Ab collegio condito ad praesentem.
The Classics Students’ Union was founded at least as early as 2003, under the name of Association of Classics Students. Our sources from that earlier incarnation remain fragmented, with only one whole text remaining preserved—but ignored—by the department. In the later Dark Ages, one ember was reignited by Maya Chakravorty, in the form of the Oral Reading Club, which started in September 2011, and has performed many times. In the Fall of 2013, the ACS held its first full election in years, and began its journey towards full course unionhood, re-established by Maya Chakravorty.
In its first year, the ACS rejoined the Arts and Science Students’ Union, held several movie nights, a trivia event, a board games day, and Vinum et Virgilium, a social event presented with Prof. Alison Keith, in which she declaimed from Vergil and shared her insight into the text at a true symposium.
On 27 March 2014, at its first Spring Election, the ACS general membership approved a name change as a part of a reform slate to modernize the union, and thus CLASSU was born.
Over the summer, the new Summer Senate worked on a new constitution, as well as other initiatives/plans, and participated for the first time in the UTSU’s Clubs Fair and Street Festival. CLASSU also gained access to the lounge on its own as well as to its Office (LI 009A).
On 25 September 2014, at its Fall Elections, CLASSU approved a new—and ever-evolving—constitution, which thoroughly revamped its structure, electoral processes, and portfolio system to allow for a consensus-based, non-hierarchical model.
CLASSU successfully reprised various events and added academic seminars to its calendar–in November CLASSU hosted U of T’s own Professor Kevin Wilkinson, in January 2015 a talk with Graduate Students Bradley Hald and Marion Durand of the Classics Graduate Student Executive, and lastly Dr. Elizabeth Greene of Western in March. The Classics Students’ Union held also its first undergraduate conference in March of 2015, with the papers presented to be printed in the first issue of its journal, Plebeian.
CLASSU also set up new services: midterm and syllabus banks, compiled a Handbook for Classics Students, and began the process of pushing through a name change to the confusing “Classics” major subject POSt. CLASSU also supported the CUPE local 3902 Unit 1 members (TAs, course instructors, graders) when they went on strike on 27 February 2015 for a living wage and fair negotiations, and joined them on the picket lines on what ended up being the last day of the strike, 26 March 2015.
For all its efforts in revitalizing and improving the union as well as activism in promoting itself, promoting ASSU, and keeping its students in the loop/informed of movements, the Arts and Science Students’ Union awarded CLASSU the Sanjeev (Sanj) Dewitt Course Union of the Year Award, which is now on display in the CLASSU office.
CLASSU found itself with a new, mutually-interested relationship with the Classics Grad Students’ Union after the strike. This has led to greater connection between the two groups. CLASSU’s Timetable Watch also traces its inception to the Post-Strike period. We met with success through the distribution of Plebeian Volume I at the E.J. Pratt Library, running through our supply of 120 journals much more quickly than had been anticipated (there are still a few left in the CLASSU Lounge at time of writing). CLASSU further increased its logo-presence by creating a banner in lieu of the cardboard one on offer at prior Club days.
The elections for 2015-2016 went off well, with many members being re-elected. CLASSU also introduced nominations forms and proper ballots to its electoral process. Plans for the Fall and a new guidebook for future Senates were also worked on between then and September, in addition to further constitutional reforms. CLASSU had its first-ever First Year Orientation, where Senate members gave a quick tour of Vic, SMC, and the Department. We also partnered with Prof. Akrigg to host a second year welcome-to-the-programme party.
CLASSU next looked at a variety of ways to put its Award money to good use. After narrowly avoiding a sketchy website purchase, CLASSU obtained a projector for the Lounge to pair it with the screen that was kicking around for the previous year. This led to two successful TV show series screenings—the BBC’s I, Claudius, and Plebs throughout the Fall and Winter terms respectively.
Proud of the success from Plebeian Volume I, but cognizant of the challenges it had faced, a call for Editors outside of the Senate was put out in November. CLASSU received many applications both for Editorial positions, and papers when a call for them was subsequently made. During this time, CLASSU memes became a common occurance, to the joy of some and horror of others. Also in November, CLASSU resurrected two great moments from March 2014—the return of Prof. Keith as host of Vinum et Vergilius and a second order of 350 buttons, bigger and bluer than ever (available in the Lounge)!
In January, at our regular term GM, the Cake Committee came back in full force, buying three cakes. This meeting was also successful in establishing the Ideal Ratio, CAKESSU, and FACTSSU. January also saw the beginnings of collaborations with the History Students’ Association, which led to a successful talk on urbanism in Ancient Rome and Renaissance Florence. This was a strong lead-up to our second annual conference, now titled “The Assembly of the Plebs.” This was a huge success, with around forty attendees and catering sponsored by ASSU. The Journal Publishing Committee worked their magic the next day, and sent off Plebeian Vol. II to our new printer, Coach House Press. CLASSU next partnered with Prof. Akrigg and Prof. Bruun to run a first-year programme info session and help promote the fourth-year mock-graduation party. CLASSU’s two-term president, Taylor Stark, also won the Katharine Ball Graduating Course Union Member Award, cementing a second year of being an award-winning students’ union.
Finally, Plebeian Vol. II was successfully launched at CLASSU’s Long-Awaited Spring Spectacular 4 U! We also had our elections, yet another referendum, and a cake with the journal cover printed on it. Plebeian are available in the Lounge and again at the E.J. Pratt Library. The Summer Senate elected at these elections will be responsible for the latest major initiative undertaken by CLASSU: a Dept. of Classics Anti-Calendar. Surveys were done in the last week of March as part of a pilot project, and the results are published in the CLASSU Anti-Calendar. Further surveys were conducted throughout the summer of 2016, and those have been added in as well.
CLASSU began developing a peer mentorship programme, as well as hosting a second successful First Year Orientation in early September 2016, further adding to the ways that the Union has tried to provide support for its students. Building on these information initiatives, throughout the 2016-2017 year, members of the CLASSU executive took to helping with the overhaul of the Department website, which got a fancy upgrade in its interface. CLASSU wanted to also give a bit of a refresh to the information on the undergraduate page, which will soon be updated. In addition, the redesign better integrated CLASSU into the structure. The Senate was also pleased to notice that there was a greater awareness of CLASSU’s existence on campus at all levels—within the undergraduate community in and beyond the Department, with the graduate students, with faculty, and within the larger Arts and Science community.
Building on past successes with greater integration with graduate students, CLASSU co-hosted another academic seminar with graduate students, followed by a Grad Student Meet ‘n’ Greet, which assisted our students to better get to know their graders, instructors, and senior colleagues, as well as providing insight into undertaking graduate studies. Later in the term, CLASSU undertook to try out giving away $500 of pub food and beer—it was a good success! Helping to round out the suite of events in the Fall was a Life of Brian movie night—a Classic by any standard. Fall 2016 also saw the advent of TeaSSU—a study space with tea and the installation of a kettle and tea when the office was open.
In the Lounge, there were several improvements this past year. Starting with a gift from the incoming Vice-President, Samantha Mazzilli, in April 2016, the questionable pillows of FACTSSU fame were replaced with the cheery colours of IKEA. The FACTSSU were posted in the Fall for all to see by the President, Willem Crispin-Frei. Our signage within the Lounge got an upgrade thanks to the truly kallos calligraphy of Sophia Alkhoury. In addition, the Fall term saw the addition of a second library shelf, which has allowed an expansion of our holdings. Lastly, in April, some new chairs were scored from the Department of University Affairs and Advancement to replace the incredibly creaky swivel chairs in the CLASSU Office. At the time of writing, the Senate is still unsure as to what they do, though the previous interlopers from that quadrant of the building, infamous for using our basement toilets, seem to have ceased intruding on our space.
A second member was added to the CLASSU Pantheon at the Senate’s December Mega Meeting-former CLASSU President Taylor Stark was deified as Divus Starchus by decree of the Senate. After surviving a second round of Senate Bonding Battle Archery in January, CLASSU brought back TeaSSU on Valentine’s Day as Tea(r)SSU—for those whose dates were textbooks (and others who liked tea!). March 2017 was an incredibly busy month for CLASSU, from the third undergraduate conference, the Assembly of the Plebs III (technically the second of its name, but the third conference nonetheless), was hosted in the Department on 10 March 2017. The week before, the first successful Trivia event in a while was also held. Following that, there was the academic seminar on Latin Semantics in Farming Vocabulary with Professor Welsh, and then a successful Backpacks to Briefcases event the week after. We also ran an About the Programme lunch with the Undergraduate Co-ordinator Eph Lytle in addition to having informational interviews with prospective programme majors and minors.
In 2017, at the Arts and Science Students’ Union’s end-of-year party, two members of the Classics Department received awards. With a nomination from ten students, Professor Alison Keith was awarded the Ranjini (Rini) Ghosh Excellence in Teaching Award for her diligence and care for her students. President Willem Crispin-Frei became the second outgoing CLASSU President to receive the Katharine Ball Graduating Course Union Member Award in addition to status as runner-up for the Gavin Nowlan On-Campus Leadership award, helping to enhance CLASSU’s reputation as a leading course union within ASSU.
Under a revised Editorial Board structure, Plebeian Volume III came out on 30 March 2017 at CLASSU’s Year-End Social and Elections, which, seemingly for the first time in a long time, did not have a referendum. Iain Wilson, our inveterate CRO, served his final term as CLASSU’s CRO, a post which he had held since March 2014. Also at this Social, the fruits of another CLASSU labour were unveiled. Earlier in the term, the Senate put out a survey regarding interest in purchasing some form of merchandise for the department given the dearth of items available through the University. In the end, CLASSU ordered 40 hoodies, 29 pre-ordered, and 11 for sale. The original run has now all but sold out, and there has been continued interest at the undergrad, graduate, and faculty level for a second production and opportunity for ordering hoodies. The all-important CAKESSU tradition was maintained as the President and Vice-President upped the ante by baking a cake in the shape of the CLASSU logo for the social.
The next day saw the eighth Oral Reading Club performance, brought back after a long hiatus, which was followed, as custom demanded, by the Department End-of-Term party. Despite Professor and Chair Christer Bruun’s sabbatical, the tradition of presenting graduating Classics students was preserved, with Professor Lytle handing out the solemn diplomas on his and Acting Chair Professor Keith’s behalves. Finally, CLASSU continued running Exam Jams and provided solid representation and participation at various ASSU Council and Department meetings this year. This year also marks the end of the era of members of the Association of Classics Students—Toby Keymer, having served four years on CLASSU in various roles (Senator, Secretary, and lately Treasurer), has retired, but will return to succeed Willem Crispin-Frei as Editor-in-Chief of Plebeian Volume IV. Hadley Staite, who served 3.5 years as a Member-at-Large, then Senator, and in the end as Divus Hadleus, retired from the Senate at the end of Summer 2016. Finally, three-term Vice-President and one-time President Willem Crispin-Frei is (finally) leaving, with full confidence in the continuation of this strong course union, now freed from the oldies leaving.