Defunding Title VIII

News that the State Department didn’t allocate funding for Title VIII, which provides funding for research and language programs related to the study of Eastern Europe and Eurasia, is just the latest example that our government sees little value in knowledge about foreign countries. “In this fiscal climate, it just didn’t make it,” a US State Department official told RIA Novosti. Knowledge has always been a cornerstone of foreign policy and international relations. The primary mission of State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which administers the Title VIII program, after all, is “to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy.” Once again, fiscal myopia has taken another step in undermining that truism.

Yet, despite the importance of Russia, and the “dangers” of its hetman, Vladimir Putin, the geopolitical importance of Central Asia, not to mention the abundant oil and the natural gas, the State Department just doesn’t think that financially supporting knowledge about this region isn’t worth the $3.5 million in grant money it allocated last year

From the foreign policy standpoint, this move just boggles the mind.

As an academic, it’s just mind numbing.

As an American, the news of defunding is, unfortunately, not all that surprising.

Granted, this isn’t the first salvo on Russia related funding programs. In 2011, Fulbright-Hays, which funds doctoral dissertations to Russia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia, had to cancel its competition because of Congressional cuts. Earlier this year, Congress defunded political science grants from the National Science Foundation. This is part of a general pattern.

Many of us in the Eastern European and Eurasian knowledge community whether they be professors, policy makers, and students will be affected by this as Title VIII programs provide a a good chunk of money to conduct in-country research and learn Eastern European and Eurasian languages. Here’s a list of programs the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) has compiled so far:

  • The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) will suspend all competitions in its East Europe Studies Program for 2013-14.   For further information, please contact Elisabeth Pop at epop@acls.org
  • The Arizona State University Critical Languages Institute has suspended competition for its Title VIII fellowships for domestic or overseas summer language study. Other student support competitions are NOT affected, in particular, the Melikian Scholar Award competition (open to all students, graduate and undergraduate), the Project GO Scholarship competition (open to ROTC students only), and the International Distinguished Engagement Award competition (open to all students). For further information, please see http://cli.asu.edu/fellowships or contact CLI at cli@asu.edu
  • Indiana University has suspended competitions for Title VIII fellowships for domestic and portable intensive summer language study. FLAS and Project GO funding are still available for students studying in the Summer Language Workshop (SWSEEL). For more information, please see our website http://www.indiana.edu/~swseel/ or contact Olia Bueva at swseel@indiana.edu
  • NCEEER will suspend any new Title VIII programming for Fiscal Year 2013 (October 1 2013 – September 30 2014). This suspension includes the National Research Competition, the Short-Term Travel Research Grant, the Hewett Fellowship, and the Indigenous Peoples Research Fellowship. At this point, current NCEEER Title VIII grant holders will not be affected. Questions may be directed to Dana Ponte, dana@nceeer.org.
  • The SSRC Eurasia Program has suspended the competitions for its Title VIII fellowships in 2013-2014. For further information, please contact the Eurasia Program at eurasia@ssrc.org.
  • The Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute has suspended competition for its Title VIII Research Scholarship grant (3-9 months) for 2013-14.   For additional information, please contact Liz Malinkin at Liz.Malinkin@wilsoncenter.org

This list will certainly grow in the coming weeks.

I strongly urge anyone who cares about this issue to write their Congressperson to put whatever pressure they can on the State Department to restore funding. You can find their contact information here.

For more information about the defunding, read the excellent Carl Schreck’s article US Defunds Venerable Russian Studies Program in RIA Novosti. Carl has been the only journalist to report on this so far. And take note, he works for Russian not American media.

Besides RIA Novosti, Inside Higher Ed has a short piece on it here.

I know many journalists covering Russia read this blog. I humbly ask that they turn their attention to this matter.

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