of support for students learning the classical languages, for instance,
• by creating in-house peer tutoring resources to help connect students to aid and to foster community
• by facilitating access to mentoring support services for students, especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups
• by introducing summer course offerings in Greek and Latin
• by introducing a needs-based diversity scholarship
III. Formalizing DEI pedagogy as a regular component of the introductory and intermediate language sequences in Greek and Latin
IV. Organizing events and programming to foster discussion outside of the classroom concerning the place of classics in relation to wider public humanities and social justice initiatives, including
• campus-centered ‘town hall’ events aimed at eliciting student voices on how study of the ancient world fits within our experiences personally and collectively, and how this can be improved
• public lectures showcasing the work of prominent scholars operating in areas linking classical studies to public humanities and social justice initiatives
• performances and cultural events exploring aspects of the modern global inheritance of classical antiquity for audiences on campus and beyond
V. Working to obtain financial assistance for USC students in circumstances of special need on the model of the Sportula Micro-grants for Classicists program