Previous Statements on Issues of Concern

ACLS presents below statements issued by ACLS President Pauline Yu and/or the ACLS Board of Directors on issues of concern to our community.


Pauline Yu Issues Statement on Trump Administration Budget Request

May 26, 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

The Constitution states that a purpose of government is to “promote the general welfare.” Our capacity to understand our country and our world is critical to that goal. This week, the Trump Administration issued a budget request for the coming fiscal year that undermines that capacity.

The president’s budget calls for the eradication of the National Endowment for the Humanities and many other cultural agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Historic Publications and Records Commission, and the International and Foreign Language Studies programs of the Department of Education (Title VI and Fulbright-Hays). If this radical proposal is enacted, the infrastructure of the humanities in the United States will be severely degraded. The president’s FY 2018 budget is an assault on our nation’s core values, for the humanities are essential to an innovative and robust civil society, where citizens are free to question, investigate, and imagine better futures.

Of course, we know that while the president may propose, it is Congress that appropriates the funding. I urge you to contact your Members of Congress to tell them that you support the humanities and strongly oppose any proposal that would eliminate the NEH and other essential programs.  Any federal budget affects many issues, and you may wish to address those separately, but if our community does not arise in defense of humanities research, much will be lost. The strong response of NEH supporters earlier this year helped the Endowment win a slight increase in its FY17 appropriation. As the struggle over the FY18 budget is likely to be protracted, early action will let Congress know of vigilant opposition to the Administration’s proposals.

As I have noted before, our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) offer simple and straightforward means to e-mail or call your representatives. Please visit the NHA’s site today. If you wish to call directly, you can reach the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and be connected to any Senator or Representative. Calls are particularly effective at demonstrating grass-roots concern.



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Pauline Yu Issues Statement in Support of the NEH

March 20, 2017

Dear Friends,

I urge all who care about the place of the humanities in our society to call on their Senators and Representative to reject the President’s budget blueprint that calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and other vital educational and cultural agencies.

In 1964, the American Council of Learned Societies played a significant role in convincing Congress to establish the NEH. The need for a public commitment to “the study of that which is most human” is no less imperative now than it was a half century ago. The humanities illuminate complex phenomena and enable us to appreciate the diversity of human experience. We need the humanities to understand ourselves as a nation and to engage a challenging and changing world.

Please let your representatives know that the NEH as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the TitleVI/Fulbright-Hays International Education programs of the Department of Education, have played a crucial role in building the knowledge and insight needed today. The funds expended by these agencies are modest but catalytic: they leverage additional support through matching funds raised and institutional cost-sharing of the work supported. These wise investments should not be impulsively discarded. As our Commission on the Humanities declared a half century ago, “a government which gives no support at all to humane values is careless of its own destiny.”

In 1964, the argument for establishing the NEH and NEA was that “democracy demands wisdom.” In 2017, please help us show that democracy can defend wisdom.

The National Humanities Alliance provides resources for contacting your legislators. Click here to contact your member of Congress through the Alliance. If you wish to call directly, you can reach the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and be connected to any Senator or Representative. Calls are particularly effective at demonstrating grass-roots concern.

Thank you for your help,


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Pauline Yu Issues Statement of Fundamental Commitments

November 21, 2016

To the ACLS Community:

Three days after the presidential election, I attended the National Humanities Conference, organized in Salt Lake City by the National Humanities Alliance and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The formal agenda of that meeting was set many months ago, but, unsurprisingly, there were many lively discussions of the state of our nation, its place in the world, and our hopes for its future.

Now is an appropriate moment to remind ourselves of our fundamental commitments and to reassert some of the essential premises of the humanities. These include:

  • Maintaining the pursuit of free inquiry with scholarly rigor.
  • Offering the greatest possible opportunity for students and the public to participate in and benefit from that inquiry.
  • Engaging the many communities that make up our nation and the world in studying and valuing the cultural diversity of all of humanity.

For 97 years, the American Council of Learned Societies has worked to advance those humanistic values so important to a democracy. These are principles that have been broadly shared in our country: a framed copy of our Congressional Charter, signed by Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, and Tip O’Neill, graces my office wall. I want to assure you that we will continue to strive to advance knowledge in the humanities and to broaden their public presence, vital as they are to the lives and well-being of all our fellow citizens. ACLS will continue to speak forcefully in advocating for the humanities and the institutions that support them.

Some of our member societies have presented thoughtful statements reaffirming their commitment to humanistic values. We have collected these statements here, and I encourage you to read them.

I look forward to working with all of you toward our shared goals.


Pauline Yu

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ACLS Statement on Academic Freedom and Intellectual Diversity

October 2007

The American Council of Learned Societies, a federation of North American scholarly organizations, renews its endorsement of the principles of academic freedom outlined by the American Association of University Professors in 1940. These guarantee the right to pursue, teach and publish knowledge without undue interference, subject to peer review and judged only by academic standards. The ACLS seeks to uphold these principles in its several fellowship competitions through a rigorous process of extensive and independent peer review.

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