The teaching of Classical Archaeology and Ancient Culture at the University of Helsinki must continue!

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Helsinki has announced that the long-standing lectureship in Classical Archaeology and Ancient Culture will not be filled when its current holder retires this year. Those of us who have signed this petition plead that a new lector should be chosen to fill the position and continue its vital academic mission.

The lectureship is crucial to the academic integrity of the university, as the teaching of Graeco-Roman material culture not only supports and complements many other fields of study, but also plays a unique role in helping us to understand our broader cultural heritage. Competent teaching in the field has also provided the necessary groundwork for many high-profile international projects of the Faculty of Arts, and for research conducted at the Finnish Institutes in Rome, Athens, and even further afield in the Middle East. Experts trained in the field at the University of Helsinki have also played a central role in well-regarded exhibits popularizing antiquities research and its role in today’s world.

In Finland, the material culture of classical antiquity has been taught on a part-time basis since the 1780’s, and on a full-time basis since the 1980’s, at both the universities of Helsinki and Oulu. However, the lectureship in Oulu was not filled after the office holder retired in 2014, since when the lectureship at the University of Helsinki has been the sole representative of the field in Finland, offering a broad and inclusive range of teaching in the material culture of classical antiquity.

By abandoning the lectureship in Graeco-Roman material culture, the University of Helsinki will erode one of the fundamental aspects of education and research in the humanities. Such a decision would leave Finland alone amongst its Scandinavian brethren in not supporting the field, and render the university increasingly isolated both in Europe and further abroad. It would also undermine the work of decades strengthening the Finnish presence in the foreign community of classical studies, essentially eliminating the possibility to responsibly train future participants and leaders in scientific projects. However, with only a minor financial commitment to filling the current position, the University of Helsinki could ensure the continuation of a tradition that will provide the expertise needed to support its national and international academic mission as a champion of humanities studies.

We therefore urge the Dean to reconsider the decision, to stay the course, and to maintain the future of the broad scope of classical studies at the University of Helsinki.