The MLA has received a generous $309,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue its work on Humanities Commons. With support from the Mellon Foundation, the MLA will engage in a nine-month process of sustainability planning and governance-model development. In the course of the project, the MLA will bring together its existing society partners—the Association for Jewish Studies; the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies; and the College Art Association—with a group of other interested societies to develop a strategic plan that can ensure the future of the interdisciplinary, nonprofit scholarly research network. Kathleen Fitzpatrick will continue to serve as project director of Humanities Commons in her new role at Michigan State University, and Terrence Callaghan, the MLA’s director of administration and finance, will oversee the project as the MLA’s principal investigator. The grant period will run through September 2018.
Voting on the 2017 ratification ballot concluded at midnight (EDT) on 1 June. Members ratified the 2017 Delegate Assembly’s approval of two constitutional amendments. One amendment aligns the provision for paid life membership in article 3.C with the new criterion for the granting of life membership after fifty years; the other provides for the representation of part-time faculty members on the Executive Council. Support for the amendments ranged from 91% to 94% of the members who voted in that section of the ballot. The amendments have been incorporated into the text of the constitution at the Web site.
Two resolutions approved by the 2017 Delegate Assembly were also on the ballot. Resolutions forwarded to the membership must be ratified by a majority vote in which the number of those voting for ratification equals at least ten percent of the association’s voting membership. All members in good standing as of 17 April who were also members on 7 January, the date of the Delegate Assembly meeting, were eligible to vote. The number of eligible voters was 18,279, so 1,828 votes were required for ratification of the resolutions. The first resolution, which calls on the MLA to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions promoted by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, was ratified by a vote of 1,954 yes and 885 no. The second resolution, which calls on the MLA to endorse a statement of the American Association of University Professors, “Higher Education after the 2016 Election,” and urges members to disseminate the statement widely, was ratified by a vote of 2,471 yes and 229 no. For more information on the resolution process, please visit the MLA Web site.
The volume Approaches to Teaching the Works of C. P. Cavafy, edited by Peter Jeffreys and Demetres Tryphonopoulos, is now in development in the MLA series Approaches to Teaching World Literature. Instructors who have taught these works are encouraged to contribute to the volume by completing a survey about their experiences. Information about proposing an essay is available at the end of the survey.
Paula M. Krebs
In a statement released today, the MLA announced that Paula M. Krebs will become the fourteenth executive director of the association on 1 August. Krebs, who is stepping down as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bridgewater State University, will succeed Rosemary G. Feal, the MLA’s executive director since 2002. Krebs served on the MLA Executive Council from January 2013 to January 2017 and was a member of the Nominating Committee from 2009 to 2010. She also served on the executive committee of the Association of Departments of English from 2003 to 2005. Before arriving at Bridgewater State, she was special assistant to the president for external relations at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, an American Council on Education Fellow in the president’s office of the University of Massachusetts, and a professor and department chair at Wheaton. She has also been a regular contributor to higher education publications and writes a column for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog Vitae. In accepting the appointment, she observed, “We have come far as an association under Rosemary Feal’s stewardship—in recognizing the broad range of institutions that constitute American higher education, in bringing attention to the concerns of faculty members at teaching-focused institutions and faculty members off the tenure track, and in broadening our sense of our discipline. I look forward to building on our momentum and championing the value of the study of the humanities.” Read the full statement.
In a letter to leaders at Stony Brook University, State University of New York, the MLA Executive Council expressed deep concern about the proposed cutbacks to several humanities programs at the university. Threatened with dissolution or resizing are the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature and the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, and undergraduate majors in theater arts, cinema studies, cultural studies, and comparative literature may be suspended. The Executive Council cited the importance of the humanities for teaching “students to think, create, and problem-solve—abilities students will need in life, including in any job they might hold after college.” The proposed cuts threaten the core educational mission of the university and jeopardize the very excellence Stony Brook claims to support: “It is simply not possible to protect excellence in a university by dissolving excellent departments.” Read the full letter.
Final adoption of the constitutional amendments and the resolutions approved by the Delegate Assembly at its January 2017 meeting depends on the vote of the membership. The online ratification ballot will be available at the MLA Web site for only two more weeks. All members in good standing as of 17 April who were also members on 7 January, the date of the Delegate Assembly meeting, are urged to vote as soon as possible. The deadline for voting is midnight (EDT) on Thursday, 1 June.
A new draft essay has been selected for open review in Literary Studies in the Digital Age, the MLA’s first born-digital, publicly available anthology. The anthology’s editors invite you to comment on Davin Heckman and James O’Sullivan’s “Electronic Literature: Contexts and Poetics.” The editors may then ask the authors to review their work in the light of your feedback, with the goal of eventually including the revised essay in the anthology. To read and comment on the draft essay, please visit its page in the anthology.
From left to right: Hunter O’Hanian, the College Art Association’s executive director; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, the MLA’s associate executive director; and Morgan Brand, Senator Charles Schumer’s legislative aide. Photo: Nicholas Obourn
As part of its mission, the MLA regularly advocates for federal funding for the humanities in cooperation with other leaders in higher education. On 9 March 2017, the MLA’s director of programs, Dennis Looney, attended a series of meetings on Capitol Hill organized by the Coalition of International Education (CIE). Looney joined a group of international educators from institutions of higher education in New York to meet with staffers from the offices of Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Adriano Espaillat, as well as staffers from the office of Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. These meetings stressed the importance of the Department of Education’s international and foreign language education programs, and CIE specifically asked that the 2017 funding for Title VI and Fulbright-Hays be increased from $72 million to $78.5 million in 2018.
On 14 March 2017, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, the MLA’s associate executive director, took part in advocacy meetings organized by the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) as part of Humanities Advocacy Day. With colleagues from the College Art Association, Fitzpatrick met with staffers from the offices of Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Grace Meng, Peter King, Eliot Engel, and Jerrold Nadler to thank them for their past support of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and other related humanities programs and to encourage them to continue this support. The NHA is asking Congress to provide at least $155 million in 2018 for the NEH and to forcefully reject any efforts to eliminate the agency. Fitzpatrick also drew each staffer’s attention to the importance of the NEH-funded project Humanities Commons, which makes the work that humanities scholars do available in classrooms nationwide.
At the 2017 convention the Delegate Assembly approved two amendments to the MLA constitution and two resolutions. The assembly’s actions are not final, however, since they are subject to ratification by the MLA membership. Members are therefore encouraged to review this year’s ratification ballot and to exercise their right to vote. All members in good standing as of 17 April who were also members on 7 January, the date of the Delegate Assembly meeting, are eligible to vote. The online ballot is now available (member log-in required); requests for paper ballots must reach the coordinator of governance by Monday, 15 May. The deadline for receipt of ratification ballots is midnight (EDT) on 1 June.
The new administration’s proposed 2018 budget calls for the total elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In response, twenty-four past presidents of the MLA have created a petition asking Congress to support full funding for these critical institutions. From scholars and students to museum visitors and local theatergoers, millions of people across the country have benefited from NEH and NEA programs. As the petition’s authors note, the NEH and NEA represent the United States’ “core cultural values,” including “creative thought and action, humanistic inquiry, and knowledge preservation. It is vital to democracy to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage and to foster the creation of new ideas that can become groundbreaking works of the future.” To show your support for the NEH and NEA, sign the petition today.