Knapp testifies before Congress to defend liberal arts funding

University President Steven Knapp urged Congress Wednesday to increase funding for the humanities, stressing the significance of research dollars in these areas.

Knapp, a former professor of English literature, testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee and defended funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities – a federal agency that is one of the nation’s largest benefactors of humanities programs.

The agency has allocated more than $1 million to GW initiatives in recent years.

“Without support from the NEH, universities like ours would not have the resources they need to sustain their role in enabling our citizens to understand our nation’s history, to cherish its core values or to strive together to realize our shared aspirations,” Knapp said.

Echoing President Barack Obama, Knapp asked members of Congress to approve a $154 million budget for the next fiscal year.

The National Endowment for the Humanities typically grants about $40 million each year to universities, museums, libraries and other cultural institutions to fund independent research and projects tied to the humanities. The organization has seen significant budget cuts over the past few years, and chairman Jim Leach said in February that awards would be constrained due to the federal sequestration.

The agency helped fund the $710,000 Eleanor Roosevelt Papers at GW, Knapp said in his testimony. The Eleanor Roosevelt project, which has hosted 130 student volunteers, has published historical records related to the former first lady. GW also received $330,000 to fund the First Federal Congress project.

Knapp has staunchly advocated for the humanities at the University and beyond the campus’ perimeter. Knapp launched a University-wide initiative to promote the arts at the University in 2011. He has stood up for other humanities benefactors, defending funding for research in the field before the National Humanities Association in 2009.

Last month, Knapp gave the opening address at the 2013 meeting of the National Humanities Alliance. He is also a member of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Knapp also discussed the practical benefits of studying the humanities, pointing to the 9/11 Commission Report, which demonstrated the nation’s limited knowledge of foreign cultures.

“They are, to begin with, essential to national security, and there is little doubt that the nation’s security would be strengthened if our citizens and their leaders were better informed about the languages and beliefs of our allies as well as our adversaries,” Knapp said.

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