A community college in Middletown, Va., charged in a letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities, dated almost a year ago, that the agency rejected the college's proposal for an educational program grant because the proposal "did not reflect a set of elitist attitudes towards the Humanities -- those very elitist attitudes of the Endowment which have been under attack in recent year."
Yesterday, the two-and-a-half page letter, from the Lord Fairfax Community College, was read almost in its entirety by Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), who chaired the House Appropriations Committee hearing on the National Endowment for the Humanities.
NEH chairman Joseph Duffey responded that the college had resubmitted its proposal and had been funded this past February.
In the letter, which Yates called "impressive", the college officials said they examined the comments of the reviewers -- experts selected by the Endowment -- who make recommendations on funding.
"Ignorance of the community college situation is one thing clearly reflected in the reviewers comments," wrote the officials. They also said the reviewers seem to feel "technical-vocational programs are hucksters." And, they said, "the reviewers seem not to have read the content of the grant proposal."
"We get snobs sometimes," said Duffrey later. "We're going to try to find out who they were."
Duffey told Yates that he "'cheered on" the people who wrote the letter. "We can't guarantee all reviewers aren't like that. But when we find out about them, we don't use them any more."
The college request was one of several incidents -- raising the perennial charges of elitism agains the NEH -- about which Yates grilled Duffey yesterday. In fact, so much of yesterday's time was spent in close questioning on the programs and the spread of grant funds that Yates never got around to talking about the NEH's funding request. He said the committee would schedule another hearing.
The NEH earlier in the year requested $164.3 million for fiscal 1981 (which begins October 1). That earlier request has now been trimmed by $12.1 million, in anticipation of the stringent budget-cutting to balance the fiscal 1981 federal budget. The National Endowment for the Arts has likewise trimmed its fiscal 1981 request of $168 million by $7.8 million.
Among the new high-priority programs Duffey said the NEH is creating is one for outreaching. This involves workshops and agency staff visits to institutions and organizations in the "underserved areas" of the country. These areas generally do not apply often for grants, according to the NEH.