Humanities Advocacy Day 2012

In tight budget years, the work of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) becomes even more important. As the federal budget has seen drastic cuts to discretionary domestic spending, the NHA has spearheaded advocacy efforts to maintain and protect the federal agencies and programs that support the humanities.

On March 19-20, Alliance members and friends gathered in Washington, DC, to take the message to Congress: the humanities strengthen our republic culturally and economically, supporting our civic society and our security. AAUP has long been a supporter of the NHA and Humanities Advocacy Day, and is joined in this by a number of associate AAUP members, including the American Historical Society, the Modern Language Association, and the Society of Biblical Literature.

The numbers we talk about in Washington are tiny in the context of the federal budget. The Fiscal Year 2013 budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that is being requested by the Obama Administration and supported by the NHA is $154.3 million (which includes $3 million set aside for the administrative costs of moving the NEH from its long-time space in the Old Post Office). However, each federal dollar of humanities support given in grants to state humanities councils or competitive projects leveraged more than $5 at the local level last year. These dollars often mean jobs, and reach to every congressional district in the union.

Support on the Hill this year for the NEH was both clear, and qualified. It will be a tough budget fight given both the economic climate and the election calendar. However, the support shown by NHA members, and by supporters contacting representatives regularly, may help us preserve the capacity of the NEH to support work in our communities.

A much more difficult task will be protecting the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NHPRC is vitally important to the kind of work supported by university presses, particularly scholarly editions of the papers of public figures, as well as the preservation of local archives—the very meat of many scholars' work. However, the NHA is fighting an uphill battle to maintain funding for this office at $5 million, an amount that merely enables the continued maintenance of existing grants and administration after already significant recent cuts. The Administration's budget calls for only $3 million, "an amount that will not support the ongoing programs and mission of the Commission at even a minimal level," according to the National Coalition for History.

More than 250 individuals went in person to congressional offices this March to argue on behalf of the NHPRC, the NEH, foreign language teaching programs, and graduate fellowships. The NHA and humanities supporters around the country continue working towards our modest but necessary goals to keep these programs strong. Readers can take action as well, through the NHA's Online Action Center.

Brenna McLaughlin
Director of Marketing and Communications, AAUP