Statement Opposing US Proposal to Tax Tution Waivers

ASIMS has joined the list of academic societies opposing the US proposal to tax tution waivers. The official statement is available here and below.

Statement Opposing US Proposal to Tax Tuition Waivers

November 28, 2017

We, the undersigned organizations, stand together in opposition to the proposal to tax graduate school tuition waivers as income, a provision included in the tax reform bill recently passed by the US House of Representatives.

As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education,

Nationwide, about 55 percent of all graduate students had adjusted gross incomes of $20,000 or less… and nearly 87 percent reported incomes of $50,000 or less. At the same time, master’s degree students received tuition waivers averaging nearly $11,000, and doctoral students got waivers averaging more than $13,600.

Subjecting tuition waivers to income tax would dramatically increase the tax burden of hundreds of thousands of students. This would put graduate education out of reach for many, and would have the greatest impact on those groups already underrepresented in higher education.

The provision would also likely force graduate schools to reduce the number of students they admit, so that they can compensate for increased tax liability with increased financial assistance to students in their programs. Reducing the number of students in graduate schools would have devastating effects across higher education and beyond—there would be fewer instructors to teach undergraduates and fewer researchers to pursue new breakthroughs that transform every aspect of American society.

We call on Members of Congress to reject this proposal and stand up for the future of American higher education. We further urge the members of our organizations to contact their Members of Congress and encourage them to act to ensure tuition waivers remain tax-free.

African Studies Association
American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
American Association of Geographers
American Comparative Literature Association
American Folklore Society
American Historical Association
American Musicological Society
American Philosophical Association
American Political Science Association
American Society for Environmental History
American Society of Irish Medieval Studies
American Sociological Association
American Studies Association
Association for Asian Studies
Association for Jewish Studies
Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies
Association for the Study of Literature & Environment
Association of College & Research Libraries
College Art Association
International Center of Medieval Art
Latin American Studies Association
Material Collective
Medieval Academy of America
MEARCSTAPA
Modern Language Association
National Communication Association
National Council of Teachers of English
National Council on Public History
North American Conference of British Studies
Oral History Association
Organization of American Historians
Rhetoric Society of America
Shakespeare Association of America
Society for American Music
Society for Cinema & Media Studies
Society for Classical Studies
Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship
Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study
Society of Architectural Historians
Society of Biblical Literature
Tales after Tolkien Society
World History Association

Statement on Charlottesville

The Medieval Academy of America has composed a letter speaking out against the recent racist violence in Charlottesville and white supremacists’ misappropriation of what they take to be medieval symbols and terminology in support of their hateful rhetoric.

By vote of the Executive Board on 24-Aug-2017, ASIMS is proud to add our signature to this letter:

Medievalists Respond to Charlottesville

In light of the recent events in the United States, most recently the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the undersigned community of medievalists condemns the appropriation of any item or idea or material in the service of white supremacy. In addition, we condemn the abuse of colleagues, particularly colleagues of color, who have spoken publicly against this misuse of history.

As scholars of the medieval world we are disturbed by the use of a nostalgic but inaccurate myth of the Middle Ages by racist movements in the United States. By using imagined medieval symbols, or names drawn from medieval terminology, they create a fantasy of a pure, white Europe that bears no relationship to reality. This fantasy not only hurts people in the present, it also distorts the past. Medieval Europe was diverse religiously, culturally, and ethnically, and medieval Europe was not the entire medieval world. Scholars disagree about the motivations of the Crusades—or, indeed, whether the idea of “crusade” is a medieval one or came later—but it is clear that racial purity was not primary among them.

Contemporary white nationalists are not the first Americans to have turned nostalgic views of the medieval period to racist purposes. It is, in fact, deeply ironic that the Klan’s ideas of medieval knighthood were used to harass immigrants who practiced the forms of Christianity most directly connected with the medieval church. Institutions of scholarship must acknowledge their own participation in the creation of interpretations of the Middle Ages (and other periods) that served these narratives. Where we do find bigotry, intolerance, hate, and fear of “the other” in the past—and the Middle Ages certainly had their share—we must recognize it for what it is and read it in its context, rather than replicating it.

The medieval Christian culture of Europe is indeed a worthy object of study, in fact a necessary one. Medieval Studies must be broader than just Europe and just Christianity, however, because to limit our object of study in such a way gives an arbitrary and false picture of the past. We see a medieval world that was as varied as the modern one. It included horrific violence, some of it committed in the name of religion; it included feats of bravery, justice, harmony, and love, some of them also in the name of religion. It included movement of people, goods, and ideas over long distances and across geographical, linguistic, and religious boundaries. There is much to be learned from studying the period, whether we choose to focus on one community and text or on wider interactions. What we will not find is the origin of a pure and supreme white race.

Every generation of scholars creates its own interpretations of the past. Such interpretations must be judged by how well they explain the writings, art, and artifacts that have come down to us. As a field we are dedicated to scholarly inquiry. As the new semester approaches at many institutions, we invite those of you who have the opportunity to join us. Take a class or attend a public lecture on medieval history, literature, art, music. Learn about this vibrant and varied world, instead of simply being appalled by some racist caricature of it. See for yourself what lessons it holds for the modern world.

The Medieval Academy of America
The Gender and Medieval Studies Group
The International Arthurian Society-North American Branch
The International Piers Plowman Society
The International Society of Anglo-Saxonists
The International Society for the Study of Medievalism
The New Chaucer Society
The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship
American Society for Irish Medieval Studies