It’s official

Posted: 11 September 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

here-lies-academic-freedom

It’s official: the University of Notre Dame has decided to eliminate the Department of Economics & Policy Studies. The existing faculty in that department have been encouraged to find a position in another unit, at ND or elsewhere.

No explanation has been given as to why such a move is necessary. What it means, however, is that the only department of economics that will remain at ND (currently the Department of Economics & Econometrics) is devoted exclusively to neoclassical theory (here is a history of the creation of the two departments).

Here are excerpts from the ECOP mission statement:

The mission of the Department of Economics and Policy Studies is to teach economics at the undergraduate and graduate levels and to conduct research in economics in a distinctive way.

The Department is distinctive in a number of ways, including:

  • It has a strong commitment to analyzing issues relating to socio-economic justice and ethics in economics.
  • Its faculty members have a strong interest in the development and use of alternative methodological approaches – such as post-Keynesian, radical and institutional economics- to the study of economics in addition to the orthodox neoclassical approach.
  • Its faculty members are concerned with the ethical dimensions of individual economic behavior and epistemological questions.
  • Its faculty uses broader political economy approaches emphasizing the roles of history and institutions, in addition to formal theoretical and quantitative analysis.

This distinctiveness is related to the Catholic identity of the University of Notre Dame and is reflected in the research activities of the Department’s faculty and in the courses offered to undergraduate and graduate students.

Here’s an excerpt from the ECOE mission statement:

Our mission is to achieve and to sustain excellence in research and teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We are a neoclassical economics department committed to rigorous theoretical and quantitative analysis in teaching and research.

The decision to eliminate ECOP is a blow to academic freedom. And, of course, ironic: the university is embracing neoclassical theory precisely when, in the context of the current crisis, that theory is being called into question and the conversation about economic issues and events, after a long period of neoclassical hegemony (and the economic and social disasters that have been the result), is finally opening up.

Here’s the story from today’s Observer (the student newspaper at ND):

Future of economics department uncertain

By: John Tierney

Posted: 9/11/09

The College of Arts and Letters plans to discontinue one of its two economic departments in the next two years, according to College Dean John McGreevy.

In the future, McGreevy said there will not be two economics departments in the College of Arts and Letters. Currently, the College houses the Department of Economics and Policy Studies and the Department of Economics and Econometrics.

McGreevy said any action he takes will ensure that the voices of the Economics and Policy Studies professors continue to be heard.

“We’re trying to create the best economics conversation we can have at Notre Dame,” McGreevy said. “There are lots of places around the University where we need economists,” including at the Kellogg Institute, the Kroc Institute and the Poverty Studies program.

He said the University has not made a final decision on what to do with the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, but that there will not be two departments in the future.

“What I’ve said in a meeting with both departments is that two departments is not the best strategy long-term,” he said.

The Department of Economics and Policy Studies was the primary economics department at the University until the creation of the Department of Economics and Econometrics in 2003, according to Professor of Economics and Policy Studies David Ruccio.

“The University decided in 2003 to create another economics department,” Ruccio said. “The majority of people in the existing department voted against the idea and the College Council voted against the idea.

“The people who wanted to create a new department went to the Academic Council and got a positive vote,” Ruccio said.

Of the 21 economics faculty members in 2003, 16 voted against the split and five voted in favor, according to Ruccio. The five members who supported the split went to the Department of Economics and Econometrics, which supports only neoclassical economic theory.

The 16 members who voted against the creation of a new department remained in the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, whose mission statement is to teach and conduct research in “a distinctive way” that is “related to the Catholic identity of the University.”

“Economics and Policy Studies has a more open or pluralistic approach to economics so lots of different theories are taught and used in research,” Ruccio said.

He said this pluralistic approach is especially valuable in the current economic crisis, when the neoclassical approach “has been most called into question.”

Ruccio said he believes his department “is going to be dissolved over the course of the next two years.”

Ruccio said that the different approach of the Department of Economics and Policy Studies helps “make Notre Dame distinctive.”

“Lots of universities only teach neoclassical economics,” he said.

Notre Dame is different “partly because of the Catholic tradition of social justice.”

“Now students will only get one approach and that’s a shame,” Ruccio said.

Without the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, “there won’t be a department that would be devoted to a conversation rather than a monologue on campus,” Ruccio said.

Students are less likely to be exposed “to a variety of different theories, when the department no longer exists,” he said.

“That’s especially true if Economics and Econometrics teaches all the intro courses,” he said.

Ruccio said the need for different approaches in economics stems from the concept of the liberal arts education.

In a liberal arts education, “students are exposed to critical thinking and the only way to do critical thinking is to be exposed to a variety of approaches,” he said.

McGreevy said that moves to other roles in the University could allow Economics and Policy Studies professors to have a larger impact.

“Our colleagues in Economics and Policy Studies have much expertise,” he said. “We’re asking where in the University they can have the most impact.”

McGreevy said the tenure of Economics and Policy Studies professors will be respected.

“We can’t be fired,” Ruccio said. “But from what we’ve heard, we have been encouraged to find another position either inside the University or outside the University.”

Comments
  1. […] 11, 2009 by nick This latest update is from Prof. David Ruccio’s blog. Ruccio is one of the remaining ECOP faculty. He teaches […]

  2. Gabriel Fuentes says:

    Where are all those right-wing zealots who have been complaining about the lack of academic freedom in academia? If they really cared about academic freedom (rather than the opposite) they should be just as vocal in opposing what the bureaucrats at the University of Notre Dame are doing to these economists. This is outrageous and further evidence that a far right cabal has taken control over the Catholic Church and its many influential institutions.

  3. […] because it’s the excuse that was used to first split the Department of Economics and then dissolve the renamed department at the University of Notre Dame. Also, Rethinking Marxism, the journal with […]

  4. Silverman says:

    So now your ND department devoted to “economics” is a perfectly clear example of the wrong kind of economics. Neo-Classical economics is the biggest disaster ever. If there is any sanity in the university at all, someone should eventually realize the problem in that department, freed from all distractions. Neo-Classical economics makes no sense. Please, people: work on this. Try to understand why someone would bother to write in and say so. Try to comprehend the idiocy of professional university economics. Our country is depending on it.
    Now, all the wrong thinking is at least organized into one spot. Sounds like a good experiment. Why generate confusion? Quarantine the field, and see how long it takes people to figure out the problem. One can only pray for progress. Good luck!

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