Trump-targeted arts endowments gave UConn almost $300,000 last year

Donald J. Trump’s proposal to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities would mean a loss of almost $300,000 for UConn. (Evan Vucci/AP Exchange)

University of Connecticut researchers and scholars could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants if President Donald J. Trump’s proposal to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities is enacted.

UConn faculty members received $285,083 from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an additional $10,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts in the 2016 fiscal year.

“The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation represent UConn’s largest sources of federal grant funds,” UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said. “But grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities have also been critical to helping our scholars conduct research and publish their findings in many important fields.”

“UConn plans to watch the budget proceedings closely and remain in touch with our congressional delegation, which recognizes that federal grants are critical to our work in the arts and humanities, along with medicine, science and many other fields,” Reitz added.  

Since Trump submitted his proposed budget to Congress several weeks ago, art groups have been lobbying to convince Republicans in Congress to revisit Trump’s suggestion to defund the endowments.

The NEAH encourages artists and those in the humanities to pursue work in those fields through numerous grants.

Several UConn grant recipients have expressed concern about the possibility of their projects losing funding.

Gregory Kneidel, an associate professor at UConn’s Hartford Campus, joined an ongoing NEH project to create a more accurate edition of John Donne’s poems, about five years ago.

“Rather than just accepting the judgment of a single, isolated, genius editor working alone at a prestigious university or press, we work collaboratively and put all the evidence out for the public to see and use,” Kneidel said.

The NEH has funded the collection of the team’s data around the world and has allowed the project to be a national and even international effort, Kneidel said.

Kniedel said the NEH has provided consistent funding for the project, enabling its longevity.

“The NEH can take the long view of big projects like this – modest but consistent funding – so that we can proudly acknowledge the contributions of dozens and dozens of professors, graduate students and undergrads,” Kneidel said.

NEH funding has also allowed the data to be made available to the public, Kneidel said.

“And instead of all of our work being protected by a pay-wall, as an edition produced, for example, by big academic presses, our data are made publicly available because their collection has been publicly funded,” Kneidel said.

Kneidel said, if the budget cuts funding to the NEH the collaborators will have to find alternate sources of funding, to the disadvantage of their work.

“As we look to further expand and integrate our work digitally with other kindred sites, we would have to seek other sources of funding, mostly likely at the cost of public accessibility and of our current collaborative approach,” Kneidel said.

Sarah Winter, an English professor at UConn has received an NEH grant for her work researching the writ of habeus corpus, which requires a court to explain why a prisoner has been detained. She said it is important for the federal government to remain committed to funding these programs.

“NEH fellowships for scholarly research in the arts and humanities, such as the one I received, help generate publications, digital archives and other forms of shared knowledge that can sustain our vibrant civil society, on which we all depend for the possibility of free, open and respectful debate of complex and often divisive issues,” Winter said.

“We need to maintain our national commitment to these funding sources to help us recover and sustain our shared values over the short and long term,” Winter added. “The arts and humanities also give us access to the deep and complex historical perspectives that will be critical during the coming years.”

Winter said she hopes readers of her work take away a realization that human rights are important for everyone, not only those who lack full legal rights.

“In learning and thinking about the legal protections that are available to all persons living in a constitutional order, I hope that readers of my book will understand that human rights don’t just apply to people who lack rights or whose rights are being violated in some other, far-away country. Instead, human rights are at stake for all of us, and they are a crucial component of the rights of citizenship,” Winter said.


Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.