Howard Students Protest Cut Off Classics Department, Hub for Black Scholarship

As an alumna at Howard University, Anika Prather felt classics everywhere during her years as a student. No matter what your major or field of study, he remembers, it was practically a given that classics would be woven into your educational experience.

“My brother was an alumnus – we both went to Howard – and I remember him sitting there reading all kinds of classics, like we all had to do some classics or canon work, but then you’re reading it From a black standpoint, “Dr. Prathar said.” It’s really incredible. “

At Howard, the classics department is as old as the university itself. Established in 1867 – the same year that Howard, one of the nation’s premier historic black colleges and universities, was established – the department became the center of black thought to enlightening generations of students about black people in the ancient times.

Dr. Rather, now an assistant professor of humanities, we pride ourselves on being a part of the department. But he will have to step down soon, as the university plans to drop the semester.

University decision, stating The washington post, What is the protection of galvanized students and faculty members Society for Classical Studies Says that the only classics department in an HBCU is

Anthony students from the department. Wutoh, has written a letter to the university provost and chief academic officer, highlighting the importance of classics and the relationship of the field of black history, Drs. Prathar said.

Alexandria Frank, a senior graduate at Howard who is passing in classical civilization, said dissolving the department and spreading its classes throughout the university was more than just an administrative reshuffle. This step, she said, would prevent in-depth study of the classics and may prevent black students from pursuing the field as scholars.

“A large pipeline of Black students is being prevented from entering the academic field for classics,” Ms. Frank said. “

One Online petition It has been signed more than 5,000 times in support of keeping the department. Students have also brought awareness to the situation by using the hashtag. “#SaveHUClassics“On their social media accounts.

“We didn’t want the department to essentially go away because it never was,” Ms Frank said. “We wanted to stop at least some kind of rally, to provoke that we care deeply about this department, and that we were not the only ones who did.”

The move has been condemned by intellectuals including Harvard professor Cornell West, who wrote a personal opinion Jeremy Tate said the university’s decision had sent “a disturbing message”.

Dr. Vutoh said enrollment numbers within the department had plummeted over the years.

Following a recommendation of a commission created in 2009 to review the university’s degree programs, Howard turned down the offer of a classics major. Today, the department caters only to minors – Classical Civilization, in Latin and Greek. Although the department itself will dissolve in the fall, the university said it is to continue offering courses and minors that were taught within the department.

“We clearly believe that the material we present in the classics is important, but we should also focus on that teaching along with practical teaching,” Dr. Wootoh stressed that the university hopes to take a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching classics.

In 2017, the university launched another review that examined its academic programs and reviewed them based on metrics such as enrollment and matriculation. Last fall, the university released a report On its findings and recommendations, which included a suggestion to dissolve the Department of Classics because it “does not provide a major course of study, and general education courses may be offered through other departments.”

Dr. Wootoh listed limited funds, “low enrollment and low student interest” as reasons for the department’s dissolution.

Dr. Wootoh said the decision to dissolve the department was finally approved by the university’s board of trustees. The four tenured faculty members of the department will remain within the College of Arts and Sciences, while Drs. The contract of its four disgruntled faculty members, including Prathar, will not be renewed.

Dr. Prather said that he did not expect that his time within the classics department would be gone forever. But he also said that it was still disappointing to see the department disbanded at a university that was a beacon for the study of antiquity from a black perspective.

When for a course, Drs. “To tear down the colony of our minds,” said Prathar. She takes the students on a journey, which begins in ancient times with black people, all the way to the present day – a timeline that presents slavery as a slice of the black experience, not a As its major narrative.

Frank M. The work of Snowden Jr., who once headed Howard’s classics department and produced work highlighting ancient African civilizations in ancient Greece and Rome, Drs. There is a staple within Prather’s orbits.

“I have one of the students coming in, ‘This class is going to show you how black people are around the world,” she said.

At Howard, students are told how interlaced and rooted themes within the classics are, such as political activists such as Huppie Newton and Angela Davis, as well as Black literary thinkers such as writer Tony Morrison. Dr. Prater said that abolitionist Frederick Douglass presents a particularly sharp argument for entangling with classics.

“He learned as a slave child through Cicero’s speakers to practice rhetorical skills and through reading all the different dialogues and classic texts,” she said, “so that she would know how to use logic How to exercise your brain. “

Dr. Vutoh said that this year, three Howard students will graduate in classical civilization with minors. In 2020, five graduated with a minor, and in the past year, more than a thousand students have taken courses in the Classics Department. Howard, which is in Washington, has an enrollment of about 10,000, including undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

For 19-year-old Ty Williamson, the Classics department played an important role in his decision to go to Howard. While growing up, she developed a passion for translating Latin and became fascinated with her role in biology.

Ms. Blackson said, “Translating black people, in a high-efficiency space, was something that I had only experienced at Howard.”

Ms Williamson said that even though parts of the program would remain intact, it would feel its loss as a stand-alone department.

“I think the classics department is just the beginning,” she said. “Other smaller departments may be on the next chopping block.”

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