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Students support Economics dept. with uncertain future

John Tierney | Thursday, December 10, 2009

Students concerned about the uncertain future of the Department of Economics and Policy Studies have gathered over 1,000 signatures on an online petition supporting the department, but have yet to see their efforts rewarded by the University.

The students, who are led by senior economics major Matt Panhans, are prioritizing getting information about the future of the department, which is “surrounded by mystery,” Panhans said.

The University currently supports two economics departments — the Department of Economics and Econometrics and the Department of Economics and Policy Studies.

The Observer reported in September that John McGreevy, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, did not see two economics departments in the University’s long-term interest and that Economics and Policy Studies faculty were encouraged to look for other opportunities.

The College of Arts and Letters has not yet released a formal announcement regarding the future of Economics and Policy Studies.

“The ultimate goal is to have some sort of conversation about this,” Panhans said. “The way it’s been happening has been very silent, without much input from Policy Studies faculty or from students.”

The Economics Club invited McGreevy to discuss the future of Economics and Policy Studies at a forum earlier this semester.

McGreevy declined to participate in the forum, however, citing the sensitivity of the situation and the “personnel issues” involved, Panhans said.

Panhans said he and other students spoke with University President Fr. John Jenkins about Economics and Policy Studies in his office hours this semester.

“He did say he agreed with us,” Panhans said. “He wants us to keep talking about this stuff.”

Panhans said Jenkins is “kind of aloof” from the decision process.

“It’s mostly the dean and kind of the provost,” Panhans said.

Panhans’ group is continuing discussion about the pluralistic view of economics supported by Economics and Policy Studies, even as the department is able to offer fewer classes.

“At least we can keep talking about the stuff we want to learn about,” Panhans said. “If we can’t do it in the classroom, we’re still going to do it outside the classroom.”

To further conversation about non-traditional economics, Panhans and fellow senior economics major Nick Dan are co-teaching a one-credit course in the Department of Economics and Policy Studies next semester.

The course, titled “Beyond Economic Man,” is officially listed on insideND as taught by Jennifer Warlick, chair of the Department of Economics and Policy Studies. Panhans and Dan, however, designed the syllabus and arranged guest lecturers for the class.

Panhans said his group plans to meet with McGreevy next week. The group will decide after the meeting whether or not they will officially present McGreevy with the online petition.