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A Fruitless Growth of Words Piled inside my Garden.

There are many reasons why the Classics section of the Modern Languages department needs more resources and attention, not the least of which is the potential for a Classics presence. Classics at DePaul has not been given a proper opportunity to flourish and we cannot know the potential for enrollments until there is a Greek and Latin presence as well as a Classics major. A small DePaul Classics contingent has worked over the years to gain ascendancy and to solidify its presence, yet a lack of resources has hampered efforts. Classics has been allowed a minor, which has given ancient language studies at DePaul meager opportunity to function, and when resources are made available to the department they invariably go to language sections that have not only enough to function well, but also possess sufficient funds to continue arguing for more resources. Classics is not permitted a presence in department voting that decides distribution of funds. A full time, tenure-track presence will remedy this situation, but if a tenure-track position is not possible, DePaul can show its commitment to the concept of a university by granting a full time renewable position: term faculty.

Students have the opportunity to take beginning language classes at DePaul and there are several English-language options. Yet, there are almost no upper-division offerings. And there is no permanent Classics presence to argue on its behalf. The lack of offerings translates into an initiation of interest for students only to lose them because after they inquire as to what DePaul offers, they rightly question DePaul's commitment. It is possible that there can be more students in Classics, but word has spread about Classics at DePaul's lack of vigor and what this language section has to offer - a deficiency forced by a lack of attention due to insignificant funding. Some advisers ignorant of the state of Classics still misguide students, giving the false impression that no Classics offerings at DePaul exist. The current state must change. Yet, it cannot change when members of other language sections make decisions for Classics. Obviously, assigning administrative tasks to members of other language sections is ill-advised, another handicap. Students who do become interested leave the university, if they want to major in Classics. In fact, instructors in Modern Languages have said to students on prior occasions that if they want a major in Classics, they ought to attend another university. How this attitude is acceptable is unimaginable. Upper-division courses are available via independent study, but these classes are severely underfunded and even discouraged. Make no mistake; Classics is not the Spanish section. Sheets of falling students will not rain upon campus before there is any kind of resource available. A major cannot be created without a full time Classics presence: a Hellenist and a Latinist tenure-track. Hardly anyone at all who may become interested knows of Classics' existence at DePaul, and – again – when students learn of the program they find the offerings paltry, the section anemic. A strong curriculum with a major is necessary. Yet, DePaul is reluctant to allocate resources for even one full time position. The lack of understanding of the university duty and concept is clear to most instructors, yet administrators continue counting beans, no doubt gaining promotion at the expense of education. A comparison may be in order to understand the potential that DePaul has. DePaul has a larger body of students than, say, Loyola, yet Loyola's Classics program is far more robust and filled with students because it is funded, possessing active full time instructors. DePaul barely funds Classics at all by comparison, and any sane student looking to do something in the field considers the offerings and leaves. It's only logical. If there is funding for Classics, we may be able to learn what the potential for development is. As it stands now, there is no clear way to tell, because no concerted, well-funded effort has been made to invigorate and expand the program. The idea seems to have been that the students must first come, money in hand, and then the funding will begin. Such a perspective is myopic.

One cannot understand the historical present without understanding how something came to be. Classics provides the foundation for knowledge of the past and some of the ignorance of what a university offers will undoubtedly wane, if there is a greater presence of ancient Greek and Latin. But that's conceptual. Student registrations can rise, but not before there is an actual investment. Waiting for the need may sometimes work as a business model, but education is not business, as much as the little Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity inside one may wish to believe it. Some of these arguments may seem old – tired, repeated and worn. Yet, it does not follow that once something is old it is invalid or untrue. Mere seeking after money at each and every level of the university is immoderately applying an economic model to a non-economic endeavor. If the administration wants suggestions as to how they are to restructure their university, they ought to look not only at “new” and “organic” methods. They ought to look to the past in order to understand the present so that the future becomes clearer. Investment without immediate return is necessary in order for DePaul to demonstrate that it is actually a university, and not a vocational school – as some have called it. That is an older, wiser model.

© 2014 by Kirk A. Shellko a.k.a. Lucian Whyte