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Howard University plans to dissolve its classics department, the only classics department at a historically Black college or university in the country, according to the Society for Classical Studies.

The society’s Board of Directors said in an April 16 statement that it had recently received word from the department that Howard decided to close it “as part of its prioritization efforts.”

The statement quotes a message the society received from the department, which reported that Howard “is currently negotiating with the faculty of Classics and with other units in the College as to how they might best reposition and repurpose our programs and personnel. These discussions have been cordial, and the faculty remains hopeful that the department can be kept intact at some level, with its faculty and programs still in place.”

Cornel West, a professor of the practice in public philosophy at Harvard University, and Jeremy Tate, the founder and chief executive officer of the Classic Learning Test, lamented the planned dissolution of Howard’s classics department in an op-ed in The Washington Post Monday, describing it as a “spiritual catastrophe.”

A Howard spokeswoman declined to comment.