Open Letter to Dr. Suresh Garimella, President of UVM

The New England Humanities Consortium opposes the proposed cuts to humanities and arts departments at the University of Vermont. To express and explain our strong condemnation of these budget proposals, we have written the below open letter to Dr. Suresh Garimella, President of the University of Vermont.


Dr. Suresh Garimella
President
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405

December 15, 2020

I am writing, on behalf of the New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC), of which UVM is a founding member, to protest, in the strongest possible terms, the proposed elimination of and consolidation of several humanities and arts departments at the University of Vermont.

Former President Obama recently noted that the nation is in the midst of an “epistemic crisis”—even as we face a devastating pandemic and unprecedented challenges to our electoral system. We understand that all institutions of higher education face terrible decisions because of the latter two crises.

But we also know that in order to solve the crisis of knowledge and truth eating away at the foundations of our democracy, our students—and the public at large—need the lessons we learn from the study of religion, languages, arts, classics and historical preservation. We can’t understand where we come from, what we value, and how we live while ignoring historic foundations, thinkers like Lao Tzu and Plato and knowledge about the politics and wisdom of religious experience. The state of Vermont—indeed the nation—cannot lose current and future voices who reflect these global lessons and the contributions they will make to a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Without them, we are spiritually, intellectually and civically worse off.

As noted, the University of Vermont has been a regional leader in the humanities and a founding member of the NEHC, an active consortium of public and private institutions throughout the region funding humanities research, engaging in public outreach and implementing a Mellon-funded Faculty of Color Working Group. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the University of Vermont Humanities Center and an undiminished and robust slate of humanities departments at the university.

Therefore, we respectfully implore the University of Vermont to reconsider these proposals.

Sincerely,

Michael P. Lynch
Director, New England Humanities Consortium
Director, University of Connecticut Humanities Institute
Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, University of Connecticut

Darryl Harper
Director, Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Amherst College

Amanda Anderson
Director, Cogut Institute for the Humanities, Brown University

Kerill O’Neill
Director, Center for the Arts and Humanities, Colby College

Rebecca Biron
Director, The Leslie Center for the Humanities, Dartmouth College

Febe Armanios & Marion Wells
Co-Directors, Axinn Center for the Humanites at Middlebury College, Middlebury College

Lori Lefkovitz
Director, Northeastern University Humanities Center, Northeastern University

Alexandra Keller
Director, Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, Smith College

Kamran Rastegar
Director, Center for the Humanities at Tufts, Tufts University

Stephen Trzaskoma
Director, University of New Hampshire Center for the Humanities, University of New Hampshire

Evelyn Sterne
Director, University of Rhode Island Center for the Humanities, University of Rhode Island

Luis Vivanco
Director, The University of Vermont Humanities Center, University of Vermont

Eve Zimmerman
Director, Wellesley’s Newhouse Center for the Humanities, Wellesley College

Domingo Ledezma & Patrick Johnson
Co-Directors, Wheaton Institute for Interdisciplinary Humanities, Wheaton College

Download this letter as a PDF.

UVM Humnaities Center logo

UVM Humanities Center Statement on Proposed Cuts to Humanities

The UVM Humanities Center decries, in the strongest possible terms, the proposal to eliminate humanities departments and programs in the College of Arts and Sciences. This proposal does not reflect a “comprehensive commitment to a liberal arts education” (UVM Vision statement), and it undermines the value of the Humanities for our students, faculty, state, and status as Vermont’s flagship land grant university.

As Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill—architect of the land-grant university system— once expressed, humanities are not marginal to the land grant university but lie at its very heart: “The fundamental idea was to offer an opportunity in every state for a liberal and larger education to larger numbers, not merely those destined to enter the sedentary professions, but to those needing higher instruction for the world’s business, for the industrial pursuits and professions of life.” For Morrill, the purpose of the university is not merely technical education; rather it is to create better citizens and strengthen the nation by enriching the human experience.

Through their teaching, research, and public engagement, the faculty of three humanities programs targeted for elimination—Religion, Classics, and Historic Preservation—as well as majors in various foreign languages targeted for elimination, have demonstrated that the Humanities help all students from across the University to:

  • Understand human experience across language, place, and time
  • Empathize with others
  • Think creatively and critically
  • Examine social problems related to race, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, class, and caste
  • Prioritize social justice and equality
  • Build skills in inquiry, writing and critical analysis, the so-called “soft-skills” that are in high demand in diverse careers

The proposal to eliminate these programs and majors based on an arbitrary measure like the number of majors is short-sighted and ignores the importance of these programs for the fulfilment of general education requirements for all students from across the university. Given that this proposal is patently about opening the door to cutting faculty positions, it egregiously ignores the contributions faculty in these programs make to Vermont through their public humanities work, consulting, and leadership in areas such as cultural heritage management, secondary education, teacher training, and humanities and arts programming throughout the state. UVM’s latest attempt to “engage” with Vermont would do well to recognize Humanities faculty are already deeply engaged in Vermont’s communities through a multitude of humanistic and artistic pursuits. Especially galling is the assault it represents on the accomplishments, productivity, and stature of the faculty who teach in these programs, whose contributions to UVM’s national and international reputation are substantial. We have been proud in the Humanities Center to provide direct support and awards to faculty in each of these programs.

Budgets are not apolitical, they are values statements. It is clear from the proposed budgetary cuts that the humanities are not valued at UVM. This is in spite of their inherent merit to our land grant institution, high enrollment courses that serve university mission, and excellent faculty. We question why we cannot invest university resources in academic programs and not bloated administrator salaries, or reform a budget model that systematically produces regular structural deficits to the academic unit that serves the greatest number and variety of students.

Sincerely,

Luis Vivanco, Director
Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst, Associate Director

Download a PDF of the statement

NEHC Request for Proposals – Applications Closed

Guidelines and Application

NEHC Mission and Overview

The New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC) promotes and strengthens intellectual collaboration, interdisciplinary exchange, and innovative educational, intercultural, and curricular programming among New England Humanities centers and institutes, and the faculty, students, and regional, national, and global communities they serve. NEHC includes: Amherst College, Colby College, Dartmouth College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, the University of Connecticut, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Vermont, Wellesley College, and Wheaton College. The Humanities Institute of the University of Connecticut (UCHI) in Storrs, Connecticut is currently the executive and administrative hub of the NEHC.

Award Description

The New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC) is offering competitive seed grants for research initiatives in the humanities that seek to capitalize on the collaborative network of the consortium. Applications seeking to sustain, and build on, previously funded NEHC initiatives that demonstrated success are also welcome. Awards of up to $5000 will be made. (For projects whose total budgets exceed $5000 applicants must list additional committed funding sources and amounts.)  Priority will be given to applications demonstrating concrete plans for consortium membership involvement. Such involvement can take different forms, but will typically involve, e.g. direct collaboration between two or more member institutions and/or active and solicitation of faculty, staff, or students exclusively from member institutions. Applications are welcome from individuals or teams, but the PI must be on the faculty of a NEHC member institution. Potential areas of funding interest include the following (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • Collaborative research projects
  • Summer Seminars
  • Study or working groups
  • Shared speakers across institutions
  • Collaborative course design
  • Exhibitions

Please submit materials electronically in pdf or Word docx to YOUR HUMANITIES CENTER or INSTITUTE DIRECTOR BY MAY 15, 2020. They will then pass along the proposal to the NEHC board.

Application Procedure and Timeline

Applications for the NEHC RFP must include the following:

  1. Cover page (1 page) stating
  • Title of the project
  • Name, department/program/school location, and NEHC school representation of PI(s)
  • Requested NEHC funding amount (Awards of up to $5000)
  1. Project narrative (2 pages, single spaced, 1” margins, 12pt font) detailing:
  • The goals of the project
  • How those goals address those of NEHC
  • Plans for involving NEHC member institutions and which institutions in particular will be involved
  • How those goals will be pursued
  • Names and roles of participants
  • Expected outcomes and/or deliverables
  • External funding sources, if any
  • Project timeline describing completion of project goals and outcomes
  1. CV (2 page) of Principal Investigator(s)
  2. Budget and Award Period:
  • Total budget. (For projects whose budgets exceed $5000, please list additional committed funding sources and amounts, as validated by an attached letter of support.)
  • The award period will typically not exceed one (1) calendar year and must be stated in the application timeline.

The awardees will be required to submit a detailed summary of the project at the end of their funding term.

Reporting Requirements

All PIs will be required to submit a two-page report no more than one (1) month after the end of the award period specified in the award letter. The report should detail and substantiate progress on the following elements of the project:

  • The extent to which project goals have been met
  • Specific indicators or signs of success
  • Outcomes and/or deliverables achieved
  • Number of NEHC member institutions (and faculty/students) involved

Questions and requests for more information are encouraged and should be directed to UCHI (uchi@uconn.edu).

Day of NEHC-DH: Digital Scholarship in New England

May 14, 2019
Humanities Institute Conference Room,
University of Connecticut
https://humanities.uconn.edu/
Storrs, CT

Schedule

9-9:30 Breakfast and Welcome by Anke Finger (DHMS-UConn)

9:30-11 Session 1: DH at NEHC Institutions (intros, structures, projects, concentrations, stakeholders)

11-12:30 Session 2: Resources (strengths at each institution, needs, networks)

 

12:30-2:00 Lunch

 

2-3pm Projects and Goals: what can NEHC-DH do for us? What can we do for NEHC-DH?

3-4pm Breakout session (groups work on defined projects or goals)

4-5pm Discussion and next-steps for NEHC-DH

 

6pm Dinner at local restaurant

 

Participants: Colby College, Dartmouth College, Northeastern University, University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont, Wheaton College

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