Report from the Classics Graduate Students’ Union President Taylor Stark

Grad student on a cliff

We need not dwell on the surreal and difficult year that we as a department have had. Like everyone, the grad students have been burdened with isolation, overwhelming screen time, and barriers to research. Despite this, as a group, I’m immensely proud of the sense of community we’ve maintained and all that we’ve accomplished. We’re also grateful to the Department for all the Covid-related support that has been provided throughout the year.

On the community front, despite our physical isolation, we’ve managed to retain a semblance of our old Woodbury sociability through an online group chat appropriately titled “The Woodbury,” created by 2019/20 Social Chair Rachel Mazzara. Rachel also organized many online events at the beginning of the pandemic, including a scavenger hunt, while current Social Chair Kat Furtado has organized distanced walks, online Zoom hangouts and games, and even the first international Secret Saturnalia gift exchange at Christmas. We look forward to more distanced outdoor gatherings, featuring our new Spike Ball set, this summer.

Our union has been passionate in pursuing a number of initiatives this year (some may even say we have been overzealous). In February, we voted to rename ourselves as the Classics Graduate Students’ Union, or the CGSU. We have established a cloud database for all grad students in order to share pdfs, list material, and teaching resources. (If anyone has any documents they’d like to add, let us know!) Finally, this year we pushed hard for the establishment of a rubric for the Greek and Latin qualifying exams, something for which this union has been advocating for a number of years. Thanks to the excellent work from the Rubric Committee, we now have a rubric in place for our qualifying language exams. We are very happy with this outcome and are confident that rubric will benefit both the exam committee and students alike.

Much of the union’s energy has gone into supporting the cyclical review process this year through many meetings, emails, and a grad student town hall. I want to thank both the self-study committee and the Department Executive for always bringing themselves to the table through some sometimes tense but ultimately very productive conversations. The CGSU executive feels that the graduate students’ concerns have been heard and recognized. We are sincerely grateful to the self-study committee for taking our concerns to heart. Additionally, I want to thank the Chair in particular, who in a year of utter administrative chaos has worked tremendously hard to establish lines of communication with us and has made herself available to truly listen. I look forward to more conversations as we work towards solutions and changes recommended by the cyclical review and towards building a community of care within the department.

Lastly, I want to give thanks to the graduate students, who have all had a brutal year. It’s hard enough being in grad school without all of this, but I think we’ve made the best of it, and I’m very proud of all of us. Huge congratulations to our completed PhDs, Rachel Mazzara, Jesse Hill, David Wallace-Hare, Matt Watton, Joseph Gerbasi, and Ted Parker! Also big congrats to Anass Dakkach and Jack Hase, who have received SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships, Vittorio Bottini, who is the recipient of the CAMWS Benario Award to attend the London International Paleography Summer School at the School of Advanced Studies at the University of London, and Jesse Hill and Gianmarco Bianchini, who were recipients of the 2021 SCS Outstanding Student Awards, and to Tiphaine Lahuec, winner of the 2019-20 James William Connor Prize in Greek Composition

Look for Jesse Hill’s article on Catullus 116, forthcoming in TAPA 151.1, spring 2021, and read Gianmarco Bianchini’s latest publications: “The triclinium of the ‘Casa del Moralista’ and its inscriptions: CIL IV, 7698 = CLE 2054,” in SEBarc 18. 85-105; “CLE 1109 (Roma): un sogno in forma poetica,” in Espacio, Tiempo y Forma. Revista de la Facultad de Geografía e Historia. 213-232; “La réception épigraphique d’Ovide à Pompéi: CIL, IV 1595 = CLE 927,” in Présences ovidiennes. Caesarodunum 52-53 bis. Clermont-Ferrand. 115-127; and “Quod peto, si colitis Manes … Nuove proposte di integrazione ad AE 1982, 69 (Roma),” in ZPE 213. 105-107.

Also look for post-doctoral student Flavia Vasconcellos Amaral’s two new published papers: “Pequena poética dos ‘autoepitáfios’ e dos epitáfios para poetas” [The poetics of Self-epitaphs and Epitaphs dedicated to Poets] in: F. Rodrigues Jr./B. B. Sebastiani/ B.C. Silva (edd.) A Poética Calimaquiana e a sua Influência na Poesia Epigramática. Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, 2021, p. 59-78. Available at: http://monographs.uc.pt/iuc/catalog/view/211/466/821-1 and “A Ekphrasis nos epigramas fúnebres enigmáticos gregos” [Ekphrasis in funerary enigmatic epigrams] in: W. Grizoste/F.B. dos Santos (edd.) Recepção e Ekphrasis no Ensino de Letras Clássicas. Parintins: Editora UEA, 2021, p. 11-33. Available at: https://latinitates.com/gallery/Recepção-&-Ekphrasis.pdf

And check out Kat Apokatinidis’ guest post “When Greece is not Ancient: Colonialism, Eurocentrism and Classics” on the blog Everyday Orientalism.

I also want to express my gratitude to the other members of the CGSU executive, Adam Barker, Kat Furtado, Tiphaine LaHuec, and Vittorio Bottini. This has been a tough year to be on the exec and it doesn’t help that they had the misfortune of being shackled with a president with some big ideas and few qualms in pursuing them. You’ve done a great job, y’all.

There are still challenges that face us once the world reopens. We hope that a more collaborative working environment and a more open line of communication between faculty and students will increase morale in the coming year. But it is worth appreciating, before we move on, how much we have accomplished together, in all our respective fields. So ends my rather wordy and sentimental report. I think the isolation is getting to me.

-Taylor Stark, President of the CGSU, 2020-21.