March 21, 2018
Advocating for the Humanities in D.C.
By Shilo Rea
Earlier this month, the National Humanities Alliance held their annual meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Carnegie Mellon University’s David Shumway and Christopher Warren participated in the events aimed at advocating for federally funded humanities programs.
“Since its founding, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has received support from presidents of both parties, but the two most recent budgets from the White House have proposed eliminating the NEH,” said Warren, associate professor of English in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “The NEH is the only entity, federal or private, with a national mandate to ensure all Americans have access to the humanities. In some fundamental ways, my scholarship, my career, my patterns of thought, my most basic ways of making meaning in the world, would not be what they are without the NEH, and I feel bound to do my part to advocate for its survival.”
Shumway, professor of English and director of CMU’s Humanities Center, and Warren joined more than 200 other humanists from around the country. Their involvement highlights CMU’s strong standing in the humanities. Faculty and students within the Departments of English, History, Modern Languages and Philosophy focus on teaching and learning deep intellectual knowledge as well as developing useful, practical skills.
One of Warren’s projects, Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, received NEH funding. The interactive online tool allows anyone to trace the personal relationships among figures like Bacon, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and many others.
“Six Degrees wouldn't be what it is without the NEH,” Warren said. “In the last year alone, Six Degrees has enriched its data, enhanced users’ experience, integrated with other digital resources, identified and partnered with institutional homes for long-term preservation and packaged and distributed website code so that scholars can create similar networks for different eras and regions.”
Shumway spoke about the importance of the NEH Challenge Grant that the Humanities Center received in 2005, which provided it with its endowment.
“Without this grant, it is very likely that the center would not have continued to exist,” Shumway said. “Because of it, we are able to support not only the humanities on campus, but also to make the humanities available to the general public through the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival and the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival.”
Shumway also talked about the value of Fulbright/Hays programs, which enable international exchange for faculty, graduate students, and recent college graduates.
“Our hope is that our congressional delegation will recognize the value of the NEH and Fulbright/Hays, and support the funding of these programs, which President Trump wants to eliminate. They represent a tiny portion of the federal budget, but they generate great return on the investment,” said Shumway, who was a Fulbright Fellow teaching in Spain in 2013.
The advocacy seems to have worked. On March 21, Congress released their spending deal, which includes $3 million in increased NEH funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2018 and other increases for humanities-related initiatives and programs.
Pictured above are Laura Hortz Stanton (The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts), Amardeep Singh (Lehigh), Steven Weitzman (Penn), Christopher Warren (CMU), David Shumway (CMU), Andrew McGee (Library of Congress and former CMU) and Dan Kubis (Pitt). Photo courtesy of Chris Carter.