The Women’s Classical Committee UK is very pleased to launch the Caring in Classics Network. The Network aims to support people of all genders and at all career stages who are affected by caring. This includes, but is not limited to, care for older people, care for younger people, children, and infants, care for disabled people, and kinship care. Whilst COVID-19 has impacted on every country in the world, the pandemic is not universally experienced. Stark inequalities experienced by those who provide or receive care have been revealed by the pandemic, which has worsened existing disadvantages. The Network aims to provide support particularly during, but also beyond, the pandemic.
The Network has created a new WCC UK policy document, Guidelines for Supporting Carers and Organising Events. It is available for download here. These guidelines are designed to assist those who are organising conferences and other events to support those participating in events who have or are affected by caring responsibilities. The provision of support for those with caring responsibilities is a central strategy for ensuring gender diversity and inclusion.
The Network is organising regular and online ‘coffee-hour’ style meet-ups for members of the Women’s Classical Committee (UK) who are affected by care to come together in an informal and private community setting.
The next Caring in Classics Network Meet-up will be held on Zoom on Wednesday 24 February, 15.00-16.00 GMT. Please email victoria.leonard at coventry.ac.uk for details of how to join the meeting. The time and date of the meetings will not be within a set pattern in order to maximise attendance. There will be break-out rooms available within the meeting, depending on attendance numbers.
The Network is led by Ellie Mackin Roberts, Adrastos Omissi, Rosalind Janssen, and Victoria Leonard. If you would like to get more involved with the Network, please email womensclassicalcommittee at gmail.com.
These guidelines are designed to assist those who are organising conferences and other events to support those participating in events who have or are affected by caring responsibilities. The provision of support for those with caring responsibilities is a central strategy for ensuring gender diversity and inclusion. People of all genders and at all career stages can be affected by a range of caring issues, touching on care for older people, care for younger people, children, and infants, care for disabled people, and kinship care. The pandemic has exacerbated many of the issues and obstacles faced by those with caring responsibilities, and we hope that the Guidelines will be particularly beneficial in addressing this urgent imbalance.
The guidelines encourage event organisers and institutions to take three steps in providing support for those with caring responsibilities: 1. think and plan; 2. reach out; and 3. support. Whilst these guidelines have been developed primarily for the Classics community, they are more widely relevant across higher education in the UK and beyond.
We encourage you to download the guidance, direct people to it, send it to people you think will benefit from it, and use it yourself.
This document is an evolving work-in-progress that will be updated to reflect best practice. If you have any thoughts or feedback, please do e-mail us at: womensclassicalcommittee at gmail.com.
In response to feedback gathered from members, the WCC UK is developing a mentoring scheme with three strands. The first is the Take a Grad Student to Lunch Scheme, which ran successfully for the second time in Summer 2019. The second, launched here, is the Co-Mentoring Triads Scheme.
The Co-Mentoring Triads Scheme is designed to facilitate a fixed-term, mutually beneficial mentoring arrangement to be established among three members, to avoid the hierarchy present in traditional mentoring relationships. Co-mentoring triads will run for one academic year. Triads will be grouped together around specific themes and interests that the members wish to explore in the coming year, as well as other factors such as preferred method of communication and location. Members from all careers and career stages are welcome to sign up. Triads will be matched up by the Mentoring Officer and informed of their triad’s membership by the end of September.
Initial contact will be made by e-mail. Other methods of communication will be agreed upon at the triad’s discretion; these may include e-mail discussions, Skype calls or in-person meetings. Regularity of contact will be determined at the discretion of the triad. Triads are expected to contact each other at least four times over the course of the year. Worksheets and guidance will be provided by the WCC UK which may help to structure the mentoring arrangement. You are not obliged to use these, but they may help you to get the most out of your triad. Please be reasonable with your demands on your colleagues’ time and respectful of the commitment they have made to you. By signing up to the scheme you agree to abide by the WCC UK’s Mentoring Code of Conduct.
The scheme is open to all WCC UK members in good standing. Please sign up here by Friday 13th September. If you have any questions about the scheme, please contact the Acting Mentoring Officer, Christine Plastow, at christine.plastow [at] open.ac.uk.
The WCC UK warmly invites members to consider proposing an event to be held under WCC UK auspices.
As outlined in our events policy, we run events with an organising team made up of three people (or a triad), one of whom needs to be a steering committee member or liaison; any member is welcome to put an event proposal forward for the steering committee’s approval.
To help members who would like to put on an event but perhaps haven’t had any experience of event organising yet, we have put together a short guide titled So You’re Organising A WCC UK Event: An Event Organiser’s Starter Pack. It gives helpful advice on how to propose an event as well as useful tips on event organisation which we’ve picked up over the last few years. We hope that this pack will make organising a WCC UK event more straightforward, and will demystify some of the things that go on behind the scenes to get our programming together.
If you a PhD student or an early career colleague who is interested in finding out more about running an event but not quite ready to propose one of your own, we offer the opportunity to shadow a triad to gain some some experience of event organisation; if this sounds like something you would be interested in, drop a line to the Administrator at womensclassicalcommittee at gmail.com.
Dr. Katherine Harloe of the University of Reading reports on discussions from our AGM.
We are all aware of the problem of casualisation in UK Higher Education,
as universities seek to cut costs, and respond to
volatility in student numbers, by relying on fixed-term staff rather than
creating open-ended posts. Many Classics Departments are presently in
institutions operating non-replacement of posts for permanent staff; others
have gone further and opened voluntary redundancy schemes, with compulsory
redundancies actively being considered for next year.
Given this context, it seemed important for the WCC UK to address the problem of casualisation in discussions at our 2019 AGM. The casualisation break-out group held a very full, urgent discussion, which could have gone on for much longer given the scale of the problem and the multiple issues and disadvantages being faced. It was particularly useful to have a mixture of those at the sharp end of casualisation (including some who have by now spent up to a decade on short-term contracts, with no end in sight); finishing PhDs contemplating the academic labour market; more senior/established staff who might be in a position to influence institutions’ policies and practices, even at a local level; and active members of UCU branch committees.
It was agreed that the problem of casualisation has been getting worse in UK universities. Every year the jobs advertised appear to be fewer and worse in terms of working conditions/types of contract, and casualisation has clear, long-term negative effects upon individuals’ lives (including the ability to establish and maintain family life), research agendas, mental and physical health, as well as upon research cultures and the sense of academic community within and across UK Classics Departments.
Specific negative consequences of casualisation impact not only upon casualised academics themselves but also upon the undergraduates and postgraduates they teach or supervise. Since the latter are articulated less often than the former, it is worth noting that the ‘student-side’ problems noticed less often include lack of opportunities for doctoral supervision (a negative both for prospective supervisors and for prospective supervisees, if a person with particular expertise does not hold a position where they can supervise doctoral researchers); lack of continuity in lecturers and personal tutors, which can lead to lack of suitable referees when graduates are entering the job market. These all have a negative effect on ‘the student experience’ and student satisfaction; some casualised staff also feel that they are accorded less authority and/or respect, both by students and by colleagues, than staff on open-ended contracts.
A lot of the discussion centred around measures that could be taken at that level to alleviate the conditions of casualised staff, although the group recognised that bigger, structural questions need to be addressed if the UK HE sector’s ever-increasing reliance on casualised staff is to be reversed. Drawing on the experience of long-term casualised staff, we came up with a short wish-list of suggestions, in no particular order. These are addressed primarily to Heads of Department and Departmental Directors of Teaching and Learning, that could ease, even if only marginally, the lives of casualised staff
1. Pay relocation costs of staff arriving to fill temporary contracts. This is something that is almost never offered, although a few departments now require any permanent staff who are applying for research funding that includes teaching replacement to include relocation costs in their project costings, where this is an allowable expense under the scheme.
2. Aim to offer a minimum 12–month contract, which includes research time/university vacation pay. Some discussion took place around the challenges faced by those who had spent a long time on fractional, teaching-only contracts in maintaining their competitiveness for contracts which included a research element, but it was felt overall that it was better to hold teaching and research together if at all possible, since this would be of greatest long-term benefit to aspiring academics.
3. Increase uniformity in application procedure/expected paperwork for temporary posts, across different UK Classics Departments. Ideal from the point of view of prospective applicants would be a single, simple, online form for all UK Classics applications; although this is probably unrealisable, it was felt that the application process could often be simplified and Classics departments could collaborate, through subject associations, to increase uniformity in some areas. The next two points also relate to this:
4. Make the eligibility criteria explicit in job advertisements and further particulars. In particular, different definitions of ‘early-career’ are used in the sector and in different institutions; this can involve a great deal of wasted effort when prospective applicants discover at a late stage that they are not in fact eligible for a particular postdoc or funding scheme. It was felt strongly that an ‘early-career researcher’ should be redefined as ‘someone who does not have a permanent academic post’.
5. When designing an application process, consider carefully what you require of candidates at each stage, and consider only taking up references, asking for research samples, etc., at point of shortlisting. It is asking a lot of candidates to expect them to produce detailed, institution-specific module plans before they have even been longlisted, and requiring references at Stage 1 increased burdens on candidates and referees. Consider whether you can long-list, or even short-list, on the basis of CV and covering letter/application form alone.
6. Offer honorary, non-stipendiary research positions after close of contract, to enable underemployed or unemployed scholars to maintain some library/electronic resources access, as well as access to academic community. A related suggestion, for WCC UK to take up, was to ask the Institute of Classical Studies to consider establishing an electronic resources/institutional email account for independent scholars who are paid-up members of Senate House Library.
7. Prioritise the needs of casualised staff when timetabling teaching. Pull out all the stops to bunch their teaching onto fewer days in order to minimise their travel costs if commuting long distances to fulfil a fractional contract (see too point 1 above)
8. Allow casualised staff, even on teaching-only contracts, access to conference expenses funding, research and development opportunities, and institutional research support (e.g. help with grant writing) that is available to staff on open-ended contracts. This is appropriate in recognition of the fact that many such staff are experienced and/or aspiring researchers who have a contribution to make beyond their immediate labour as lecturers.
Many of these recommendations correspond to those made in the openly available Council of University Classical Departments Protocol on Academic Staffing, last revised 2017. It was felt that UK Classics Departments, many of whom are CUCD members, could be more mindful of this document than they have proven to be so far.
Last week, we issued a joint statement with the Council of University Classics Departments and the Institute of Classical Studies deploring the incidents of overt racism which occurred at the AIA/SCS conference in San Diego. We repeat our censure of the behaviour targeted at Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta and at Djesika Bel Watson and Stefani Echeverría-Fenn, representatives of the Sportula. Professor Padilla Peralta has written powerfully about his experience, while the Sportula team have responded by organising their own on-line conference. Professor Padilla Peralta has now published the text of the paper he gave at the “Future of Classics” panel which raises serious questions about the under-representation of scholarship by women and people of colour in journals in our field, and challenges us to examine the role of structural factors, unconscious and explicit prejudice, in these exclusions. We are aware that some classicists, including former and present journal editors, have begun to respond to his challenge to reflect on and transform their practice; we urge this activity to continue.
In the joint statement published on Monday, we commented that ‘None of these problems are confined by national borders, and the UK community, including our organisations, has a long way to go in reckoning with their manifestations in our own country.’ Dr. Josephine Quinn has written eloquently about minimization which took place during and after the conference, both along national lines and in attempts to excuse the incident that targeted Professor Padilla Peralta by marginalising those who experience mental illness and those who work as independent scholars. The report by the Royal Historical Society on Race, Ethnicity and Equality shows the depth of the problem in one of our sister disciplines; we welcome the news in the November 2018 minutes that Council of University Classics Departments intend to commission a similar report examining the situation within our discipline.
One of the WCC UK’s aims since its foundation has been to advance equality and diversity in classics; anti-racist work is a fundamental part of supporting classics without white fragility. We support efforts of disciplinary bodies and other institutions to examine and change their own practices, and we recognise that we have much to learn both as individuals and as an organisation. In our 2018 AGM, we included a critical whiteness workshop precisely to begin talking about these issues. The workshop succeeded in that it did start a conversation, and gave us confidence that we are able to facilitate these discussions among our members. Yet we failed to anticipate that colleagues of colour would be asked to perform a disproportionate amount of labour and that we did not do all we could to prepare attendees for the kind of self-reflection necessary to engage productively in anti-racism training. We didn’t get it right – but we recognise our responsibility to learn from our mistakes and to do better.
To that end, our 2019 AGM in Cardiff will include a town hall style meeting to discuss our experiences of racism within the discipline and develop strategies to respond to them. As part of this, we intend to take account of the interconnectivity of racism and xenophobia within UK society in general, as well as drawing attention to the ways in which UK classics is robbed of the richness of perspective brought by people from all ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, we hope to support attendees in developing strategies to engage with current institutional structures that require change if we are to tackle racism head-on within the discipline. We also intend to organise a separate on-line event on activism and allyship, which will explore the various intersections between feminism, race, class and disability. Its goal will be to start developing future strategies and to give members the confidence to take grassroots action in their local communities against both highly visible and more insidious kinds of prejudice. As an organisation, we recognise the part we can (indeed, should) play in striving for inclusivity in classics and hope that these events will lay foundations for encouraging change within the discipline.
If you would like more information about the AGM, or would like to be involved in organising our on-line event, please e-mail the Administrator at womensclassicalcommittee at gmail.com.
We are very grateful to WCC UK member Christine Plastow of the Open University for writing up her notes of important take-away points and for sharing her response from our recent REF 2021 consultation event.
On Tuesday 18th September, the WCC UK met at the Open University campus in Milton Keynes to consult on the draft guidelines for submission for REF 2021. We were also able to livestream the event, and so were joined by colleagues around the country listening in and contributing. The event was led by Maria Wyke, the sub-panel chair for Classics, and Katherine Harloe, member of the Classics sub-panel and an interdisciplinary advisor for REF 2021.
Professor Wyke opened the discussion, stating that the event was an opportunity for the sub-panel to present the material produced by REF, and that REF were interested in gathering information about whether disciplinary interests have been addressed successfully in the draft guidelines. What follows here highlights the main points of discussion throughout the event.
Codes of practice
It was noted that institutions have been tasked with producing codes of practice prior to REF 2021 for the selection of staff and outputs for submission. The staff selected should be all of those with significant responsibility for research. Concern was expressed for the institution’s individual freedom in making these decisions. The sub-panel members asserted that codes of practice would be assessed by REF, in part against HESA definitions of staff roles. Codes of practice can be sent back for revision if deemed inadequate, and submissions could be damaged by institutions failing to provide a correct submission. However, if institutions do not adhere to their codes of practice once approved, this will need to be appealed by individuals within the institution, as the sub-panel will not be able to spot failure to adhere to the code of practice from the submissions. All codes of practice must include an appeals procedure.
Institutions will be expected to provide commentary on any adjustments to the submission due to special circumstances. However, decoupling of staff from submissions means that outputs are a group effort, and it may not be necessary to apply reductions to specific individuals. Two kinds of reductions are specified: defined reductions, such as maternity leave, where the reduction will be by a pre-set number of outputs; and reductions requiring judgement, generally more complicated circumstances, which will require assessment as to the reduction in number of outputs. The reduction in number of submissions for maternity leave since the last REF, from 1 output to 0.5 outputs, is due to the reduction in average number of outputs per staff member (from 4 to 2.5 outputs) and the longer assessment period of this REF (7 years, as opposed to 5 years for REF 2014).
A query was raised about the use of the word ‘eligible’ in section 180 of the draft guidelines. Attendees were concerned that this would permit universities to exclude staff with 2* research outputs. The sub-panel noted that universities would have to provide reasoning for any staff who were excluded, and that this would not be considered a valid reason. They also noted that the guidelines ought to encourage institutions to support all staff to produce excellent research, and that REF encourages this, although this may not be the effect in reality. Continue reading →
The WCC UK condemns all acts, including speech, which demonstrate Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and similar discrimination. We find abhorrent attempts made by public figures and extremist groups to associate these with our discipline. Classicists have a responsibility to reckon with our field’s history and to acknowledge the ways in which it has been and continues to be used as a tool to create, perpetuate, and justify discrimination of various kinds. Racism and elitism must not be part of our vision for the discipline’s future.
We support Classics for All as they review their association with Boris Johnson, who is currently one of the charity’s patrons. This is not the first time that objections have been made to Johnson’s status as flag-bearer for the discipline and many classicists have not seen him as a public ally. Despite his best attempts to position himself as a positive asset to the field, as a discipline we must now recognise his conduct is appalling, and that association with him is in direct conflict with attempts to recover classics from an exclusionary and discriminatory elite.
We call on all bodies associated with classics to take this opportunity to consider those we ask to act as patrons and ambassadors for our subject. While Johnson may be an extreme case, the public statements and behaviour of others who align themselves with classics are increasingly at odds with our discipline as we understand and promote it. Equally, a board of patrons or supporters consisting primarily of white privileged individuals does not encourage those who do not see themselves represented to think that classics is for them.
The WCC UK has a long-standing goal to advance equality and diversity in Classics, and we acknowledge that there is a long way to go, including in our own ranks. We urge all relevant bodies to diversify and expand the range of those who advocate for them, and to show that there is a strong inclusive voice for classics at work in the UK.
The WCC UK supports a classics without white fragility, in which people of all backgrounds and circumstances flourish and thrive. We invite all those able to take action towards this goal to join us in making this happen.
There are lots of ways to get involved with the work of the WCC UK! Take a look at what’s currently going on…
Open liaison posts: we are still looking for volunteers to take on the roles of disability liaison for both staff/post-PhD and post-graduates. Drop us a line to find out what’s involved!
Financial affairs: we are currently looking for members to serve on a new bursary committee, or who would be interested in shadowing the treasurer and finding out more about the treasurer’s work.
AGM 2019: Next year’s AGM will take place in Cardiff. Get in touch if you want to help out, or have suggestions for a theme.
Mid-career: we are looking for a host institution for our 2019 mid-career day; this has been held in London and in Durham, so we’re after somewhere in a different geographical region.
Working with schools: we’re putting together plans for an event working with schools to bring feminist and gender-informed perspectives on classics to the next generation of classicists. We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to get involved in organising this event.
Our #WCCWiki project, which seeks to improve the representation of women classicists on Wikipedia in terms of both quality and quantity, is going from strength to strength, and is always looking for new editors – the next editathon will be 22nd June, 1-3pm, and you can find out more about how to take part at their project page.
Do any of the above appeal? Then drop us a line at womensclassicalcommittee at gmail.com, and we’ll put you in touch with the right member of the committee to get things moving. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Earlier this month, the Women’s Classical Committee UK wrote to the FIEC/CA programme and national committees about their recent call for papers. This is the text of that letter.
Dear FIEC Programme Committee and National Committee,
I write on behalf of the Women’s Classical Committee UK steering committee and liaisons to express our shared concern about the guidelines recently issued for the FIEC Congress:
It is the tradition of both FIEC and the Classical Association to represent as wide a range of speakers as possible. Panels are more likely to be selected if they include speakers from more than one country, and if they include junior as well as senior speakers. Panels consisting only of men or only of women are unlikely to be selected unless a powerful case is made for an exception.
We are glad to see the issue of all-male panels being explicitly addressed. However, the final line of this paragraph draws an unfortunate equivalence between all-male and all-female panels as if these represent the same sort of problem.
All-male panels have been dominant in the discipline since the institution of conferences as an academic practice. They remain common, and often pass unremarked, yet they are a sign of wider issues about the representation of female scholars in our discipline in many areas, not only conference presentations. Equating all-male and all-female panels ignores the history of women being excluded from classics and from the academy more broadly, and overlooks the structural sexism which still results in women’s voices being silenced in scholarship.
We are also concerned about the practical consequences of this policy for colleagues whose gender expression is not adequately described by the male/female binary, and who may be put under undue personal scrutiny in order to justify that a panel does or does not consist of a single gender.
While we welcome FIEC’s move towards inclusivity and addressing the historical systemic oppression of women through the opposition to all-male panels, we urge you to reconsider your policy on all-female panels.
The Women’s Classical Committe UK intends to nominate members to the REF Classics sub-panel. We ask candidates seeking nomination by the WCC UK to provide answers to the questions below (in brief bullet points) by 30th November 2017, and to send them to the WCC UK’s current co-chair Amy Russell (amy.russell AT durham DOT ac DOT uk). The questions mirror those asked in the HEFCE nomination form, with the addition of question six which is specific to the WCC UK.
We will be making nomination decisions based on the published HEFCE criteria (captured in these questions), with the additional criterion that your nomination should further the WCC UK’s aims (for which see question 6). We will evaluate candidates of all genders according to the same criteria. Forms will be circulated to our Steering Committee and Liaisons for comment, before a final nomination decision is made by a small sub-committee formed from current SC members. A full list of SC members and liaisons can be found on our website. We do not intend to publish the list of those nominated by WCC UK.
Please circulate this call for applications widely, as we welcome nominations or suggestions for nomination from the broadest pool of candidates possible.
Questions for Candidates for Nomination
Please answer the following questions:
1. Do you have previous REF panel experience? Give details.
2. What modern languages are you able to assess in?
3. What are your areas of expertise, including (if applicable) experience in wider use and benefits of research?
4. Provide evidence in support of your nomination (e.g. key achievements and academic appointments; esteem indicators such as editorial posts; experience of research management, commissioning, using or benefitting from research; experience of leading/managing/practising interdisciplinary research; experience of peer review, research quality standards, or of evaluating impact, benefits, or quality of research).
5. Do you wish to be considered for nomination as an interdisciplinary research adviser?
6. How will your appointment to the sub-panel help to advance WCC UK’s published aims? Our aims are:
– Support women* in classics**
– Promote feminist and gender-informed perspectives in classics
– Raise the profile of the study of women in antiquity and classical reception
– Advance equality and diversity in classics
* By ‘women’ we include all those who self-define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities which include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women.
** By ‘classics’ we understand the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its reception, including but not limited to scholarship by students and post-holders in academic departments of Classics and Ancient History.