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Princeton removes Greek, Latin requirement for classics majors to combat ‘systemic racism’

Citing a call to address “systemic racism” on campus, Princeton University has dropped the requirement for classics majors to take Greek or Latin.

According to a report at National Review Online:

“Josh Billings, director of undergraduate studies and professor of classics, said the shift will give students more opportunities to major in classics.

Billings said the changes had been floated before university president Christopher Eisgruber called for addressing systemic racism at the university, but the curriculum shift resurfaced as a priority after the president’s call to action and the ‘events around race that occurred last summer.’

‘We think that having new perspectives in the field will make the field better,’ he said. ‘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 article points out that the website for Princeton’s own Classics Department features a statement on “diversity and equity:”

“The history of our own department bears witness to the place of Classics in the long arc of systemic racism. Our department is housed in a building named after Moses Taylor Pyne, the University benefactor whose family wealth was directly tied to the misery of enslaved laborers on Cuban sugar plantations. This same wealth underwrote the acquisition of the Roman inscriptions that the department owns and that are currently installed on the third floor of Firestone Library. Standing only a few meters from our offices and facing towards Firestone is a statue of John Witherspoon, the University’s slave-owning sixth president and a stalwart anti-abolitionist, leaning on a stack of books, one of which sports the name “Cicero.” So great a fan was Witherspoon of the Roman orator and politician that he named his nearby estate—where he regularly hosted George and Martha Washington after purchasing two enslaved people as farm-hands—Tusculum.”

“The politics of race underlies so much of U.S. political history,” Princeton Politics Professor Frances Lee told the Princeton Alumni Weekly, adding that there is “a wide array of intellectual questions as well as subjects that you need to understand if you want to understand politics at its core.”

Students who choose the non-Latin and Greek track will need to fulfill three main requirements: take the introductory core course “Race and Politics in the United States”; complete three other courses from the 14 focused on race and identity; and incorporate the theme as part of the senior thesis.

Read the full National Review Online article here.

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