Greek Studies at La Trobe University will be enhanced assures Professor Christopher Mackie, Head of School of Historical and European Studies, in an attempt to allay fears that the Modern Greek Studies Program faces “imminent” closure.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos, in the presence of Dr Maria Herodotou, Head of the Modern Greek Studies Program, and Mr Mark Pearce, Director for Media and Communication, Professor Mackie analysed his vision for the future of Greek Studies at La Trobe which, if successful, will ensure its longevity.

“My intention is that Modern Greek will survive and be enhanced,” he stressed, countering the view that the attempted shift of focus from the Modern to the Ancient Greek Studies threatens the future of Modern Greek Studies at La Trobe, expressed by Dr Herodotou. An accomplished scholar of international reputation, Professor Mackie aspires to rebuild Greek Studies at La Trobe University by combining Ancient and Modern Greek Studies in a module of Mediterranean Studies to be introduced in the new academic year.

“My appointment was intended to increase the profile of teaching Greek and to enhance what we currently do in Modern Greek. My scholarly area is Ancient Greek Studies and my intention is to build the Ancient Greek profile to enhance what we are currently doing with the Modern Greek program. That is my vision for the future,” he said. “My vision of Greek Studies is much broader than just the contemporary sphere; it extends from Linear B through to Modern Greek. That is what I want to see. I want to see Greek taught from the earliest time to the contemporary Greek. I never said I was not interested in Modern Greek times,” he added.

Also a realist, Professor Mackie knows the materialization of his vision will depend wholly on future demand given that La Trobe, like all other tertiary level institutions in the land, support profitable studies.

“Money flows to where students are. Bums on seats. Humanities are struggling. The languages areas are struggling. It is an extremely difficult operation, hence my attempt to enhance Greek Studies at La Trobe in order to insure its longevity,” he explained. Professor Mackie rejects the fears expressed by Dr Herodotou, that the Modern Greek Studies Program at La Trobe faces “imminent danger” of closure.

Dr Herodotou worries the shift of focus from Modern to Ancient Greek will lead to the closure of the program. Her fears emanate from the decision of the university to make redundant the position of Despina Michael, a lecturer attached to the program. In a speech at a Greek Community function she expressed the fear that “If the appointment is not renewed, half of the program will cease to exist and consequently the remaining will become unviable”.

Professor Mackie disagrees with his colleague’s assessment and makes no apologies for his decision to combine Ancient and Modern Greek Studies. “I make no apologies for trying to put my vision in place, because that is what I said in my interview, I talked to the Greek Consul, to the Greek Ambassador, to Dr Maria Herodotou and others. I repeat, I want to see Greek taught from the earliest times to the contemporary Greek”.

In regards to the discontinuation of Despina Michael’s contract, the university’s decision is irreversible. Professor Mackie informed Neos Kosmos she has been replaced by another Greek Studies scholar, Dr Gillian Shepherd from the University of Birmingham.

“The position will allow us to concentrate on the area of ancient Greek Studies much more broadly than is currently the case,” he said.

The future of the Greek Studies Program at La Trobe is raised in a letter from the president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Mr Bill Papastergiadis. The president of the Greek Community calls on the University to reverse its decision to terminate Despina Michaels’ contract because the termination “will jeopardize the continuation of the Greek Studies Program at La Trobe University”.