After a polarizing election season, contacting your newly elected or returning legislator might be the last thing you want to think about right now. But now—before the busy start to federal and state legislative sessions—is a critical time for you to welcome new legislators and educate them about issues that matter to you.
What types of arts and sciences asks are appropriate for new and returning legislators? At the federal level, consider encouraging your senators to join the Senate Cultural Caucus and your representatives to join the Congressional Humanities Caucus. These bipartisan groups consider policies to support the arts and sciences at the federal level.
Do investments in the nation’s cultural sector really matter? The nation’s creative economy equals 4.5 percent of gross domestic product, contributing more to the national economy than the construction, transportation, travel, tourism, mining, utilities, and agriculture industries. Not only is the cultural sector crucial for the economic recovery, but it also strengthens communities and builds civic ties to place.
The U.S. has now fallen to tenth place among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations in research investment as a fraction of GDP. You can encourage policymakers to make federal investments in science a national priority and encourage the use of evidence-based policymaking. Our “Arts & Sciences Are Key” toolkit provides some sample language and links to resources that can make this easy for you at www.toolkit.pbk.org.
At the state level, policymakers will face many difficult choices this session. State investments in higher education help students and their families now, but also benefit communities with the public value of arts and sciences research and ensure long-term competitiveness. With broad cuts to higher education, the liberal arts and sciences often sustain disproportionate reductions. You do not have to be an alum to help Phi Beta Kappa’s public colleges and universities in your state. Government relations teams welcome constituent support from non-alumni and can provide data, asks, and student stories.
If you are not interested in talking with policymakers, you can still help. If you donate to your alma mater, take a few extra minutes to let your college or university know why you support the arts and sciences on campus in the comments box as you complete your donation. If you are an employer, encourage your human resources staff to avoid narrow pre-professional educational requirements when filling positions that require interdisciplinary perspectives and executive function skills. You can also help Phi Beta Kappa encourage liberal arts and sciences students to explore careers in local, state, and federal government.
The Society now invites outstanding students to apply for our Key into Public Service, a program awarding $5,000 scholarships along with training and mentoring opportunities on pathways from liberal arts and sciences education into active citizenship and public service. Visit pbk.org/publicservice for application details until our January 15, 2021, deadline. With your participation, the liberal arts and sciences can move beyond this winter of discontent to a hopeful spring of action.