The timing of the “Our Voices” conference, directly coinciding with the Paideia Institute’s Living Latin in New York City is, of course, not coincidental. Rather, it was born from the fact that many of us had previously looked forward each year to getting together on that weekend to speak Latin together and learn about pedagogy from one another. I personally taught at the event the last three years. However, Paideia and its officers’ repeated pattern of abusive behavior toward especially women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and others had increasingly made it a space that felt unwelcome to many, myself included, even before I officially cut ties with the Institute in October, for reasons I have outlined in my previous statement.
So at some point last year, a few of us began talking about getting together that weekend in New York anyway. As the events of this past year unfolded and Paideia not only failed to acknowledge the harm they had caused, but also caused even further harm and doubled down on regressive policies while making only minor, largely symbolic steps toward improvement, a group of us decided to make our planned meeting into something more. We decided to make it an explicit opportunity to face head on the problems of exclusion that are not unique to Paideia but rather pervade Classics, and which the Paideia Institute, for many good reasons, has come to represent.
I am glad to see that Paideia finally made their first truly meaningful change by asking Eric Hewett to resign, after he filed criminal charges against former employees who bravely spoke out. But the truth is, even without Dr. Hewett, we have no reason to believe the leadership of Paideia is sincere about facing these issues seriously and honestly — in four years of working for them, they repeatedly gave us many reasons to doubt this. Every time we pushed back, individually or collectively, against their many abusive practices, even in those times which we successfully prevailed upon them to do the right thing, it was always only with a great deal of struggle and always at a cost — personal, professional or both. And, it must be repeated that Paideia and its current representatives have still made no acknowledgement, public or private, of the harm caused to individuals nor made any apology for the same. And, while they asked Dr. Hewett to resign, they have done nothing about the damage he has caused, providing no support, public or private, to those victimized by him when he was employed as Paideia’s Director. And, while the Institute has announced some other minor, long overdue changes (changes that, for example, some of us pushed for years ago, such as employee handbooks and an official HR department, and faced retaliation for doing so), there is still so much more for them to do in order to restore the trust of the Classics community.
Finally, this is not about so-called “Cancel Culture,” but rather about the safety of students and participants. We are not trying to end Paideia, rather we simply aim to offer an alternative in the marketplace of ideas — a place where those made to feel unwelcome by Paideia can come and have their voices truly heard and amplified. I truly hope the Paideia Institute makes a sincere apology and redress to those harmed and that it follows through on long overdue and necessary changes so that perhaps one day we can again feel comfortable sending students to their programs. But until then, we would be abrogating our responsibility as educators by sending students, children or adults, into the hostile atmosphere which has prevailed there — a place where, heretofore, the safety of the participants has been openly and emphatically considered secondary to the politics of the organization and its officers. This is especially true now that anyone who openly and publicly stood up against their abuses, and often served as buffers between the students and the worst instincts of the leadership, has left.