Volume 4, Number 1
August 1997


We reprint here the recent appeals for help and support in connection with the potential closure of the Classics departments at the Australian National University (Canberra) and Natal (Durban). That we do so is merely to reinforce the appalling plight facing some humanities departments worldwide at the hands of administrators who see only a balance sheet as opposed to the intellectual and intrinsic value of a discipline on which is rooted the study of more subjects than any other. However, sentimental arguments cut no ice in todayÕs modern or 'corporate' universities, and to a certain extent perhaps they should not as education, and the needs of students, must move with the times. But not at the expense of a discipline from which can be gleaned new approaches while retaining the traditional core. And the latter point must be stressed: without actively teaching and researching in the main areas of the classical world (Greek and Roman), not to mention both Greek and Latin, a Classics department or discipline is a misnomer. Departments and staff owe it to themselves and their institutions to teach high quality courses, to attract high enrolments in them, to have a high research profile, and to serve the discipline continually and innovatively. A lot do; many more do not, or do not do enough. But as far as the former goes, not even this level of duty, or reputation at national and international levels, guarantees continuity, and thus the question is raised: who will be next?


From Robert Barnes,
Acting Head,
Classics Department,
e-mail: RRobert.Barnes@anu.edu.au

In the light of severe funding cuts to universities administered by the Australian government, and significant and sudden changes to internal accounting procedures, the Arts Faculty at the Australian National University has been asked by the Vice- Chancellor to identify which academic and general staff positions (of the present total of about 156) could be declared redundant.

As a response to this edict the Dean of the Faculty, Dr Larry Saha, has produced a restructuring paper in which he outlines his proposals to reduce these positions by about 33 (i.e. to about 123) over the next 15 months. These proposals are based purely on fiscal, not educational, grounds. It is of some concern that the figures cited in the paper - for student numbers and staffing costs - may be inaccurate; but these figures are nevertheless being used as the basis for restructuring. Among other objections which could be made the paper may preempt the recommendations of the current West Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy in Australia.

Although the departments of Modern European Languages, History and Political Science also fare badly in this paper, the Classics Department, by virtue of its lower enrolments (in later-year language units), and seniority of staff, fares worst - indeed, it is to be punished more severely than it deserves.

The Classics Department has shed one post already this year: Colin Mayrhofer has taken a redundancy package. Another post (that of Elizabeth Minchin) terminates at theend of 1997. Of the three remaining members, the Head of Department, Beryl Rawson, is due to retire at the end of 1998. Classical studies at ANU are hanging by a thread.This is a complete reversal from the previous situation when our staff-student ratio caused little concern.

The Dean's paper claims, as regards Classics, that: "A reduction of staffing costs alone would not solve the problem, because enrolments are insufficient to support a stand-alone or independent department. Accordingly, the future of this department needs to be decided before the end of 1997." There have been suggestions that we should join with Modern European Languages, to create a Department of (Classical and Modern) European Studies, which we are ready to consider. However the Dean's paper also proposes that Classics be reduced to one academic position by 1998, with no guarantee that even this position be continued beyond that date. The position of the Departmental Administrator, Zeta Hall, would also be abolished.

We believe that the disappearance of Classics would be a serious loss to the Faculty. Apart from the department's innovations in language teaching (the introductory unit Traditional Grammar has revitalised Greek and Latin at ANU) and in classical tradition units (particularly the unit Speaking and Persuading, which encourages students to apply the classical tradition of rhetoric to modern circumstances), and the highly successful new ancient history unit, Myths and Legends of Greece and Rome, in which a number of students from other departments enrolled (English, Art History), the department also makes substantial contributions to teaching in other programs: Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Drama.

There would also be a serious loss of national capacity. Classical studies (under various names) are now offered at only 14 of Australia's 36 universities. Greek and Latin majors are offered at only 11 of these. The ANU Library is particularly strong in classical areas and is an attraction to colleagues in various fields and to visiting fellows in the Humanities Research Centre.

Our response to the Dean is that, if we are to continue teaching our core activities (the majors in Greek, Latin, and ancient history, along with honours and postgraduate supervision) we need at least four posts. To support our case we have pointed out that the department has international recognition in several areas. Professor Rawson's work on the Roman family, and the series of conferences on this topic which she has organised, have become standard references in social history. Dr Kelly and Dr Minchin have contributed to an ongoing international series of innovative conferences on orality and literacy. Mr Barnes' book, with Professor Stephen Prickett, on the Bible as literature is widely used as a textbook. Our postgraduate students have now organised two highly successful conferences of Classics postgraduate students from Australia and New Zealand. We contribute importantly to the University's community outreach, particularly through the Classics Museum (though, sadly, our efforts in this respect now appear to go unrecognised by the University). The department has also contributed substantially to Classics nationally through the Australian Society for Classical Studies, hosting a conference for the Society in 1993 and providing a recent and the current President as well as the Treasurer.

We believe that there is a strong case, on academic grounds, for our contribution to the Faculty to continue. We therefore ask for your support. We ask you to send to each of the following officers of the University a message of protest at the proposed savage cuts to Classics, which will render any sustained and serious teaching of the Classical languages, or of ancient history, impossible.

Professor R Deane Terrell, Vice-Chancellor, The Chancelry, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia (e- mail: deane.terrell@anu.edu.au)

Professor Richard Campbell AM, Chair of the Board of the Faculties, The Chancelry, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia (e-mail: pvc.btf@anu.edu.au )

Dr Lawrence Saha, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia (e-mail: lawrence.saha.arts@anu.edu.au )

Please also send copies of letters or e-mails to: Mr Robert Barnes, Acting HoD


From: Dr. William J, Dominik

On 1st July 1997 (the beginning of the vacation period) a delegation from the Executive of the University of Natal (South Africa) paid a visit, along with the University's Human Resource Consultant, to the Department of Classics on the Durban campus. Without any prior consultation having taken place, the delegation stated its intention to recommend to the Senate of the University in three months' time (later revealed in fact to be 18th August 1997, the first day after the end of thewinter vacation period) that the Department of Classics, Durban be closed and its permanent, tenured academic staff be retrenched or redeployed. Not only did the Executive reveal a lack of knowledge about the discipline of Classics generally and the Department's growth in student enrolments this decade during this meeting, but a draft document also demonstrated that it was unaware of the full range of the Department's course offerings and the proper titles of its courses. The Executive simply did not do its homework carefully and failed to approach the Department to ascertain the precise nature of the Department's contribution to the University and community before embarking upon its course to close it and to retrench or redeploy its staff. If the Executive were to succeed in shutting down the Department, we believe it could then argue that it was impossible to redeploy tenured staff, since all other Departments at the University are in the process of being disbanded and are being amalgamated into new Schools from which Classics could be excluded. The University Executive's intention to recommend to Senate that the Classics Department on the Durban campus be closed is unjust because the Department has not only experienced a growth in its student numbers in recent years, but it also ranks as one of the top research Departments in sub-Saharan Africa.


In 1996, the latest year for which complete records are available, the Department of Classics on the Durban campus of the University of Natal had 528 students enrolled on a semester basis in its undergraduate courses and for postgraduate degrees (65 undergraduate FTE; 12 postgraduate FTE). This compares with 376 in 1995 (46 undergraduate FTE; 9 postgraduate FTE) and with 333 in 1989 (40 undergraduate FTE; 4 postgraduate FTE), the last two years in which the Department was reviewed. From these figures it can be seen that the Classics Department has seen a steady growth in its student enrolments this decade, despite the dropping of the compulsory Latin requirement for law students in 1995. One member of the Executive delegation pointed out that the Classics Department was one of the strongest Departments in the Durban Humanities Faculty in 1988 in terms of student enrolments, when it had about 330 students enrolled on a semester basis. If 330 students was enough to be one of the strongest Humanities Departments in 1988, then surely 528 students comprise a viable Department in 1996!

Many of the Department's students enrol in `Words and Ideas', an innovative course that serves as the foundation for the Department's present Classical Civilisation major (see The Classical Outlook 72.4 [1995] 122-25); the Department also coordinates `Skills and Concepts for Medical Studies', which is taught in conjunction with the Departments of Philosophy and History. Although final student numbers are not yet available for 1997, the Classics Department should maintain its 1996 student enrolment figure (unless the present publicity regarding its future adversely affects its final enrolments for the second semester), since it has contributed to the teaching (and writing) of both Humanities core courses `Language, Text and Context 1A' and `Language, Text and Context 1B'.


The Classics Department on the Durban campus of the University of Natal has had one of the strongest research records of any Department in the Faculty of Humanities and of any Classics Department on the African subcontinent during the last six years. During this period the six members of the Department have had published, accepted or commissioned for publication overseas and within South Africa 138 printed items, including 10 books (including edited books), 7 journal volumes, 15 chapters and articles in books, 44 articles and notes, 43 reviews and notices, and 26 other publications. The members of the Department have delivered 60 papers and talks at conferences and workshops overseas and within South Africa during this time. The Department also publishes the SAPSE-accredited journal Scholia: Natal Studies in Classical Antiquity , which is presently distributed to universities, libraries and scholars in 38 countries. Members of the Department have received numerous research grants and awards. In addition, they have served as referees for various international and national journals and for the Centre for Science Development; one member presently serves as a referee for various overseas monograph boards. Further evidence of the Department's commitment to research is its fostering of Classics at the postgraduate level, as evidenced in its current number of 12 students at the PhD and MA levels (some of whom have been awarded scholarships from the Centre for Science Development and are not due to finish their courses until 2001) and its Graduate Colloquium, which meets about 15 times per year. During the past 5 years the Department has also hosted 3 international conferences.


Within the discipline of Classics, the Department has provided external examiners in Classics internationally at the University of Malawi and nationally at the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Rhodes, Port Elizabeth and Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Members of the Department have served as assessors for tenure and promotion overseas and at the University of Natal. Some have served as examiners in Latin for the Joint Matriculation Board and the Natal Education Department. Members of the Department have been variously elected Vice-President of the Classical Association of South Africa and Chair of the Natal Branch of the Classical Association for 6 of the past 7 years. The Classics Department has regularly mounted Adult Education and Extension lecture series jointly or individually, has offered lectures to schools, and has set up school competitions relevant to the discipline. The Museum of Classical Archaeology also has performed a valuable outreach function. The Department makes a substantial contribution to committee structures at the Faculty, Inter-faculty, Senate and University-wide levels.

We appeal to you to send an e-mail letter of protest to the Vice- Chancellor and University Principal of the University of Natal regarding the Executive's decision to recommend to Senate in mid- August 1997 to close the Durban Department of Classics, which by any general international standard has proven itself to be a viable and proactive Department. Please address your e-mail letter of support for the Classics Department to Professor B. M. Gourley, Vice-Chancellor and University Principal (e-mail gourley@admin.und.ac.za ), and distribute copies to Professor A. C. Bawa (e-mail: maritz@admin.und.ac.za ), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Durban Principal), Professor D. A. Maughan Brown (e-mail maughan@exec.unp.ac.za ), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Pietermaritzburg Principal), and to me ( dominik@classics.und.ac.za ). Although all of the aforementioned members of the Executive are presently on leave or are overseas, any e-mail letters of support awaiting their return will prove helpful to us in our attempt to defeat their recommendation at the Senate meeting to close the Department. (It is especially important that you send a copy of your e-mail letter to me so that I can produce documentary evidence regarding the extent of national and international support for our case.)

Yours sincerely,

(Prof.) William J. Dominik on behalf of the Department of Classics, University of Natal,
Durban, South Africa

Electronic Antiquity Vol. 4 Issue 1 - August 1997 edited by Peter Toohey and Ian Worthington antiquity-editor@classics.Server.edu.au ISSN 1320-3606