Mariah Byrne for The Hoya on July 18, 2011:
The recent $50 million reduction in the funding for International Education and Foreign Language Studies has almost halved funding for some Georgetown language programs, forcing several heavy hitters on the Hilltop to speak out against the cuts.
For Georgetown’s National Resource Centers ─ the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Asian Studies program and the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies ─ there has been a 47 percent cut in funding across the board for 2012. Primarily operations and programming budgets have been slashed, but some initiatives have lost all funding for this coming school year.
The three centers grants for 2011 totaled $1.4 million, according to Vice President of Federal Relations Scott Fleming, and the centers’ directors say cutting this amount will be painful.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board Chuck Hagel, both Georgetown professors, published an editorial in Friday’s USA Today denouncing the $50 million reduction by the Department of Education for fiscal year 2012. The pair argued that such funding slashes have ominous prospects for the nation’s ability to effectively conduct diplomacy, obtain intelligence and counter terrorism.
According to Albright, Hagel and the program directors, the funding cutbacks ultimately represent a threat to the future of the federal government and international relations.
“If you don’t have that money for training, you’ll have a group of students who don’t know the language and who don’t know the culture,” CERES director Angela Stent said. “Of course, that will have an effect on national security issues.”
Albright and Hagel are not the first Georgetown faculty members to stand in opposition to the cuts. University President John J. DeGioia penned a letter with Indiana University President Michael McRobbie to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership asking the committee to restore funding to 2010 levels in the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
“Continuing these levels in Fiscal Year 2012 would seriously damage our nation’s world-class international education infrastructure, and thus weaken the expertise and knowledge important to our nation’s ability to meet economic, global and security challenges,” he wrote..
The July 12 letter was signed by 86 university and college leaders.
The Office of Federal Relations is working conjunctively with President DeGioia and universities across the country to restore the funding.
“We’re talking about an uphill climb if you will,” Fleming said. “While they’re talking about cutting, we’re talking about restoring.”
Georgetown was originally awarded the money as the winner of three four-year grants, which designated its three programs as National Resource Centers. These centers offer courses and experiences in foreign languages, cultures and politics.
All three centers are currently experiencing cutbacks in the number of courses offered, the amount of financial support available for graduate students, the number of academic events held, the availability of research grants and the extent of the Outreach program, which provides training to teachers in underprivileged areas of D.C. and Maryland. Funding for Fulbright-Hays training grants for graduate students has been cancelled nationally.
“The cuts were painful,” Fleming said. “We’re trying to minimize the damage.”
This year Foreign Language Area Studies fellowships, full scholarships for graduate students, have been purposefully maintained by the Department of Education despite other significant funding reductions.
“It’s quite possible that if nothing is restored, [the federal government] may be severely cutting back on that,” Stent said.
Beneficiaries of the money allocated to Georgetown’s National Resource Centers have gone on to work in military attaches, embassies, the National Security Council and the Departments of State and Defense.
“This is cutting muscle and it’s cutting tissue. This is not cutting fat,” said Victor Cha, director of the National Resource Center East Asia. Cha previously was a beneficiary of Title VI of the Higher Education Act through which the federal funding is allocated and is also a former director of Asian Affairs for the National Security Council.
The funding provided by Title VI has helped the each center developed a variety of seminars, lecture series and degrees. It has also notably expanded the university’s Arabic language program into the largest in the United States. CCAS Director Osama Ali-Mershed argued that the funding cuts are coming a time when Arab politics and economics are becoming of integral importance to the United States.
“The point of the matter… is that the government cutsin higher education are taking place at a moment when the democratic uprisings in the Arab world should be dictating the opposite trend,” he said.
In June, the directors of the three centers met with the Assistant Secretary of Education for Policy in order to reinforce the importance of the funding to the university.
“We’re doing everything we can to make [the Department of Education] understand what the cuts mean,” Stent said.