College Art Association

CAA News Today

Anne Collins Goodyear, curator of prints and drawings at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, is the president of the CAA Board of Directors, and Hannah O’Reilly Malyn is CAA development associate.

Anne Collins Goodyear and Hannah O’Reilly Malyn attended a day of meetings and panel discussions presented by the National Humanities Alliance (NHA). This year’s annual event, held on March 18, 2013, in Washington, DC, addressed the practical need for continued support of humanities education and research and the importance of quantifying the benefits of such, as well as highlighting the Clemente Course in the Humanities program, an endeavor that illustrates the impact of humanities learning on people from all walks of life. These discussions helped prepare participants for Humanities Advocacy Day, taking place on Capitol Hill the following day.

CAA is a member of NHA, which advocates federal funding of the humanities. In addition to its annual meeting, NHA organizes Humanities Advocacy Day, which brings critical information to participants and prepares them for congressional visits to support the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Fulbright Program, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and numerous Department of Education programs in the humanities.

The day began with a keynote address by Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, whose talk centered around the question “Are the Humanities Worth It?” and touched on demonstrating the tangible benefits derived from studying the humanities. She discussed the significance of understanding other cultures as we progress toward globalization and a world society, especially the ways in which humanists can help people respond to the social changes brought on by technological advances. Paxson stressed that we must train people not just with the immediately necessary skills for employment, which devalue over time, but also with the creativity to work in a rapidly changing world. She also revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the average lifetime incomes of people with bachelor’s degrees in the humanities are not much lower than those of people with bachelor’s degrees in STEM subjects, and noted that people with humanities degrees are more likely to pursue higher education above the bachelor’s.

The keynote address was followed by a panel on making the case for federal humanities funding, which consisted of six individuals: Stephen Kidd, executive director of NHA; Esther Mackintosh, president of the Federation of State Humanities Councils; Ben Kershaw, assistant director of congressional relations at the American Alliance of Museums; Lee White, executive director of the National Coalition for History; Miriam Kazanjian, consultant for the Coalition for International Education; and Mollie Benz Flounlacker, associate vice president for federal relations at the Association for American Universities. Continuing in the same line as Paxson’s talk, the panelists described the different government programs concerned with the humanities and what tactics are most effective in arguing for their continued funding—namely economic impact, the importance of creative thinking skills and well-rounded job candidates, and how the humanities relate to core American values such as citizenship and civic understanding and participation. The overarching message was that to remain competitive in the global economy, America must produce workers who are well rounded, creative, and able to interact effectively with stakeholders abroad. Panelists noted that bipartisan support for the humanities does exist in Congress so long as the emphasis is on the value created for communities and taxpayers.

Over lunch, Karl Eikenbarry, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, spoke about how the humanities were brought home for him in his work abroad. His anecdotes affirmed the advantages of learning foreign languages and cultures and endorsed the effective use of soft and hard power in diplomatic situations. Cultural diplomacy through touring symphonies, he said, is a reminder of US good will that can mitigate displays of military strength.

In the afternoon, a panel was held on advocacy infrastructure. John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, talked about a demand for new strategies in advocacy, particularly the year-round involvement of advocates at the state and local levels to truly involve elected officials in the humanities in their communities. Churchill introduced the new Phi Beta Kappa’s National Advocacy Initiative, which will pursue this goal through regional events and local member “emissaries” for the humanities. This was followed by presentations by Robert Townsend, deputy director of the American Historical Association, and Carolyn Fuqua, program associate for humanities at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on recent studies and data regarding the humanities. They discussed the Humanities Indicators project, which compiles data on the humanities as a whole, and noted interesting statistics such as the fact that humanities majors score better than business majors on management program entrance exams.

The day concluded with a presentation on the Clemente Course program. This program offers humanities classes to underserved demographics such as incarcerated adults, people in economically disadvantaged communities, and immigrants. Past participants testified to how these courses, which offer college credit upon completion, changed their lives and their worldviews. Star Perry, a program graduate, spoke about how the program increased her self-value, improved her job prospects, and inspired her children to attend college. Moise Koffi, another graduate, shared how he came to the US as a manual laborer and, because of the Clemente Courses, has completed his PhD and is now an engineer and a professor. Senators Richard Durbin and Elizabeth Warren also gave a few words about the program and the humanities as a whole.

The following day, Malyn represented CAA while visiting the offices of seven members of congress, traveling with a group of New York professionals that included advocates from the Modern Language Association, Cornell University, Columbia University, and Queensborough Community College, City University of New York. (As a federal employee, Goodyear is not eligible to participate in such visits.) Together, the group met with five congressional staffers to discuss the importance of continued humanities funding. Advocates also thanked longtime supporters for their ongoing efforts and encouraged newly elected officials to join the Congressional Humanities Caucus. Malyn also visited the offices of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) to update them on CAA’s work on fair use (i.e., its task force and conference session) and to distribute copies of CAA’s letter regarding the use of orphan works.