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Northwestern University

Letter from the Dean

In his May 23 budget proposal to Congress, the President of the United States recommended making deep cuts to, and in some cases entirely closing, several federal agencies that provide broad financial support for research and scholarship in the humanities, the arts, and the natural and social sciences.

These budget proposals define a path toward mediocrity and decline. On behalf of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, I want to voice my dismay at these proposed funding reductions and instead urge us to redouble our efforts in advancing new knowledge.

If enacted into law, these proposed cuts would reduce the funding available for sponsored research, scholarship, and artistic creation not only here at Northwestern University, but at other colleges and universities, striking a blow to the intellectual communities on which we depend. I strongly believe that these cuts and closures would adversely impact the creation of new knowledge, the ramifications of which strike at the very heart of our mission as a college of arts and sciences.

With respect to the humanities and the arts, the President has proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Since their founding in 1965 (in the cases of the NEH and NEA) and 1996 (in the case of the IMLS), these agencies have served as important sources of financial support for our professors and artists and for the archival organizations that facilitate their work. This work, whether produced through critical thinking or creative imagination, enriches our lives in direct and indirect ways and illuminates the values that we believe ought to define us as human beings. Let there be no mistake about it, these proposed cuts and closures would have a direct effect on our students, who depend on our ability to attract, retain and sustain the very best faculty members.

With respect to research in the natural and social sciences, the President has suggested deep budget cuts in several agencies that have reliably provided our faculty with the resources required to better understand the physical and social environments in which we live. The President’s budget proposal recommends cutting funding to the National Institutes of Health by more than 20 percent, the National Science Foundation by approximately 11 percent, the Office of Science in the Department of Energy more than 17 percent, and the Environmental Protection Agency by approximately 30 percent. I find these recommendations deplorable. In our increasingly complex world, we face a number of significant social and environmental challenges, any number of which could significantly diminish our quality of life and even, in some cases, threaten our very survival. Our country looks to its colleges and universities to lead the way in discovering and transmitting to future generations the new knowledge that will help us address these serious challenges.

It is important to keep in mind that the President’s Budget Request is a proposal that does not automatically become law; rather, it is the first step in the annual process to fund the government. Next, both House and Senate will undertake their budget and appropriations processes with the end goal of negotiating funding levels that are acceptable to both parties. Congressional leaders from both parties, for different reasons, have already acknowledged concern over the President’s Budget Request. 

I would like to advocate for a more thoughtful approach to funding our research and creation. I do so knowing that Northwestern continues to work with the Association of American Universities and other higher education organizations to make the case for continued federal support of programs of critical importance across higher education. We should be enhancing federal support for the advancement of knowledge that benefits our students and, more broadly, our local, regional, national and international communities. We at Northwestern want to be part of an ambitious educational system that fosters research at the highest levels, not the path toward mediocrity and decline defined by this proposed budget. Faculty and staff are welcome to contact the Office of Government Relations with any questions or concerns at gov@northwestern.edu

Dean Adrian Randolph
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

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