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Advocacy Briefs: AHA Leads in Fight against Budget Cuts, Restrictions on Academic Freedom

AHA Staff, September 2017

The American Historical Association continues to speak out on local, national, and international issues related to academic freedom and financial support for historical work. The Association’s advocacy draws on the collective efforts of its membership and a robust network of concerned humanities organizations, such as the National Coalition for History and the Center for International Education. In recent months, our coordinated efforts have successfully defended history and the work of historians as scholars, teachers, and engaged citizens. Please visit our Statements and Resolutions of Support and Protest to read our statements and letters in full.

Protesting Restrictions on K–12 Curriculum in Arkansas

On April 3, 2017, AHA executive director James Grossman wrote a letter to Arkansas leaders asking them to reject House Bill 1834, which would have excluded from public school “curriculum or course materials . . . books or any other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn.” Grossman denounced the measure as an “egregious micromanagement of the work of Arkansas teachers.” Thankfully, the measure was dropped shortly afterward.

Standing Up for Central European University

On April 5, 2017, the AHA sent a letter to President János Áder of Hungary opposing legislation passed by the Hungarian parliament that targets Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. The legislation restricts CEU’s institutional autonomy, thereby undermining the university’s mission to further international scholarly collaboration. The AHA’s letter urged President Áder to preserve international cooperation and the integrity of a national and international educational resource by refraining from signing the legislation. Although Áder signed the legislation, CEU has announced that it will remain operational through the 2017–18 academic year, as officials negotiate an arrangement to comply with the new law while keeping the institution’s presence in Hungary.

Defending International Education and Foreign Language Studies Programs

On April 6, 2017, the AHA Council signed on to a letter from the Coalition for International Education urging members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to reject the Trump administration’s proposal threatening to reduce or eliminate funding for the US Department of Education’s International Education and Foreign Language Studies Programs. After this mobilization, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill on May 4, 2017, which kept these programs funded at previous levels through September 30.

Supporting Federal Humanities Programs

Following the Trump administration’s proposals to eliminate funding for programs imperative to the work of historians, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, Title VI, and Fulbright-Hays, the AHA issued action alerts on March 16 and May 23 calling on members to express their concerns by contacting their congressional representatives. (Read the message on AHA Today.) Our early efforts were rewarded when the FY17 omnibus appropriations bill, passed on May 4, 2017, included a modest increase in the NEH budget through September 30. As the appropriations process begins for FY18, however, and the threat against humanities programs renews, the AHA will mobilize our partners and members again to resist any cuts.


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