A major in Princeton University’s classics department will no longer require students to learn Latin or Greek.
Campus Reform’s Ben Zeisloft (who also writes for The Daily Wire) reported that curriculum changes in the university’s classics department “added a track in race and identity,” which the faculty said would increase “flexibility for concentrators, including eliminating the requirement for classics majors to take Greek or Latin.”
“The ‘classics’ track, which required an intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin to enter the concentration, was eliminated, as was the requirement for students to take Greek or Latin,” faculty wrote in the May 2021 issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly. “Students still are encouraged to take either language if it is relevant to their interests in the department.”
The faculty claimed the “changes ultimately give students more opportunities to major in classics.”
The Weekly explained that Professor Frances Lee, associate chair of Princeton’s politics department, said that “the idea for the new undergraduate track in race and identity was part of the larger initiative on campus launched by President Eisgruber ’83 to address systemic racism at Princeton.”
“The politics of race underlies so much of U.S. political history,” Lee said, adding that “a wide array of intellectual questions as well as subjects that you need to understand if you want to understand politics at its core.”
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As Campus Reform has previously reported, Princeton University’s sweeping diversity regimes have touched nearly every department at the elite institution.
Most recently, Princeton adopted a “diverse supplier base” plan that seeks to “broaden the pool of supplier expertise, capabilities and perspectives, and include more businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by people of color, women, veterans or members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Princeton is currently listed first among U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of top national universities.
The classics department also eliminated the “classics” track, which required students to obtain an intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin to enter the concentration.
Josh Billings, director of undergraduate studies and a professor of classics, told the Weekly that the changes to the classics department had been discussed prior to Eisgruber’s allegations that the Ivy League institution was rife with systemic racism that must be rooted out, but the changes were given new urgency due to the racial protests and riots that occurred last summer following the police-involved death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
“We think that having new perspectives in the field will make the field better,” Billings told the Weekly. “Having people who come in who might not have studied classics in high school and might not have had a previous exposure to Greek and Latin, we think that having those students in the department will make it a more vibrant intellectual community.”
The Weekly includes comments and letters from alumni who responded to the changes to the classics department. The most recent comments are from alumni who disagree with the changes, with one alumnus saying the changes “devalue” the degree:
What does the elimination of the requirement to have proficiency in either Greek or Latin have to do with fighting systemic racism on campus? How does it make classics more open to people who did not have the opportunity to study Greek or Latin in high school? I had no knowledge of Greek or Latin when I matriculated in 1971. Despite that deficiency (which I do not believe was the result of systemic racism), I was taking 300-level courses in Greek and Latin by the end of my sophomore year, including skipping from Latin 101 to a 300 level course in Lucretius. Opening up this track does nothing for the Classics Department but harms its past, current, and future majors who have taken the trouble to learn either Latin or Greek, and who will be subject, inter alia, to ridicule in graduate and job interviews by questioners wondering about their proficiency in Greek and Latin. What next? Eliminating the German requirement in the German Department and offering an alternative German in Translation track?
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