It is late June, 2017. Seventeen years have passed since the end of the half-century we have been describing, and sixty-seven, almost a lifetime, since its beginning. The twentieth century is an increasingly distant memory, a topic now for historical inquiry. In some respects not much has changed. On the outside, Murphey Hall looks very much the same as it did not only in 2000 but also in 1963, when I first saw it, and even in 1924, when it was brand new.     The interior renovations of 2001-2002 have, on the whole, held up well. The halls are handsome, the classrooms are mostly in good repair and equipped for the twenty-first century, and faculty offices have substantial electronic equipment as well as large bookcases. Today, the second summer session has just begun, so there are students walking from place to place, buying books for courses, relaxing on the lawns and in the arboretum, and reading in the buildings including Murphey Hall; but nothing is crowded. Students move along the brick walkways from one building to another, or come into Murphey, find their classroom, and enter. Gradually the class assembles.

The department in 2017 numbers eleven full-time faculty: five women and six men, or, sorted another way, three Hellenists, four Latinists, three archaeologists, and one medievalist. None of the current faculty was a member of the department in 1990, and eight of the eleven were hired after 2000. The department, that is, is a twenty-first century department, similar in shape to, but distinct in training and abilities from, the faculty of the late twentieth century. With eleven current members, the department is noticeably smaller than it has been historically, but two new faculty members will arrive over the next fifteen months, a new Paddison Professor of Greek and an archaeologist. Both are women, and when they are in place, in the fall of 2019, the department will for the first time have more women (seven) than men (six); and with thirteen full-time faculty, it will more closely resemble the department as it was for much of the latter half of the twentieth century.

In the spring semester this year, twelve TA’s taught courses or sections of courses, and nine faculty in other departments offered courses that are directly relevant to classical studies.[1] The archaeology program, largely art historical in nature in the twentieth century, now emphasizes field work, as it has done since the 1990s. Despite its smaller size, the department offered this spring a wide range of courses in Greek, Latin, and classical archaeology, and, as usual, three large-enrollment introductory lecture courses, Greek myth, etymology, and ancient cities.[2] The large lecture courses were taught by graduate students, who value the experience. Thus the spring semester’s course offerings looked quite a lot like those of, say, 1985.

Several times a day, all through the year, groups of prospective students (current high school juniors and seniors) and their parents walk through Murphey, peering into classrooms and trying to imagine what it would be like to be a student here. The task is not an easy one.     Building, classrooms, desks, computers, faculty, classes in progress all seem reassuringly familiar, but there are fundamental and important changes in progress, making the future, even in the short term, difficult to discern.

Some of the changes can be known, at least in part. These are the ones that are continuations of trends and developments of the late twentieth century. State support as a percentage of the university’s total revenue is declining slowly, year by year. Tuitions have been rising and are likely to continue to do so. New patterns of studying and learning are emerging, and the digital age has brought with it an increased emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Meanwhile, many parents, students, and state lawmakers are eager to have the university prepare students for specific jobs. Others, including me, resist this, on grounds that the university is not a training school for particular professions, and that students with broad educations will be able to adapt readily to future changes in an evolving world. There is debate, in short, about the purpose of the university.

The university continues to import methods and procedures from the business world, partly in response to external calls for efficiency and accountability. We now have, or are, a “brand,” the Carolina brand.     The vocabulary associated with these business practices (“outcomes assessment,” “stakeholders,” “strategic partners,” “best practices,” and so on), which was new and perplexing in 2000, is now used widely in the university and is familiar to faculty, students, staff, and parents. Some of the practices, such as “student learning outcomes assessment,” are gradually becoming codified within the university. Other changes evolve from the practices of other academic fields, particularly STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Articles and books in the humanities may now be subject not to anonymous peer reviewing (as was standard for much of my career), but to “open peer review,” that is, reviewing in open digital forums, which is characteristic of scientific fields. Whether the practices adopted from such alternate models and from the business world will be beneficial in the long term remains to be seen.[3]

Other changes are not so easy to see or assess. It is difficult to predict precisely the future impact of technology, aside from the obvious general rule that things will be changing substantially and very quickly over the next few decades. It is still not clear, in 2017, how “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) will affect college teaching in the long run. Will they reshape the college experience? Virtual reality, in 2017 still at an early stage of development, has enormous potential in many fields, among them archaeology, the history of art and architecture, and topography. The development and exploitation of artificial intelligence is at an equally early stage, but it is easy to imagine applications such as machines that can converse amiably in Latin and ancient Greek. Three-dimensional printing will create new educational opportunities as yet unimagined. A host of new technologies–far too many to list here–is sure to affect what is taught in classics and in other fields, even if at this point we can only guess at what those technologies will be, and what kind of an impact they will have. But forecasting the nature of the university–predicting what is to come in the twenty-first century–is not the purpose of this book in any case.[4] What we can do, and what I hope I have done, is set down for future generations an accurate, objective, and reasonably complete picture of the past: the content, nature, and quality of academic life in the late twentieth century.

 

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In Quest of Other Materials. Many of those who read the text this year (2018) or within the next few years may themselves have studied or worked in Murphey Hall in the years 1950-2000, and they may have information or observations to add that would improve the historical value of the text. If you are such a person and wish to provide an addendum, please send it to us at lealex@unc.edu. We will eventually create a second document consisting of such contributions and add it to the Department of Classics website alongside this one.

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[1] Three were in philosophy, three in religious studies, two in history, and one in comparative literature. All serve as adjunct or associated faculty in classics.

[2] A variety of courses dealing with the ancient world is offered in other departments. There are two courses in Roman history; both surveys and focused courses (on Aristotle, for example) in ancient philosophy; and several courses in religious studies, including topics such as sacrifice and death and burial in the ancient world.

[3] Incidentally, it is very difficult now to identify a time at which anonymous refereeing of articles was first introduced into the humanities, or when it became standard practice. I do not know of any definitive study of the question.

[4] Still, there is a steady stream of excellent new books (not necessarily in book form) describing or proposing new educational techniques and materials. Note, for one example relevant specifically to classics, Gabriel Bodard and Matteo Romanello, edd., Digital Classics outside the Echo-Chamber: Teaching, Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement (London 2016). There is a vast literature on the “digital humanities,” as a Google search for the term will quickly reveal.