The NEH Responds

You may recall our stories about a philosopher and single mother who was accepted to an NEH summer seminar then given 12 hours to put in place childcare arrangements on another continent that would satisfy the seminar organisers. The story got a lot of attention. The philosopher in question contacted the NEH, who fairly quickly assured her that the demand was at odds with their policies and that she was guaranteed of a place on the seminar. But many philosophers felt that, given the publicity the event had received, a public NEH response was called for– which would make clear to potential applicants (and organisers!) that the NEH was firmly opposed to such demands. (And which would also make clear that these weren’t just unfounded internet rumours.) And so, many philosophers wrote letters to the NEH to this effect. (This wasn’t circulated on blogs, because we wanted to keep the philosopher’s name unsearchable.)

I don’t know if the NEH has formally issued a public statement, but as one of the letter-writers I’ve now had a reply, and there’s no request for confidentiality. So I figure it’s OK to publicise it. Here it is:

The National Endowment for the Humanities has apologized to Professor
[X] and is in the process of resolving this issue to her
satisfaction. We have assured her that she is welcome to attend the
institute to which she applied and, at her request, have also extended
the deadline to make it possible for her to apply to another seminar if
she so chooses.

The NEH does not discriminate against applicants for our summer
institutes or any other grant programs on the basis of sex, race, color,
national origin, age, or disability. Asking an applicant to provide
information regarding child care is inappropriate and should have no
bearing on the selection process. Qualified applicants who tell the NEH
that they will participate full time in our programs should be taken at
their word.

Further update: The NEH plans to contact Inside Higher Ed, and they’ve given Prof X permission to circulate all their correspondence with her as she sees fit. Oh, and it’s the chair of the NEH who is emailing her on this. Yeah!

3 thoughts on “The NEH Responds

  1. Having participated in an NEH Institute in 2008– the deadline was certainly ridiculous, but I understand the concern to make sure that child care can be arranged if the participant intends to bring the child. My NEH institute (Multiple Perspectives on the Holocaust, in Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland) ran 8 AM-9 or 10 PM some nights. We traveled on a bus for, some days, 10 hours at a time between institute locations. Also, all of us shared rooms. I’m trying to figure out the logistics of bringing a child (or indeed any relative) along: lodging, bus seats, food. It would have been a nightmare– hence the “we cannot accommodate relatives” rule. I’m guessing that this seminar is fairly stationary and that participant time each day is more limited than mine was.

  2. No problem, Lisa, with saying she must find a way to participate fully– which is surely a requirement for everyone. The problem is with not trusting her to work out that way on her own.

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