[Smt-talk] Advocating for the humanities

Whitcomb, Benjamin D whitcomb at uww.edu
Mon Apr 7 18:34:05 PDT 2014

Dr. Mavromatis,

Regardless of the process, the projects funded over the years certainly reveal which political party has had the most influence over the selection process.

I could also drag this argument on by citing the many examples of wasteful spending by NEH, in order to prolong the political discussion to help demonstrate the undesirability of such discussions here, but that, too, would go over Charles Smith's head.

Aren't there listservs out there that are dedicated to advocacy, whether for the humanities in general or for the different disciplines? I will reiterate that it would be nice to have a listserv that is dedicated to the discussion of music theory, regardless of one's political views. In talking to some colleagues at other universities about this current email thread, I found out that a couple of them have washed their hands of all such lists, precisely because of having grown tired of the one-sided political slant or tone in many of the postings. I am sure that there are some SMT members who would  favor adopting some sort of political mission statement, as some other groups have. In my opinion, it would be a shame to drive away anyone who doesn't hold the political views of those of you in the majority.


Dr. Benjamin Whitcomb
Professor of Cello and Music Theory
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on behalf of Panayotis Mavromatis [panos.mavromatis at nyu.edu]
Sent: Monday, April 07, 2014 12:01 PM
To: Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Cc: Panayotis Mavromatis
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Advocating for the humanities

Dear Dr. Whitcomb,

On Apr 4, 2014, at 2:22 PM, Whitcomb, Benjamin D <whitcomb at uww.edu<mailto:whitcomb at uww.edu>> wrote:
(2) There are different ways to fund the humanities, or any program for that matter. For example, different countries fund different programs in many different ways, with different outcomes. Also, in some of the countries with the greatest funding for humanities, there has also been greater regulation of what is and is not acceptable to those in power, resulting in a reduction in intellectual diversity and liberty. Or, with America's history of being a great pioneer in politics, we could consider taking a new direction altogether. Also, does being in the humanities mean that we should automatically favor and seek as much government funding as possible, or are there limits and trade-offs? (But again, does this discussion belong on the SMT list?)

I am afraid the above comments do not accurately reflect the grant allocation process. Whether in the case of NEH, NIH, NSF, or other similar agencies, grant proposals are evaluated and scored by a panel of experts chosen from among our ranks. (I know of many colleagues in my own institution who serve on NSF or NIH review panels.) So grant allocation is not really a matter of “what is and is not acceptable to those in power”—rather, it is another instance of the peer review process, one of the most valuable and democratic aspects of the academic community. I see no reason why we should break this process for the sake of being “pioneers in politics”. All we ask is to be given the opportunity to preserve our scholarly procedures.

Panos Mavromatis

% ===================================================
%  Panayotis Mavromatis
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