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Advocacy Briefs: AHA Defends Humanities Funding and History Education

AHA Staff, May 2018

The AHA actively promoted history education and the protection of historical resources this spring. With federal appropriations season underway, the Association joined efforts to secure funding for critical federal programs in the humanities. In March, AHA president Mary Beth Norton issued two letters about developments that would negatively affect history education and research. She also joined a letter objecting to the Trump administration’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

Update on FY18 and FY19 Federal Funding for the Humanities

For the second year in a row, the Trump administration’s budget proposal recommended shuttering the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and drastically cutting funds for other federal humanities programs. In conjunction with our partner organizations and fellow scholarly societies, the AHA protested these cuts. Due in large part to the activism of individuals and groups across the country, congressional support for these programs is increasing. On March 23, Congress approved and President Trump signed an omnibus appropriations bill that includes either level funding or small increases for critical humanities programs. Notably, the NEH received an increase of $3 million. At press time, advocacy groups are working to continue this momentum with the FY19 appropriations.

Letter of Concern Regarding the 2020 Census

AHA president Mary Beth Norton signed a letter protesting a change that could “threaten to undermine the scientific integrity” of the 2020 Census. Representing the AHA, Norton joined numerous public policy and social science experts to explain how the decision to include a question about citizenship could “lead to a lower participation rate and substantial undercount of certain geographic regions and demographic populations.” 

Letter Protesting Access Restrictions at Phillips Library

AHA president Mary Beth Norton sent a letter to the director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, to raise concerns about plans that could reduce access to the Phillips Library. Norton encouraged the director to maintain adequate opening hours and retain knowledgeable staff to avoid disrupting access to the collection. 

Letter Regarding Proposed Elimination of the History Major at University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point

AHA president Mary Beth Norton sent a letter to administrators at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in response to the university’s announced plan to eliminate many majors, including history. Norton emphasized the valuable role that liberal arts generally, and history in particular, play in preparing students for careers. She noted that the plan contradicted the university chancellor’s goal of teaching students “to communicate well, solve problems, think critically and creatively, be analytical and innovative, and work well in teams.” 

AHA Joins Letter Supporting HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays Funding

On March 12, the AHA signed on to a letter from the Coalition for International Education (CIE) to urge congressional representatives to reject the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for HEA-Title VI and the Fulbright-Hays program. The letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees outlined the critical role that these international and language education programs play in “maintaining and strengthening [the United States’] ability for successful global engagement.” Thanks to the advocacy efforts of scholars across the country, these programs received level funding in the FY18 budget. 


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