In building and promoting Humanities for All, we've had a unique opportunity to reflect on public engagement. We have learned from all who are involved in publicly engaged humanities work, and shared their voices in profiles of their work and in essays that consider trends in the field. Expanding upon this work, we are delighted to announce the launch of the Humanities for All blog, which invites others to reflect in their own words on their work and promising models and trends in the field.
In early April, we launched a survey that asked humanities organizations to share the challenges they are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Museums, historic sites, and historical societies told us that closing their doors and canceling major events has led to major financial stress, leading them to face lay-offs and the possibility that they won’t survive as organizations.
Each year, a key part of the appropriations process is Dear Colleague Letters. These letters, circulated each March, are written to request a certain amount of appropriations funding for agencies and policy priorities. The letters then receive sign ons from Members of Congress who wish to add their support to specific funding requests.
Our recent Humanities Recruitment Survey (HRS) revealed a consensus among faculty and administrators across institution types that “student concerns about job prospects” is the most influential challenge to attracting undergraduates to the humanities. Over the past year, we’ve been updating the career outcomes data in our Study the Humanities toolkit and collecting effective strategies for articulating career pathways for humanities students. Anticipating that student anxieties will weigh even heavier amidst the economic fallout of the pandemic, we’ve been reaching out to leaders in this field to understand how they are adapting. Kirstin Wilcox, founding director of the University of Illinois’ Humanities Professional Resource Center (HPRC), offered her take.
Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Albert Murray are three literary legends of the twentieth century, pivotal to the Harlem Renaissance, Modernism, and cultural theory. Each of these authors spent their formative years in HBCUs, and have artistic and biographical ties to Tuskegee University and Macon County, Alabama—a region that serves as a backdrop to and central inspiration for their works.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten and disrupt our lives, we look toward an uncertain future for higher education. However the crisis unfolds, it seems clear that our society will need humanities education more than ever, but securing support for it will be even more difficult in the face of enormous financial challenges. We must reverse the decline in humanities majors and enrollments to preserve humanities education and prepare students to tackle the complex challenges we face.
As Congress begins to consider additional COVID-19 relief funding packages, we are calling on humanities advocates to contact their Members of Congress this week to urge additional relief funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. While we are very grateful for $75 million awarded to the NEH in the CARES Act, currently available funding will cover only a fraction of the needed assistance.