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.
Update, March 23, 2020: Yesterday afternoon, Republican leadership in the Senate released a draft stimulus bill that included only $100 million in spending for the NEH (and an equal amount for the NEA). Later that afternoon, negotiations on that draft bill broke down due to a range of bigger differences, and a vote on a Senate bill has been postponed as negotiations continue. Meanwhile, the House is beginning to draft its own bill rather than waiting to respond to the Senate bill. We expect the House to release its bill later today.
Additionally, last night Reps. David Price and Chellie Pingree sent a letter to House leadership requesting $500 million in stimulus funding for the NEH. Please join Reps. Price and Pingree and take action to let your Members of Congress know you support stimulus funding for the NEH.
We are looking forward to kicking off this year’s NHA Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day with a deep dive into undergraduate recruitment strategies. We’ll begin by sharing what we learned about recruitment challenges at nearly 300 diverse institutions through our 2019 Humanities Recruitment Survey, as well as the audiences faculty and administrators are engaging with to overcome these challenges. Next, we’ll showcase categories and subcategories of effective approaches surfaced through this research and associated outreach—including articulating career pathways, curricular innovations, and marketing strategies. Participants will work together to develop strategies after hearing leaders of noteworthy initiatives reflect upon their experiences.
Every March, we organize Humanities Advocacy Day to ensure that Members of Congress hear from their constituents about the value of federal funding for the humanities. For first time advocates, walking through the marble halls of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Hill’s largest congressional office building, can be intimidating. And meeting with your Member of Congress to ask them for millions of dollars for the National Endowment for the Humanities can be even more so.
The Mastheads, a public humanities organization in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was founded in 2016 with a goal of connecting Pittsfield residents to the literary heritage of the region, cultivating pride in place, and supporting the production of new creative work. This mission grew out of the challenges Pittsfield has faced since General Electric, the major employer, left the region. To bring together diverse groups to celebrate Pittsfield as a site of cultural and artistic production, the organization has collaborated with a variety of community organizations—from the library to the local farmers market, to groups looking to support and improve their local neighborhoods—since its inception.
How can we build support for publicly engaged humanities work at our universities and colleges?
Before kicking off the 2019 National Humanities Conference in Honolulu, we hosted a pre-conference workshop to address this question with over 100 humanities scholars, administrators, and association leaders.