There is much about the crisis facing the university that we can and ought to critique. The humanities have been especially hard hit, in ways many have pointed out on this important website (Robert Meister's excellent analysis of the university budget, aired I believe on these pages, is a very good place to begin). While I am loath to enter into a public argument about the state of the humanities, not least for the university administration to point to as evidence of our infighting, I am the only humanities faculty across the University that Professor Anonymous (A. for short) explicitly names in the blog piece "Bonfire of the Humanities". A. has so muddled the case that I feel obliged to set the record straight regarding the terms of representation of the University of California Humanities Research Institute.
Professor A writes that "David Theo Goldberg now controls virtually all humanities research dollars". It would indeed be bad if any one person controlled all humanities research funding across the University of California, but this is so far from the truth as to undermine virtually everything else A claims.
Here are the facts. Last academic year, the Office of Research at UCOP announced that it would be recompeting much of the research funding directed to multi-campus research units (MRUs). This meant that the original Humanities Initiative with which UCHRI has always been affiliated would have to recompete with all others, including the sciences, for any research funding going forward. The competition was open to any UC faculty to submit proposals for ongoing or new funding. Following lengthy discussion, the Humanities Advisory Council (consisting of all Humanities Deans, some systemwide faculty representation, and the Director of UCHRI) agreed to submit a single proposal. That proposal was co-written by the deans, under the terrific leadership of UCSB's David Marshall, with input from the Directors of the campus Humanities Centers, Dante Noto for his systemwide experience representing the humanities, and myself representing UCHRI. As it became clear that with the halving of staffing at UCOP that the Humanities Initiative would no longer receive administrative support of any kind from the central office, UCHRI was asked to administer any systemwide funding that might be received. We agreed, even though this meant significantly more administrative responsibility in the face of shrinking budgets.
The new Humanities Initiative proposal, we are told, was the top ranked one in the entire MRPI competition, testament to the multiple inputs, collaborative engagement, collegiality, and creativity of those putting it together. It also received the largest award in the entire competition, though 12 percent less than the Initiative requested. In the face of dramatic cuts across the University, the Initiative funding for the next five years was about equal to what it had been receiving to date. UCHRI has worked closely with the deans and directors of the humanities centers to ensure that individual faculty fellowships will be increasing in number, that the humanities centers remain funded at close to their traditional levels, and that new systemwide humanities engagements open to all areas of interest are supported. At the same time UCHRI is receiving modestly less funding than it had in the past, and has contributed some of its own funding to make this all work.
The Office of the President now requires that research funding under the MRPI program go to a single campus. Because UCHRI is now administering the funds, it was thought best that the funding come to Irvine (after all, UCHRI has considerable experience disbursing funds systemwide). The day the funding for 2009-10 was received at UCHRI we transferred 75% of it to campus deans. UCHRI reports to more overseers, arguably, than any other research organization across the university. We report to a Board of Governors, an Advisory Committee, the oversight committee for the new Humanities Initiative (including all the Humanities Deans), the Office of Research at the University of California, Irvine, the Office of Research at UCOP, not to mention grant reporting to the various organizations from which we receive grant funds. This may be a critique of the over-bureaucratization of the university; but it is also strong testament against the claim that UCHRI or David Theo Goldberg personally "controls virtually all humanities research dollars," as Professor A. claims.
A. further claims that "the humanities center directors could not even begin to get David Theo Goldberg . . . to commit to Humanities rather than to education and science studies (and digital anything)". I have no idea what A. is basing this claim on, but, again, the truth is very different here. Areas covered by UCHRI's support range from classics, medieval and early modern projects, poetry, history and philosophy to postcolonial studies, critical theory, Asian studies, California studies, Jewish studies, Middle Eastern studies, European studies, African studies, ethnic studies, public humanities, political theology and science studies, at the very least. Anyone consulting the UCHRI website (
The fact that UCHRI has been successful in external grant support has meant that, especially in this budget climate, we are able to direct more of our regular university funding to support work across the humanities. While it is safe to say that UCHRI has never received a proposal from a Professor Anonymous, I'd be more than happy to talk with A.,in public or private, about the multiple opportunities now available, though that of course would entail coming out from behind the veil of ignorance or resentful bias.
It can be said now too that there is today, surprisingly, at least as much support across the University for humanities research than there has been in recent years. The new Humanities Initiative supports graduate student funding, increased individual faculty fellowships, humanities centers on each campus, the systemwide institute, sponsors conferences, seminars, and workshops on every campus, working groups between campuses, multi-campus research groups, and residence research groups. There are few universities anywhere in the world that offer this range and level of support, all told.
While A. chides UCLA for "whor[ing] its Humanities people out to special interests in the donor community to get some support," in the past couple of years they have enjoyed a major Mellon grant which has been used to invigorate humanities research and teaching on campus. Berkeley also has enjoyed major support from Mellon, and UCHRI played a significant role in helping UC Press to secure a large Mellon grant to support California Studies. You would not know that from Professor A.'s account. A. offers not a word of productive or creative suggestion about how to respond to the crisis in public funding and the implications for the humanities. Many others have been working collaboratively and effectively to make humanities research available and viable, and it would be good to see Director A. throw support behind these efforts rather than do nothing but make our collective lives seem more miserable.