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.
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.
The deadline to apply for a three-year field-bibliography fellowship from the MLA International Bibliography is approaching! MLA field bibliographers examine scholarly materials and submit citations and indexing information for the bibliography. Open to all MLA members, the 2017 fellowships will run from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020.
The MLA provides materials and training and waives registration fees for fellows attending training sessions at the MLA convention. On completion of the fellowship, fellows receive a $500 stipend and a certificate at the convention awards ceremony. In addition to performing a valuable service for the profession, field bibliographers receive institutional recognition while enhancing their knowledge of the field and honing their research skills.
For more information and to submit an application, visit the MLA Bibliography Fellowships Web page.
At its meeting on 7 January 2017 in Philadelphia, the Delegate Assembly approved two resolutions that the Executive Council has forwarded to the membership for a ratification vote. Before the vote is conducted, MLA members are invited to comment on the resolutions on the MLA Web site (log-in required) until 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on 17 April. (Note: The ratification ballot will be available to those who were members on 7 January 2017, the date of the Delegate Assembly meeting, and whose membership is current as of 17 April.)
As commenting opens on two resolutions approved by the Delegate Assembly in January, the MLA Executive Council has issued a statement about the resolution process. At its February meeting the council reviewed the resolutions for any constitutional, legal, or fiduciary issues posed by the resolutions’ language and voted to forward the resolutions to the membership for a vote. Nevertheless, the Executive Council and the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) recognize “that the current resolution process has begun to take up far more than a reasonable share of the organization’s resources, putting an undue burden on the MLA staff as well as on the members who volunteer their time to represent their colleagues on the Delegate Assembly, the DAOC, and the Executive Council.” In response, the council has established an ad hoc committee to examine the resolution process and the ways the MLA might speak out about matters of concern to members. Read the full council statement on the Executive Council blog.