Classics Department Faces Faculty Gaps

Faced with the recent departure of about a quarter of its faculty, the Classics Department expects that it will take several years to fill the positions, according to Classics Department Chair John M. Duffy.

To fill the gaps during what is forecast to be an extended personnel search, the department has turned to the Harvard College Fellows program, which employs recently minted PhDs who have shown an excellence in teaching.

“We are trying to recoup our strength because we have several gaps, a number of which are quite serious,” Duffy said. “That’s where a lot of our energy has been going and will continue to be going for the next few years.”

But Duffy added that the fellows program has helped to support the department as it seeks to execute a search for multiple positions within a climate of strict financial constraints. The Department currently employs two College Fellows as visiting faculty.

“It used to be that you could invite a visitor from outside, or that you could appoint a recent PhD student from within the program as a lecturer for one year, but we’re mainly using the Harvard College Fellows program right now,” he said.

The fellows program is supported by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, which aims to enhance the quality of undergraduate education by providing resources and programs to promote excellence in teaching.

“We try to provide them with a series of meetings across the year,” Bok Center Executive Director Terry Aladjem said. “We engage them in discussions about pedagogical and teaching issues, but their involvement depends on the individual fellow.”

In addition to relying on the Harvard College Fellows, the Classics Department has divided the courses as needed between the faculty members to ensure that all areas are covered, which has increased the average teaching load.

The undergraduate curriculum, which originally included multiple tracks, recently underwent reform and now has two that divides concentrators based on their interest in either the study of literature in the original language or the study of the history, culture, and philosophy of classical civilizations.

Duffy said that although there remain many vacant positions, notable progress has already been made in the faculty search. Most recently, the department hired Adrian Staehli, a senior professor of classical archeology from Switzerland.

He also said that the department is in the middle of a search for a junior ancient Greek historian and expects to have a candidate within the month.

“In the meantime, we’re waiting to fill the gaps that have occurred, which we expect to take several years to fill,” Duffy said.

—Staff writer Barbara B. DePena can be reached at barbara.b.depena@college.harvard.edu.

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