In his proposed budget for the new fiscal year, President Trump outlined his desired allocation of national funding, which included the elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of Humanities.
These organizations distribute governmental funds as grants to benefit and be used in the community. This money can be used to create things such as radio broadcasts and after-school outreach programs, as well as help maintain library resources and purchase books.
The four groups collectively spent $971 million in 2016, and account for .02% of the yearly spending, according to the Washington Post.
Several UTM faculty members have spoken out against the budget thus far.
“What we are being driven by is the dollar, and that’s the bottom line in the whole society, and we have so little that allows people to rise above their circumstances,” said Dr. David Barber, associate professor of history and philosophy. “We’re living in such a cruel society, so I’m not surprised that they are looking to cut something whose problem was that it was too small to begin with.”
If eliminated, the existence of these programs would rest on the pockets of private donors.
Dr. Lynn Alexander, chair of the Programs Committee for Humanities Tennessee and as Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at UTM, outlined the challenges that could come to small, rural towns such as Martin.
“The argument is often made that if it’s that important, you will find private donors to help support it, and that is great for people who live in big cities where there’s lots of people there and lots of really wealthy people there,” said Alexander.
At UTM, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts consists of the departments of Communications, English and Modern Foreign Language, History and Philosophy, Music and Visual and Theatre Arts.
With the elimination of the NEA and NEH, the education of UTM students and students across the country could be changed.
Among these things discussed by Alexander include the decrease in classroom “richness” that can come about when professors participate in NEH funded summer institutes that gather like-minded higher education individuals from across the country to learn from one another; loss of extra educational opportunities such as speakers and historical exhibits in the Paul Meek Library; and difficulties attracting potential faculty to rural communities such as Martin.
“The humanities help us understand the world and our place in the world, and to say that’s not important, means we aren’t important and our place in the world is not important,” Alexander said.
Concerned citizens can contact their national legislators to voice their disapproval of the budget.
“We have to really teach administrators and legislators that are in charge of these decisions,” said Dr. Julie Hill, chair of the Department of Music and professor of percussion. “We have to help educate them as to the value of the arts. … If we don’t have folks that are pushing art in terms as an art form unto itself but also as a means of expression, we’ll lose something very intrinsic to being a human being.”
Congressional leaders have until April 28 to settle on a fiscal budget or risk government shutdown. In addition to the elimination of the four agencies, cuts are being made to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education and more. Other departments, such as the Department of Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs, are budgeted to receive more funding.