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Branch of econ dept. to be dissolved

John Tierney | Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Department of Economics and Policy Studies will likely be dissolved by the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year, John McGreevy, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said.

McGreevy submitted a recommendation last month to the Academic Council that the University discontinue the Department of Economics and Policy Studies. The Academic Council is set to discuss the recommendation in its next meeting on Feb. 25.

The remaining economics department, the Department of Economics and Econometrics, will be renamed the Department of Economics, McGreevy said. Some faculty members from Economics and Policy Studies will join the new department, but the new department will not be a combination of the two existing departments, McGreevy said.

“We had a principle that we weren’t going to force anyone into a department they don’t want to go to, and we’re not going to force a department to accept someone they don’t want,” he said.

Other Economics and Policy Studies faculty “are going to find homes in other departments and other programs across campus,” McGreevy said. He cited the Kroc Institute, the Kellogg Institute and the Poverty Studies minor as potential homes for Economics and Policy Studies faculty.

The decision to dissolve Economics and Policy Studies will not impact faculty members’ tenure status. Faculty members who are unable to find another department or program in the University will report directly to the associate dean for social sciences.

Economics and Policy Studies faculty members will continue to teach economics courses, McGreevy said.

The decision to dissolve Economics and Policy Studies was not an attempt to distance the University from alternative economic theories, he said.

“In the long run, we’re going to have more economic diversity, not less,” he said. “In the new Department of Economics, we’re going to want economic diversity.”

McGreevy said the proposed changes would help faculty members currently in Economics and Policy Studies participate in the economics conversations.

“Right now, we have two departments that don’t communicate with each other, and we don’t anticipate adding faculty to Economics and Policy Studies,” McGreevy said. “It seems almost unfair for them to sit there without a chance for growth. It’s better to integrate them into other units on campus.”

Integrating economists into other departments and programs will allow them to participate in a larger academic conversation, according to McGreevy.

“We’ll have better conversations when we don’t have these two departments,” he said. “At the level of the economics conversation, [Economics and Policy Studies professors] will be able to contribute more” by moving to a different department.”

Working in a different department or program will allow an Economics and Policy Studies faculty member to use his or her new program’s larger resources to promote research and ideas, according to McGreevy.

McGreevy characterized the criticism that he is opposed to multiple economic viewpoints as a “misconception.”

“I am committed to building a mainstream economics department at Notre Dame, but it doesn’t have to be monolithic,” McGreevy said.

Another misconception is that “only the Economics and Policy Studies group cares about Catholic social thought,” McGreevy said.

The decision to dissolve Economics and Policy Studies is “about trying to build a better program,” he said.

Although he said he is not motivated by rankings, McGreevy said they have some merit. “I think it’s unacceptable for Notre Dame to have a major department ranked 109,” he said.

“It’s important to build up a mainstream economics department. Notre Dame suffers if we don’t have that.”