Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Professors get $1 million to apply ‘critical race studies’ to the classics

Princeton professor has criticized ‘whiteness’ in classics

Critical race theory will be applied to the classics thanks to a $1 million grant given to two Ivy League professors.

The Mellon Foundation granted the funds to Brown University Professor Sasha-Mae Eccleston and Dan-el Peralta, a Princeton University professor, for their “Racing the Classics” fellowship.

Neither responded to two emailed requests for comment sent in the past two weeks. The College Fix asked for more information on the program, including if the goal was to inspire activism against current representations of classics.

Specifically, The Fix asked about a failed effort at Brown to remove Greek and Roman statues on campus because they represented white supremacy. Activists called their campaign “one step in a broader project of decolonization by confronting Brown’s institutional and ideological legacies of colonialism and white supremacy.”

The fellowship program, which will begin in 2025, continues a project the two began with a conference in 2017.

“The inaugural event invited participants to unabashedly center race and ethnicity in their research in order to counter the dangerously universalizing pretensions of ‘Western Civilization’ and other white supremacist ideologies suffusing the academy,” a description states.

It is the latest part of their scholarship to study race and the classics.

Eccleston (pictured, left) “directs the Critical Classical Studies Postdoctoral/Post-MFA Fellowship Program,’ according to her university bio. Padilla (pictured, right) is critical of “whiteness” in the classics.

The new program will be a “multi-year fellowship program designed to mentor graduate students and early career researchers of the ancient Mediterranean as they center critical race studies in their scholarship and teaching,” according to a Princeton announcement.

The pair said their work is important, particularly during a time of “multi-pronged and multi-dimensional assaults against racialized communities, and on the teaching of race and settler-colonialism.”

Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber personally endorsed the project. “The proposed program will transform the study of classics in significant ways and build a sustainable community of scholars committed to inclusive and collaborative scholarship,” the president said.

The university’s classics department removed the Greek and Latin requirement from the major to combat “systemic racism,” as previously reported by The Fix.

“By providing scholars from historically minoritized groups and those committed to the project’s priorities with the support of a community, Racing the Classics aims to contribute to the demographic transformation of the professoriate in classics,” the Princeton news release states.

Classics have ‘universal’ value, professor says

But a political scientist at Boise State University questioned the value of the program.

“We turn to the classics in order to have our prejudices challenged, not simply to confirm them,” Professor Scott Yenor told The Fix via email. “The classics among the Greeks spoke to the universal in man, not to the particularities that obsess us today.”

“Clearly it is the job of teachers to ensure that minorities and really all students take the ideas of the great authors seriously, instead of only paying attention to our strange obsession with race and ethnicity,” Yenor said.

“When race is so elevated, the results are predictable: The classics are corrupted and no one will be better off for it.”

MORE: U. Florida class examines ‘white terror’ in Frankenstein

IMAGES: Brown University; Princeton University

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.

About the Author
College Fix contributor Brandy Perez is a student at the University of Alabama, where she is studying in Public Relations with a minor in Public Policy. Her involvement in politics stems from her experience growing up on the Texas-Mexico border, where she observed first hand the impact of public policy in her community. She has been a part of multiple political campaigns, and served in the 88th Texas Legislature.