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Diversity Statement

Classical Studies Departmental Diversity Plan

May 2017 (most recently updated: August 2022)
I. Mission statement

Encompassing a territory that stretched at times from modern Ethiopia to Germany and from India to Britain, the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean included and interacted with peoples of many different races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and economic classes.  The influence of these multicultural societies spread even further during the medieval and modern periods, and today, Classical Studies belongs to all of humanity.  Our Department is committed to the study and teaching of ancient cultures in all their diversity and from an interdisciplinary perspective that includes the study of languages, literatures, societies, and material cultures. We pledge to make our department and our classrooms places where students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds and cultures can feel welcome and engaged.

II. The History of Diversity in Classical Studies

Like many academic disciplines in Europe and North America, Classical Studies was, until recently, largely the preserve of white males.   While the discipline has long outgrown the ideological bases for that imbalance, the demographics of the professoriate continues to lag behind.  As recently as 2014 (the latest figures available) only 7% of new PhDs in Classical Studies were non-white.* Our department (under its original name as the Department of Ancient Languages) has existed since the College was founded in 1693, yet it was not until 1974 that we tenured our first female faculty member. When that colleague retired more than thirty years later (2008), she was still one of only two women among the tenured faculty. At that point however, the department was already beginning to make great strides in redressing our gender imbalance through the hiring of junior faculty.  We pledge to strive for similar progress with other underrepresented groups in the future, although our efforts will be constrained by the aforementioned dearth of minority candidates coming out of graduate schools.  As we are not a PhD-granting program, we do not have the capacity to address that root problem directly, although our undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs have succeeded in attracting a number of minority students who have moved on to higher degree programs under our tutelage.

III. Genesis and Maintenance of Our Diversity Plan

The plan described in this document originated as the result of conversations involving all the departmental faculty over the course of the 2016/17 academic year.  Members of the faculty volunteered to contribute drafts of parts of the document.  These drafts were compiled by the chair into a master document that was presented to the faculty for comments and suggested amendments.  A final draft was approved unanimously by a vote of the department in May 2017.  In May 2018, updates were added by the chair and the departmental diversity advocate and presented to the faculty of the department for approval.  The plan is reviewed and updated at the end of each academic year, or more frequently as needed. 

IV. Climate

The department is committed to creating and maintaining an atmosphere in which students, staff, and faculty feel equally at home regardless of their identities, origins, and viewpoints.  Here is what we have done and will do to support that effort:

  1. We appointed a departmental diversity advocate, Prof. Jessica Paga, who will monitor the department’s progress on issues of diversity, seek out new opportunities to enhance and welcome diversity, and act as a resource person for faculty, staff, and students who seek information or assistance on matters of diversity. In her first year in this position (AY2018-2019), Prof. Paga took steps to make information on diversity efforts accessible to all members of the departmental community, including the establishment of a space for diversity information on the departmental bulletin board. She also sat on or consulted with four departmental search committees with a view to ensuring that every opportunity for diversifying the faculty and our curriculum via the hiring process was given full consideration.
  2. In consultation with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and other pertinent entities, our diversity advocate will develop over the course of AY2018-2019 a survey for assessing the department’s diversity climate. We will perform the assessment by the end of Spring ’19 and periodically thereafter. The results will be used to refine and modify the department’s diversity plan.
  3. Through the means outlined below we will strive for a student body, staff, and faculty that reflects the diversity of the William & Mary community as a whole.
V. Hiring and Retention

As mentioned above, the department has made great progress in overcoming a previous gender imbalance in the faculty.  The ratio of women to men among our tenured and tenure-eligible faculty, which twenty years ago was 20% to 80% (1 woman and four men), currently stands at 60% to 40% (5 women and 3 men), roughly the reverse of recent figures for Arts & Sciences (39% to 61% in 2015) and for the field of Classical Studies nationwide (39% to 61% in 2014*).  Women also make up three of the five full professors in the department. The aforementioned dearth of minority candidates coming out of graduate schools puts limits on our efforts to make similar progress with other underrepresented groups, but we are doing what we can within the bounds of those limitations, including:

  1. Ensuring that members of our search committees avail themselves of resources of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the office of Diversity and Inclusion on the conduct of non-discriminatory searches. At the start of the 2017-18 job search season, the departmental personnel committee met with a representative from Diversity and Inclusion to learn about best practices in conducting searches. The departmental diversity officer either sat on or monitored the activities of all four search committees that operated this year (one tenure track, two full-time NTE and one adjunct).
  2. Attending conferences and communicating with our colleagues in graduate programs to identify promising minority candidates and encourage them to apply. Our faculty’s efforts in this area succeeded in identifying a number of candidates whose minority status might not have been known to us solely through their CVs.
  3. Seeking opportunities to bring minority PhD candidates and recent PhDs to campus as visiting lecturers. While we did not accomplish this goal in 2017-18 we did bring in a number of lecturers from underrepresented demographic groups (see "Lectures" tab).
  4. Advertising our positions in venues that target minority candidates, such as, where we advertised all our full-time openings in 2017-18.
  5. Ensuring that any minority candidates we hire in the future are fully apprised of the mentoring resources available to them within the department, in the College as a whole, and through our national professional organizations.
VI. Students and Curriculum

Classical Studies is by nature a multicultural and interdisciplinary field, and our current curriculum includes many courses focusing on issues of diversity in the ancient world, including Women in Antiquity, Pagans and Christians, Roman Britain, and Roman and Greek Religion (see "Courses" tab).  We also offer Hebrew and courses that include study of the ancient Near East and Africa.  Cross-listing and collaborative efforts with colleagues in Anthropology, Art History, English, Government, History, Judaic Studies, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Theater allow us to expand our curricular reach even further.  Consequently, our subject matter speaks directly to students of various backgrounds and interests, and all faculty in the department strive to maintain an inclusive atmosphere as we tackle the tough questions of diversity in the ancient world and their reflections in the modern world.  To judge by number of undergraduate majors, our current ability to attract minority students outstrips that of our field nationwide (24% in 2010 and 14% in 2014 at W&M, vs. 8% in 2004 and 9% in 2014 nationwide*), but the fact that our minority student numbers lag behind those of A&S as a whole (25% in 2010 and 32% in 2014) shows we still have work to do.  As mentioned above, our new post-baccalaureate program is turning out so far to be attractive to minority students.  Our figures for minority enrollment in the program has been as high as 60%, and we have sent several minority students on to MA and PhD programs.  Since our post-baccalaureate students attend undergraduate classes and sometimes act as teaching assistants, they have provided visible examples to our undergraduates of successful minority advancement in the field.  To further our progress in these areas we will continue to focus our efforts on the following initiatives, some of which have already borne fruit:

  1. Continue to develop and offer courses that focus on issues of diversity in the ancient world. In 2018-19 we introduced a new course on the comparative study of slavery in ancient and modern times, which was a COLL 300 course on the theme of “Bodies that Matter.” We also offered for the first time in several years our course on Women in Antiquity (cross-listed with GSWS).  Both of these offerings tied-in with the College’s observances in 2018-19 of the 100th anniversary of women students at the College and the 50th anniversary of African-Americans.  We will also continue to cross-list new courses taught by faculty in other departments that will expand our students’ exposure to issues of diversity in the ancient world, including courses on ancient Egypt offered by the History Department, and one on prophecy in classical and Biblical literature offered by Religious Studies.
  2. In our hiring, give strong consideration to the ways that candidates can enhance our curriculum in such areas. The three full-time faculty we hired in 2017-18 searches will all be able to contribute curricular material and research mentorship on pertinent topics, such as women and slaves in Athenian comedy, the forging of unique cultures in ancient Sicily through the interactions of native and immigrant groups, and the fertile interaction between Greco-Roman and ancient Near Eastern science and mythology.
  3. Step up our efforts to work with colleagues in the departments and programs mentioned above, as well as with the AMES and AFST programs, to broaden the scope of our curriculum.
  4. Seek, as recommended by the external evaluators in our recent program review, a more stable solution for our offerings in Hebrew and the ancient Near East, which for the past several years has been supported precariously by an unpredictable series of adjunct and NTE appointments. The department has requested a tenure-track line for our Hebrew specialist each year for the last several years, but so far, our request has been not been granted.  By making our popular COLL 200 class on Classical Mythology one of the normal assignments for our Hebrew instructor we have insured that a large number of students are exposed to broader multicultural perspectives in that class.
  5. Take advantage of opportunities for faculty development relating to matters of diversity, such as the dean’s initiative to provide resources for faculty dealing with issues of inclusion and common ground in the classroom.
  6. Assure that all students in our classes are included in the efforts described above to assess the departmental climate, and that they are aware that our departmental diversity advocate is available to them as a resource.
  7. Emphasize the diversity-related offerings and activities of the department in major fairs, departmental open houses, and other fora where we might advertise our wares to potential students.
  8. Engage in outreach activities in regional schools with high minority populations, so that when students from these schools come to W&M they will know to seek out what Classical Studies has to offer.
VII. Outreach

The department maintains an active profile in the broader community in a number of ways: a strong lecture series that normally brings seven to eight speakers per year to campus for lectures that are open to the general public; participation in conferences and other outreach activities that bring our faculty and students in contact with potential W&M students and their teachers; use of our website and social media outlets to advertise the activities of the department; and maintaining contact with our alumni/ae through mailings, newsletters, and events such as our homecoming reception.  All of these efforts present opportunities that we will avail ourselves of to enhance diversity:

  1. For our lecture series, we will continue to seek out speakers who represent diversity in their own persons and in the topics they address (see "Lectures" tab). For instance, we worked with the committees planning for the recent anniversary celebrations of African-American students in residence, women students at the College, and Asian, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern students in residence, to coordinate our lecture offerings with those observances, and we will seek out similar opportunities in the future.
  2. As mentioned above, we will pursue outreach activities targeted to populations of potential students that are underrepresented at the College.
  3. On our webpage and social media we will emphasize the offerings and activities of the department that show our embrace of diversity.
  4. We will seek out alumni/ae from underrepresented groups and engineer ways in which they can serve as role models and mentors for current and potential students.

* (Figures for student and faculty demographics in Classical Studies nationwide are derived from those published by the Society for Classical Studies for the years 2004 and 2014: