To Jason Pedicone and Eric Hewett,
I write to inform you that I can no longer work for the Paideia Institute or participate in any of its programs. I hereby officially cease all association as of today, and I wish to be removed from the website and any and all future publications.
My involvement in the Institute had already significantly waned over the past two years, as I became increasingly aware of how internal policies and the abusive behaviors of certain individuals, especially toward people of color and women, were negatively impacting staff, teachers, and students. I also began to realize that much of the good work my colleagues and I were doing in terms of teaching and outreach often served to increase a reputation for innovative and inclusive pedagogy that the Institute did not always deserve. In recent times, it became apparent that our work was serving as cover for an Institute that was deeply flawed and uninterested in true improvement, especially regarding issues of equity and opportunities for all.
Indeed, my colleagues and I repeatedly voiced our concerns via the limited channels available regarding the myriad ways in which the Institute was falling short of its stated goals to “reach individuals of all ages and academic levels … across all sectors of society.” Because our internal efforts to elicit any real commitment to change were either utterly ignored or met with defensiveness, denials, recriminations, and/or retaliation, several of us published an Open Letter in March of this year. This letter, for me at least, represented a last attempt to preserve the good that comes from the programs my colleagues and I taught. And yet Paideia leadership has still failed to take seriously the issues raised in the March letter. Indeed, the directors seemed intent on undermining any internal process of improvement, ignoring staff voices and making only superficial changes that sound good in a press release.
Paideia’s lack of commitment to authentic change is confirmed by the recent Sportula statement, whose accounts I credit fully. The statements are consistent with things I have witnessed or heard about during my more than four years as a teacher across several different Paideia programs and initiatives in the US and abroad. In fact, it was the Institute leadership’s failure to respond appropriately to many similar such incidents which had led to the Open Letter. Worse yet, many of these incidents in the Sportula statement date from this past summer, after the Open Letter, subsequent town hall, and assurances that things would change. Finally, even after all this, the directors’ response to the Sportula statement was wholly inadequate. An email “Update on Diversity and Inclusivity at Paideia” attempted to elide participants’ lived-experiences with what the directors call “current scrutiny of the field of Classics,” and trotted out a vague list of largely tokenist “actions and practices.” Pro forma rhetoric without any acknowledgement of responsibility for harm caused in the past gives us no reason to believe that Paideia will do better in the future.
This is not the first time I thought of ending my involvement, but I stayed because I believe very strongly that this type of programming is worthwhile, and I have seen how much my colleagues, my students, and I myself have gained through participation and collaboration in the teaching and learning of “Living Latin.” There are certainly many good people who work at Paideia, many of the Institute’s initiatives have value, and I’m certain that the experience of the majority of students and some employees has only been positive. From this, I suppose one might conclude that Paideia has merely failed to foster inclusive, welcoming spaces for all, merely failed to address adequately racism, misogyny, homophobia, and elitism, and merely failed to listen to feedback and to take seriously its implicit biases against (to say nothing of its sometimes openly hostile acts toward) women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, or those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. But misogyny, racism, elitism, and homophobia, although widespread in the larger Classics community, need not be inherent to the teaching of the ancient world or “Living Latin,” rather they are attitudes of individuals, groups, and organizations, recognizable in their actions. In my estimation, sincere, proactive efforts to identify and eliminate discrimination is a relatively low bar of action which the Institute has failed to hurdle. So while I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to teach with so many outstanding colleagues and students, I must conclude that you, the directors, do not share my commitment to making Classics and “Living Latin” in general and the Paideia Institute in specific an inclusive, welcoming space for all. And as such, the Paideia Institute, as currently structured and led, is not a place I can continue to work in good conscience.
Gregory P. Stringer