Communication Needs More Representation in Congressional Lobbying

April 13, 2023

The National Humanities Alliance was back with an in-person annual meeting and Congressional lobbying March 19-21, and I had the honor and pleasure of representing the National Communication Association there the first two days. 

For those who don’t know, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is a “nationwide coalition of organizations advocating for the humanities on campuses, in communities, and on Capitol Hill….[that] promotes the value of studying the humanities, make the case for the public value of the humanities, and cultivate support for federal funding for the humanities.” 

NHA’s annual meeting historically, and was again this year, has been held at the most critical time for Congressional funding for National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, National Archives and Records Administration, Title VI (prohibiting discrimination in any activity receiving federal funds), Fulbright-Hays (doctoral dissertation research abroad), and the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (part of the National Archives). 

For communication scholars working in the humanities traditions, broadly defined, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts and other related institutions and programs make the National Humanities Alliance and state humanities councils critical organizations of expertise, advocacy, potential funding, and more. “Humanities” encompasses much of what many NCA members do, NEH’s definition being “includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.” NCA members are teaching, researching, and otherwise active in several of these humanities areas. 

Yet the communication disciplines and subdisciplines were very minimally represented at this year’s National Humanities Alliance meeting—only by two other scholars and me as far as I could tell. (Most attendees were listed in the meeting program, but many were not, and in many cases it was not obvious what attendees’ home disciplines are.) To put it another way, the disciplines of English, other languages/literature, and history were very well represented at the NHA meeting while communication (and many other humanities disciplines) were not. 

Faculty, graduate students, and other researchers, teachers, community activists and others in communication, whether on or off college campuses, both can be and should be applying for funds from the NEH, the NEA and other federal and state agencies and programs. (For example, the NEA’s Research Labs program funds “transdisciplinary research teams grounded in the behavioral and social sciences, yielding empirical insights about the arts for the benefit of arts and non-arts sectors alike.”) Communication scholars and practitioners also should be lobbying members of Congress and members of their state legislatures, in conjunction with the National Humanities Alliance, other academic associations, their institutions and on their own, for both policies and funding that support humanities projects and institutions broadly defined. 

When I talked with, and listened to, attendees at the National Humanities Alliance meeting, relatively few of them had skills and/or experience with legislation and lobbying that the average NCA member could not quickly absorb and apply—especially if given the opportunity to learn from NHA staff and others who have been working in this sphere for many years. 

Back on campus, NCA members should be finding out whether a book, event, organization or other activity that they are working on, or would like to work on, might be eligible for funding from the NEH, NEA and/or state and local humanities funders. 

Here’s to hoping to see many more NCA faces as next year’s National Humanities Alliance meeting. At the NCA national office, we will warmly welcome you and orient you to the best of our ability. See you in 2024!

Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA, is NCA’s Director of Research, Publications, and Professional Advancement