Each October, we celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month by calling attention to the many ways humanities research, teaching, and programs serve students and communities across the country.
By Emily McDonald and Younger Oliver
Advocacy on behalf of our cultural institutions is as crucial now as ever. The COVID-19 crisis has cast a shadow of deep uncertainty on all areas of American life, and how far these social and economic impacts may reach is still very much unknown. Over the past six months, we have been working to better understand the challenges humanities organizations are facing and how they are serving their communities in the face of crisis. We’ve found our peers are not only providing informative programming, but also extending their missions to serve their communities in creative ways. To fully capture the impact of this work, we have been partnering with humanities organizations across the country, leveraging the data collection resources we’ve developed at NHA, to highlight how humanities organizations serve as anchors in their communities during times of crisis.
This summer, we launched the Humanities for All blog to showcase publicly engaged humanities initiatives in the words of the faculty, staff, students, and community partners directly involved in the projects. Our September 8 post by Lillian Wilson focuses on the Wayne State Humanities Clinic, an innovative graduate internship program at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Twenty-three interns from the humanities and humanistic social sciences were matched with 25 non-profits and businesses that serve Detroit communities. In some cases, an interdisciplinary group or pair of interns worked with a single community partner.
We recently hosted a two-part webinar entitled Making the Case for Studying the Humanities in a Time of Crisis. For more than a year now, we’ve been researching the field of undergraduate humanities recruitment, identifying compelling initiatives, effective strategies, and leaders in the field. We gathered six of those leaders—three deans followed by three humanities center directors—to discuss how the pandemic, severely strained budgets, and the national reckoning with racial injustice are changing the context in which they work to attract more students to the humanities.
In August of 2019, NHA and Routledge, Taylor & Francis launched Publishing and the Publicly Engaged Humanities, a free-access collection of humanities articles and book chapters that feature public engagement. The collection, drawn from across the Taylor & Francis books and journals programs, illustrates a range of ways that publicly engaged scholarship can lead to—and enhance—publication. The initial collection included 10 publications, which we augmented twice to include new articles and book chapters.
On Wednesday, June 24, the National Humanities Alliance hosted a virtual briefing aimed at educating our members and congressional staffers on how humanities organizations are adapting to serve their communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I was joined in conversation by Vivé Griffith, director of outreach and engagement for The Clemente Course in the Humanities, and Katie Ringsmuth, project director and lead historian of the NN Cannery History Project. For both organizations, the difficulties of the past few months have emphasized what they already knew to be true: that the humanities have a significant role to play in bolstering community life and lending historical perspective. Though cultural organizations throughout the United States are struggling with the pandemic’s economic impact, they have a vital role in supporting us through the months to come.
The House appropriations subcommittees have been releasing their FY 2021 draft bills over the past week and several have now passed out of the full appropriations committee. We have been pleased to see proposed increases for all of our priorities in these bills. The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill included $170 million for the NEH, matching our request for a $7.75 million increase. The bill passed the full committee on a party-line vote of 30-19.
This past spring, when universities were shutting down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, ICE issued a temporary exemption, which allowed nonimmigrant international students to stay in the U.S. while their classes went virtual. On July 6, ICE issued a decision that would end temporary visa exemptions for immigrant students whose upcoming coursework will be entirely online.