February 19, 2004
The Honorable John W. Warner
225 Senate Russell Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4601
Dear Senator Warner:
I write to you as President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) located in Arlington, Virginia. Established in 1902, the AAA is the world's largest professional organization of individuals interested in anthropology and represents more than 11,000 cultural anthropologists, linguistic anthropologists, archaeologists, and biological or physical anthropologists.
I understand that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is considering the International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 (HR 3077), legislation to authorize international studies programs, Title VI of the Higher Education Act. HR 3077 passed the House of Representatives last fall.
I write to express the AAA's concern regarding HR 3077. While we appreciate the intent to authorize the funding for international and area studies programs, we are concerned about the potential impact of the legislation on the ability of international studies centers (Title VI Centers) to pursue effective teaching and scholarship. Anthropologists are among the scholars who participate in these centers for intellectual interchange among disciplines. Instruction in foreign languages provided through these centers is also essential for anthropology and the research training of graduate students in anthropology.
HR 3077 would create an independent International Higher Education Advisory Board to study, monitor, apprise, and evaluate a sample of activities supported by the legislation in order to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Education and the Congress on the improvement of the programs and to ensure the programs meet the purposes intended by the legislation. The seven-member Advisory Board, composed of two representatives from federal agencies with national security interests, would have authority to investigate international studies centers activities and to make recommendations intended to promote the development of programs that will reflect diverse perspectives and the full range of views on world regions, foreign language, and international affairs.
We are concerned that the Advisory Board and its proposed activities threaten the long held traditions of academic freedom and free intellectual inquiry in higher education and affect adversely the quality of scholarship in the U.S. The investigative authority of the Advisory Board may extend to faculty and curricular content and, despite a provision in the legislation to the contrary, result in the Advisory Board intervening in the instructional content, curriculum, or program of instruction at institutions of higher education. Similarly, the Advisory Board's activities to make recommendations to ensure that programs reflect "diverse perspectives" and the "full range of views", both of which are undefined in the legislation, indicate the potential intervention into the rights of institutions of higher education to hire or promote faculty and develop curricula. Finally, we are concerned about the independence and lack of oversight for the Advisory Board itself. Although established within the Department of Education, the Advisory Board is not accountable to the Secretary of Education or any other person or entity through the term of its authorization (September 30, 2009). For these reasons, we urge you to oppose the establishment of the Advisory Board in HR 3077 or other legislation to authorize Title VI, the international studies in higher education.
As you know, Title VI programs are vital to developing the knowledge and training in foreign language and area studies expertise. These programs are the primary sources of language instruction for Middle Eastern Languages such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Pashto and Kurdish, among many others. If the activities of Title VI Centers were curtailed, there would be no instruction at all and no development of instructional materials in some of these lesser-known languages. Beyond the study of languages, our national store of knowledge of the politics, society, literature, and religion of the nations of the world would be greatly affected by any curtailment of the activities of these centers.
We urge you to support the authorization of Title VI and, yet, to oppose the proposed Advisory Board. To do so will support the tenets of academic freedom and free intellectual inquiry in our universities and ensure the necessary training and proficiency in foreign language and knowledge in area studies at institutions of higher learning.
Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, Ph.D.
American Anthropological Association
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