On Wednesday, December 2, 2020 the University of Vermont announced a proposal to cut 12 majors and 11 minors in the College of Arts and Sciences. These include majors in Asian Studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, romance languages and cultures, Latin, Greek, German and Italian, as well as the elimination of the religion and classics departments.

This news serves as an important reminder to double down on our commitment as a community to do all we can to uphold the central role of humanistic study in higher education.

ACLS is actively and urgently working to identify ways to avoid such actions at other colleges and universities. The Design Workshop for a New Academy, the first steps of which are already underway, will articulate specific actions to sustain the humanities and humanistic social sciences in higher education in the United States.

In August 2020 we supported a joint statement on the need for action to strengthen these fields of study. The ominous news coming out of Burlington makes this statement all the more relevant.

We can do our best to fight this pandemic, redress inequality and injustice, and rebuild confidence in democratic government only if we “understand human behavior, the stories and beliefs that guide us, the cultures and values that we build and share.”

We invite learned societies and other academic organizations to sign onto the statement if they have not already. Share its important message, to encourage colleagues and administrators to think through the consequences of eliminating programs of study in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, and to encourage faculty and administrators to work together to strengthen them.