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NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 10, #7; 20 February 2004) by Bruce Craig (editor) <email@example.com> National Coalition for History (NCH) Website http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch ***************** 1. The Battle Continues – Advisory Boards and the Title VI Higher Education Act 2. Outsourcing Studies Continue – Next Target NPS Historians 3. Judge Issues Decision on Dean Records 4. Bits and Bytes: Updated NCH Web Page; Rare Book School Schedules Courses; NHPRC Last Call: Fellowships in Historical Documentary Editing 5. Articles of Interest: "Saving Iraq's Treasures The British and Swiss Get Tough About Smuggling" from Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal Online; 18 February 2004); 'Pit bull' Dogs Iraq Museum Looters" (Christian Science Monitor; 20 February 2004) 1. THE BATTLE CONTINUES – ADVISORY BOARDS AND THE TITLE VI HIGHER EDUCATION ACT By voice vote on 21 October 2003, the House of Representatives passed Representative Peter Hoekstra's (R-MI) legislation, the "International Studies in Higher Education Act" (HR 3077). The bill reauthorizes the international education and foreign language programs of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Title VI). Federal Title VI monies (about $95 million a year) fund fellowships, language instruction, and special lectures and discussions in more than 118 "area studies centers" (i.e. Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia) throughout the nation. Hoekstra's bill has now moved to the Senate where it is attracting the attention of lawmakers, academics, and scholarly activists. One of the most controversial aspects of the legislation is a provision creating a highly powerful "advisory board" charged to review and assess Middle Eastern Studies centers and programs in the nation's colleges and universities. Critics maintain that the term "advisory board" is an inaccurate designation, since the board has investigative authority, its own staff, and no requirement that it report to the Secretary of Education. If this legislation is permitted to pass in its present [House passed] form, says John Hammer of the National Humanities Alliance, "its activities could be both political and intimidating." According to Amy Newhall, Executive Director of the Middle Eastern Studies Association, the proposed board targets Middle Eastern studies programs, but if allowed to stand would "establish a precedent for future legislation directed at any field, discipline, or professional school in any and all universities." Academic freedom is at the heart of the controversy. Through periodic governmental oversight, critics state that legislators, not professors, ultimately could be responsible for determining Middle Eastern studies curricula and course content. So dangerous is the provision that some centers may opt to discontinue receiving federal money if the advisory board is created. The idea of creating a board emerged last year when conservative critics of academia charged that Middle Eastern studies programs, including those found in "area study centers" in colleges and universities across the nation, were "anti-American and anti-Israeli" and called for the creation of a board to review them. Last June, Stanley Kurtz, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, was invited to testify before a House subcommittee. Kurtz charged that academics in Middle Eastern studies were biased against U.S. foreign policy. He then urged Congress, through its power of the purse, to correct the situation by taking action to "balance university faculties with members who both support and oppose American foreign policy." His testimony fell on sympathetic ears in Congress, and helped persuade both Republican and Democratic legislators to authorize the so-called advisory board. The House-passed bill authorizes $500,000 for the creation of a board charged to "study, monitor, apprize and evaluate a sample of activities supported under this title" and to "provide recommendations for program improvement and ensure that programs meet the title's purposes." Critics state that the board "interjects federal intervention in the classroom" by granting broad investigative authority to the board, thus empowering it to probe into grantee activities, including individual faculty (and new hires) and curricular content. In theory, if not reality, the board could be a major force over university staffing and in hiring of guest lecturers, making curriculum decisions, approving books for classes, and recommending approaches to be taken when teaching a specific subject. To those ends, the board is charged to "make recommendations that will promote the ...development of such programs at the post-secondary education level that will reflect diverse perspectives and represent the full range of views on world regions, foreign language, and international affairs." Critics charge that this authority invites inappropriate federal intervention into course content and, when combined with investigative authority, could mean more general intrusion into the classroom, coercive oversight, and intimidation -- First Amendment infringements are especially possible. Supporters, including Kurtz, argue that without federal government intervention, "the very purpose of free speech and academic freedom will have been defeated." The legislation provides no limit to the board's power to secure the "services, personnel, information, and facilities of other federal, state, local and private agencies with or without reimbursement." The board is empowered to "secure directly from any executive department, bureau, agency, board, commission, office independent establishment, or instrumentality information, suggestions estimates, and statistics." The coercive powers of the board also give rise to the concern that private organizations and institutions could be forced to provide information and assistance to the board. The composition of the proposed board is perhaps the key objection of many critics. It bears no resemblance to a "peer-review" panel comprised of experts in the field as is commonly created to assist in the administration of science and education-related programs. Three members would be named by the Secretary of Education, and one each by the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. Only two agencies are to be represented on the board and they must be selected from among agencies with national security responsibilities. Traditionally, the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Interior, and Agriculture, as well as other federal entities such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, are included in such advisory bodies. In this instance, they are not represented. Critics also cite dangers that political appointees, who, lacking any real expertise or knowledge in Middle East affairs, would fall back on their political biases when reviewing programs. While the board is specifically forbidden to "control curricula," nevertheless, according to Newhall, "it is intrusive...and the potential for meddling is still very great." Now that the Senate is preparing to address the Hoekstra bill, Hill insiders report that there is an opportunity to affect the outcome of the Senate version of that legislation. Some observers expect that some type of advisory board will be included in the final legislation, though striking the board entirely from the bill is still not out of the question. Reportedly, some Republican staffers on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee concede that the House legislation is in need of a "few changes." Democratic staffers also appear willing to listen though even they, reports one insider, "need convincing." Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the ranking minority member of the HELP committee apparently needs no convincing – he is strongly opposed to any advisory board as is Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a junior member of the committee, who also has taken a firm stand against the proposed advisory committee. The National Humanities Alliance, an association representing the diverse interests of the humanities and scholarly communities, has taken a strong interest in the pending legislation. The NHA has issued a call for associations and individuals (especially those who are constituents of members of the Senate committee considering the legislation) to weigh in on the advisory board issue. Because mail is currently not being delivered in the Senate in a timely manner, the NHA suggests fax and e-mail communications are likely to be most effective. In seniority order, the members of the HELP committee are as follows: Republicans – Judd Gregg (R-NH), Chair; Bill Frist (R-TN), Majority Leader; Michael Enzi (R-WY); Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Christopher Bond (R-MO); Mike DeWine (R-OH); Pat Roberts (R-KS); Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); John Warner (R-VA). Democrats – Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Ranking Minority; Christopher Dodd (D-CT); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Patty Murray (D-WA); Jack Reed (D-RI); John Edwards (D-NC); Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY); and Independent member, James Jeffords (I-VT). All members of the Senate may be contacted by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121; fax and e-mail numbers may be obtained by visiting member web sites or by visiting: <http://congress.org>. 2. OUTSOURCING STUDIES CONTINUE – NEXT TARGET NPS HISTORIANS In spite of continuing reports demonstrating that federal workers are successfully competing in the Bush administration's ongoing efforts to "outsource" federal jobs (positions that are categorized by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as "commercial in nature" and not "inherently governmental"), federal agencies and bureaus continue planned outsourcing assessments to fulfill the mandates of the Bush administration. Consequently, the huge expenditure of federal funds to conduct scores of outsourcing studies, though not yet a blip on the radar of most Democratic candidates for president, in the present environment of federal budget fiscal austerity, may well emerge as an election issue that will do little to help in President Bush's re-election effort. Recent reports show that the U.S. Forest Service, for example, has now spent $23.2 million to outsource positions that have resulted in a net savings of only $6.2 million to the government. Other agencies report similar statistics. But high-ranking Bush administration officials continue to articulate support of a program that critics charge is diverting scarce agency and precious bureau operating funds to line the pockets of private sector contractors who conduct the studies. The A-76 program is now being characterized by some as among the most inefficient programs in terms of cost/benefit ever created by government officials. In both the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, competitive outsourcing has been tough on scores of civilian workers. Yet even for positions deemed ripe for outsourcing in land management agencies (maintenance positions in the National Park Service and soil conservation technicians in the Forest Service, to name but two) a trend is developing: most of the time, when they are allowed to compete head-to-head, the feds are winning. Having had only marginal success in open competition outsourcing efforts – and those successes being largely in what are considered "low skill" occupations in which there is a large labor pool of workers willing to work for meager wages – some agencies are now fast-tracking assessments of higher paying "professional" positions such as archeologists, historians, and museum curators to try to meet outsourcing assessment targets. To some observers, the thrust of the A-76 program appears to be shifting from trying to actually contract out a specified number of federal jobs to the private sector, to justifying the continued existence of the program. It is now common to hear agency spokespersons arguing that "public-private competition" promotes greater "accountable and results-oriented action." But even that goal is failing to materialize. Take for example, the historians in the National Park Service. Because of what appears to have been a bureaucratic faux-pax, nearly 200 historians in the NPS may find their positions assessed for competitive review. Several years back when the A-76 program was in its formative stage, the "historian" job series (GS-170) was mis-categorized when, in the effort to fit literally thousands of job categories into poorly thought out OMB function codes, historians were dumped by an agency study panel into an improper function code group. The "historian" position today falls in OMB's "Other Technical Services" function code rather than in the more appropriate "Historical or Heraldry Services" code. The later category includes park rangers and archivists and specifically relates to history and heritage-related duties, but strangely does not include historians, archival technicians, or any of the hundreds of archeologists employed by the Service. Exactly how the historians ended up in the "Other Technical Services" category remains unclear. Nobody in the Interior Department or the NPS is willing to take responsibility for the decision, let alone take immediate corrective action. As a consequence, the NPS outsourcing efforts now turns its sights on bureau historians. Of the 209 historians in the NPS, only twenty-one positions are classified as "supervisory" in nature and hence are automatically exempt from outsourcing assessment. The vast majority of the rest of the historians positions are now slotted for "pre-assessment" on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they can be classified as "core to mission" and hence exempted from full-blown competitive review. Bureau insiders contend that the NPS historians probably will ultimately be deemed "core to mission" and hence be exempted from further competitive review, but that decision ultimately rests not with the NPS but with OMB. Even if historians were to be subjected to a full competitive review, the statistics now suggest that in the end, the vast majority (if not all) historians would keep their jobs. But in the meantime, competitions continue to be a trying experience for nearly all involved. 3. JUDGE ISSUES DECISION ON DEAN RECORDS Last December then Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean created controversy when he sealed nearly half of his gubernatorial records for a minimum of ten years. Though some 190 boxes were available to researchers, some 145 other boxes remained closed. At the time Dean stated, "We didn't want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time in any future endeavor." This last week, on 17 February 2004, Superior Court Judge Alan W. Cook ruled that neither the former governor nor the Vermont secretary of state had authority to agree to the blanket seal of some 145 boxes of records from Dean's eleven years as governor. To seal the records, the judge ordered that Dean and the state must review the 600,000 documents and describe why, each is protected by executive privilege. According to Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, which had brought suit to open the papers, "Howard Dean is now getting a lesson in governmental openness." The Associated Press reports that Dean is expected to appeal the decision, though he may have a change of heart as the ruling came prior to the candidate's announcement that he was dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. 4. BITS AND BYTES Item #1 – Updated NCH Web Page: The National Coalition for History webpage has now been updated. You can tap into the current membership roster, the 2004 Work Plan for the history coalition, and the 2003 Annual Report that outlines last year's successes and the continued challenges that confront the historical an archival communities. For the webpage tap into: <http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch>. Additional revisions (including updated NCH Briefing Papers on the fiscal needs of various history/archival programs such as the National Historical Publications and Records Administration (NHPRC) and Department of Education "Teaching American History" program will be posted in the near future. Item #2 -- Rare Book School Schedules Courses: The Rare Book School (RBS) a non-profit entity associated with the University of Virginia has announced a collection of five-day, non-credit courses on topics concerning rare books, manuscripts, the history of books and printing, and special collections to be held 2-6 August 2004 at the University of Virginia. The course is designed to be an introduction to the physical examination and description of printed books, especially of the time period 1550-1875. For additional information including application forms, an electronic copy of the complete course announcement brochure, and the RBS expanded course descriptions, tap into: <http://www.rarebookschool.org>. Item #3 -- NHPRC Last Call: Fellowships in Historical Documentary Editing: This posting is a reminder that the deadline for applications for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) 2004-05 fellowship in Historical Documentary Editing is 1 March 2004. The Fellowship in Historical Documentary Editing is designed to give fellows hands-on experience in historical documentary editing including documentary collection, document selection, transcription, annotation, proofreading, and indexing. The host institutions for the academic year 2004-2005 are the Margaret Sanger Papers, located at New York University, and the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, located at Princeton University. Additional information, the fellowship application and related forms are available on the NHPRC web-site at: <http://www.archives.gov/nhprc_and_other_grants/education_programs/education_programs.html#edit>. 5. ARTICLES OF INTEREST Two postings this week both focusing on Iraq heritage: In "Saving Iraq's Treasures The British and Swiss Get Tough About Smuggling" from Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal Online; 18 February 2004) reporter Zainab Bahrani states that two nations known for being a clearinghouse for stolen antiquities have taken action to accede to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property." Tap into: http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110004707>. In 'Pit bull' Dogs Iraq Museum Looters" (Christian Science Monitor; 20 February 2004) staff writer Mary Wiltenburg reports on the ongoing effort to recover stolen artifacts from Baghdad's National Museum. Tap into: <http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0220/p11s01-woiq.html>. *********************************************************** The National Coalition for History invites you to subscribe to this FREE weekly newsletter! You are also encouraged to redistribute the NCH Washington Updates to colleagues, friends, teachers, students and others who are interested in history and archives issues. A complete backfile of these reports is maintained by H-Net on the NCH's recently updated web page at: <http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch>. To subscribe to the "NCH Washington Update," send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org according to the following model: SUBSCRIBE H-NCH firstname lastname, institution. To unsubscribe send an e-mail message to: email@example.com according to the following model: SIGNOFF H-NCH. You can accomplish the same tasks by tapping into the web interface at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/lists/subscribe.cgi and at the "network" prompt, scroll down and select H-NCH; enter your name and affiliation and "submit". **************************************************************