April/May21: Spring to It
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn,” observed naturalist, author, and journalist Hal Borland. As the editorial chronicler of the seasons in The New York Times, Borland’s columns vividly showcased the search for meaning in the natural world as timely, important, and imperative.
Those who champion the arts and sciences can find inspiration in Borland’s example. We must show the timeliness, importance, and imperativeness of the arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences on campuses and in communities.
For faculty on campus, Phi Beta Kappa recently compiled departmental advocacy guides from a range of disciplines facing cuts on many campuses this spring.
Liberal arts and sciences graduates can also play crucial advocacy roles as legislatures adopt state budgets from early spring to early summer.
What types of arts and sciences asks are appropriate for legislators and members of Congress?
- Encourage your senators to join the Senate Cultural Caucus and your representatives to join the Congressional Humanities Caucus. These bipartisan groups consider policies to support the arts and sciences at the federal level. Do investments in the nation’s cultural sector really matter? The nation’s creative economy equals 4.5 percent of gross domestic product, contributing more to the national economy than the construction, transportation, travel, tourism, mining, utilities, and agriculture industries. Not only is the cultural sector crucial for economic recovery, but it also strengthens communities and builds civic ties.
- Ask policymakers to make federal investments in science a national priority and encourage the use of evidence-based policymaking. The U.S. has now fallen to tenth place among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations in research investment as a fraction of GDP. Let’s change that equation
- Help prevent cuts to higher education spending. Policymakers will face many difficult choices this session. State investments in higher education help students and their families now, but also benefit communities with the public value of arts and sciences research and ensure long-term competitiveness. With broad cuts to higher education, the liberal arts and sciences often sustain disproportionate reductions. You do not have to be an alum to help Phi Beta Kappa’s public colleges and universities in your state. Government relations teams welcome constituent support from non-alumni and can provide data, asks, and student stories.
- Watch for potential bills that target the liberal arts in your state and learn how to respond productively.
If you are not interested in talking with policymakers, you can still help.
- If you donate to your alma mater, take a few extra minutes to let your college or university know why you support the arts and sciences on campus in the comments box as you complete your donation.
- If you are an employer, encourage your human resources staff to avoid narrow pre-professional educational requirements when filling positions that require interdisciplinary perspectives and executive function skills.
Another Borland observation could also prove useful this season. “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” Spring 2021 will require both patience and persistence from all champions of the arts and sciences. Now, it’s time to get to work.