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CAA Participates in Humanities Advocacy Day 2014

posted by Michael Fahlund — Mar 21, 2014

Humanities Advocacy Day 2014, sponsored by the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), took place in Washington, DC, on Monday and Tuesday, March 10 and 11, 2014. As a member of NHA, CAA supports that organization’s advocacy efforts and sends representatives to its annual meeting each year. CAA’s participation in these activities allows the association to promote the visual arts and to persuade others—in this case the members of both houses of Congress—to embrace the value of the humanities in education and in daily life.

The annual meeting on Monday included an opening welcome by George Washington University’s president, Steven Knapp, followed by a presentation by Stephen Kidd, NHA executive director, outlining the alliance’s advocacy agenda for the year. Knapp introduced additional speakers whose interests and projects intersect with the NHA’s four-pronged argument for stressing the value of the humanities: promoting opportunity for all Americans, fostering innovation and economic competitiveness, ensuring productive global engagement, and strengthening civic knowledge and practice. Knapp also identified two initiatives outside Congress to promote the humanities in the public sphere: Humanities Working Groups for Community Impact (see item 5) and Call for Videos. Aimed directly at the public rather than elected officials, these initiatives will help to establish to those outside the academy that the humanities are an area worth funding.

David Scobey, executive dean of the New School for Public Engagement, presented a talk called “E Pluribus Anthology: Why American Communities Need the Humanities,” which advocated a return to civic engagement as a way of reigniting the humanities. Carol Muller, professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed a community project that she directs, West Philadelphia Music, which amplified Scobey’s argument. Other speakers during the day included Elva LeBlanc, president of the Northwest Campus of Tarrant County College, who spoke on the relevancy of higher education and the importance of preparing students for change and complexity; and Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System. In the afternoon, Humanities Advocacy Day participants received issue briefs and background material concerning proposed funding levels for federal humanities programs and position papers that were helpful in preparing for congressional visits.

On Tuesday, six NHA delegates from the state of New York (listed in the next paragraph) visited the offices of Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer and Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Tom Reed, and José E. Serrano. In each instance, the group urged senators and representatives to support specific fiscal-year budgets for the National Endowment for the Humanities ($154.4 million), the Institute for Museum and Library Services ($226.5 million), and the Library of Congress ($593 million), and to properly fund the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and Title VI/Fulbright-Hays international programs. NHA delegates also asked their legislators to sign “Dear Colleague” letters in support of these budgets based on the alliance’s funding recommendations, which are higher than those proposed by the Obama administration.

The New York delegates from NHA were: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director of scholarly communication for the Modern Language Association; Peter Berkery Jr., executive director of the Association of American University Presses; Jennifer Steenshorne, junior associate editor for Columbia University Libraries; Jonathan Gilad, program assistant at the American Political Science Association; Michael Fahlund, CAA deputy director; and Betty Leigh Hutcheson, CAA director of publications.