It’s official-recap

Posted: 27 September 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Here’s a recap of the events leading up to and following on the recent decision to close the Department of Economics and Policy Studies at the University of Notre Dame:

  • April 2008: students raise concerns that the issues—such as history, alternative theories, and social justice—represented by the Department of Economics and Policy Studies are being marginalized from the curriculum, and they launch a petition demanding pluralism in the teaching of economics
  • Spring 2009: in order to encourage pluralism within the curriculum, two students design and teach a new course, “Alternative Approaches to the Firm”
  • April 2009: students invite Marxian economist Richard D. Wolff to give a public lecture, “Capitalism Hits the Fan,” which was attended by over 200 students, faculty, staff, and others
  • 11 September 2009: the Observer breaks the story that the dean has decided to eliminate the Department of Economics and Policy Studies
  • 16 September 2009: the Chronicle of Higher Education picks up the story
  • 18 September 2009: students initiate a petition expressing their opposition to the decision to eliminate the Department of Economics and Policy Studies and calling for a strengthening of the department
  • 22 September 2009: Teresa Ghilarducci writes about the decision in the Chronicle

Students on the Open Economics blog offer a running commentary on the decision and a series of links to the 2003 decision to split the Department of Economics into two departments: the Department of Economics and Econometrics and the Department of Economics and Policy Studies. At the time, the university argued that the existence of two departments would allow many different perspectives to flourish on campus, and denied the accusation that splitting the department was the first step in a process of eventually eliminating the Department of Economics and Policy Studies.

And the history, as written, needs to be corrected. David Glenn’s Chronicle article is wrong about the origins of the split. He writes:

Early in this decade, the University of Notre Dame’s economics department was bruised by a long series of quarrels over methods and ideology. So in 2003 the university’s leaders came up with a Solomonic solution: They split the department in two.

In fact, the economics department was bruised by the university administrators’ decision to split the department. The department voted 16-5 against the decision. (The College Council also voted against the decision, by a similar margin.) It was thus a quarrel between the department and some university administrators, not a quarrel within the department.

Once the split occurred, the neoclassical department (Economics and Econometrics) was given control over the Ph.D. program and all new hires in economics. The other department (Economics and Policy Studies) was denied access to the Ph.D. program as well as the ability to hire (even to replace faculty who left).

And so we arrive at one of the lessons of history: “all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. . .the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

  1. […] same lesson holds in other areas: when a university decides to eliminate a department of economics known around the world for teaching diverse ideas and methods—in favor […]

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