Marc Stein: Claims he was the victim of bias at the NEH

Historians in the News

Allegations of conservative political bias at the National Endowment of the Humanities have been made over the last several years, but few scholars have come forward to tell their stories. On Saturday 7 January, at a panel sponsored by the American Historical Association Professional Division, the Coordinating Council for Women in History, and the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History, historian of sexuality Marc Stein, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, went public.

Unanimously recommended for funding by an NEH panel of experts, which gave Stein's proposal for"The U.S. Supreme Court's Sexual Revolution? 1965-1973" its highest possible ratings, Stein's proposal was vetoed by NEH Chair Bruce Cole. When Stein applied again in the next funding cycle, he was rejected again, this time based on allegations about his"personal agenda." HNN featured Stein's article on our homepage.

Following the publication of his paper other scholars joined Stein in criticizing the NEH, as reported by Inside Higher Education:

Other historians are joining Marc Stein's attack on the fairness of the National Endowment for the Humanities, claiming that the NEH discriminates against queer studies scholarship.

Stein's attack published on HNN and presented as a paper at the American Historical Association this past weekend was widely discussed at the history meeting, with other gay scholars saying that he had demonstrated that their work was being unfairly evaluated and excluded.

“It’s absolutely appalling,” said Leisa D. Meyer, chair of the AHA’s Committee on Gay and Lesbian History and a professor of history and women’s studies at the College of William and Mary. “It’s really dangerous the way the NEH is held hostage.”

In an interview Sunday, Erik Lokkesmoe, a spokesman for the endowment, said that Stein’s assumptions were incorrect and that there was no bias against work in gay studies. “The only litmus test we have is excellence,” he said, adding that he would encourage gay studies scholars to apply for NEH grants. His message to these scholars: “Please call our program officers. We welcome your applications. They will get full consideration.”

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