Save the University of Vermont’s Classics Department!
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The University of Vermont’s College of Arts and Sciences has announced a plan to cut 12 of the 56 majors, 11 of the 63 minors, and 4 of the 10 master’s degree programs. Among the departments slated for termination is the Classics department, which offers three discrete majors: Classical Civilization, Greek, and Latin. These measures are both extreme and disconcerting. The University states that they have “a comprehensive commitment to a liberal arts education,” and yet time and time again, when facing budgetary issues, they target their humanities programs first. As a “public ivy” they should be committed to holding up academic ideals and offering a diverse range of courses to their student body.
The Classics department offers high-quality ancient language courses. Ancient Greek and Latin continue to be widely used within medical and law circles and their acquisition improves one’s English language proficiency and their ability to learn other languages. Furthermore, the history of the ancient world is highly important. History must always be studied and can serve as a guide or a caution to us in the present. To label the stories of the past unimportant is anti-academic. In addition to this, the larger discipline of Classics is undergoing radical change. For the first time the stories of women, slaves, metics, and the lower class are sought out and listened to. The elimination of the discipline as it works to become more equal would be a great shame. Furthermore, ancient perceptions of sexism, xenophobia, and racism persist in our society today, and understanding the roots of these institutions is essential to deconstructing them.
The department is easily one of the most welcoming on campus. The professors, all of whom are kind and knowledgeable, are easy to access and are always willing to be of assistance. For me, personally, the effect that the department has had on my life cannot be overstated. I was barely able to speak in front of other people when I arrived at college and now I am the president of a club of people that I count among my closest friends. I have always felt listened to and supported by both the students and the faculty. The classes encourage their students to challenge themselves and grow.
These measures also ignore the long history of the Classics department at UVM. The department has existed since the founding of the University in 1791. The name “UVM” itself stands for Universitas Viridis Montis which is Latin. The school motto, “studiis et rebus honestis,” is also in Latin, a quote from the Roman author Horace. Many of illustrious UVM’s most names belong to former members of Classics faculty; including Samuel Bassett, Lester Prindle, Joseph Torrey, John Goodrich, James Wheeler, Matthew Buckham, and George Kidder. The famous alumnus Geroge Washington Henderson was also heavily involved in the Classics, going on to become a professor of Greek and Latin. The names of these individuals are all over the campus with buildings, scholarships, library sections, and, most notably, the Henderson Cafe named after them. Though they are happy to honor and advertise with the names of former UVM Classicists, they plan to destroy their home department. By doing so, the UVM administration would ignore their own important history and disrespect alumni.
The proposed cuts are still just that, proposed. Alumni, students, faculty, and friends of Classics, can come together and resist these measures. In addition to signing this petition, we encourage people to write letters of protest expressing their concerns to Dean Falls, Provost Prelock, and President Garimella. Local publications, such as the VT Digger have also been eager to hear from students. Remind the University that education always comes before profit. The humanities will never cease to be important. They teach us irreplaceable skills and values but, more than that, they teach us how to be human.
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