The Economics Department may discuss a proposal later this spring calling for the creation within the department of a separate faculty offering courses in non-conventional areas of economics, James S. Duesenberry, chairman of the Economics Department, said yesterday.
The proposal is outlined in general terms in a memorandum written by John Kenneth Galbraith, Warburg Professor of Economics, that circulated among the senior faculty of the department last month.
Duesenberry said that although he "hasn't given much thought about what to do about it," the plan would probably come up for discussion at the department's Executive Committee after Galbraith returns from Europe in April. The Executive Committee consists of all tenured professors in the department.
Galbraith's memorandum suggests the establishment of an experimental program and committee which would have the power to recommend a number of faculty appointments--both tenured and nontenured--to the department.
Appointments and resources would be allocated to the program in proportion to its teaching load within the department. Galbraith foresees about a quarter of each entering class of graduate students electing to work toward their degrees under the experimental rubric.
Members of the experimental faculty would also be expected to teach undergraduate courses, the memorandum states.
Galbraith describes the purpose of the program as "To deliberately develop alternatives to the present pattern of instruction, appointments and associated research," while retaining within the department final responsibility for "maintaining faculty standards."
The Economics Department has been rent by disputes recently involving the hiring of radical economists, four of whom have been denied tenure in the last three years. The creation of the experimental faculty would remove responsibility for the teaching of Marxian economics from the normal curriculum of the department.
Herbert M. Gintis, assistant professor of Economics and one of the Marxists denied tenure, said yesterday the proposed change is a "good idea--mild sounding but it has far reaching implications in that it would make hiring and money proportional to the number of students in the program."
Gintis added that he thought the implementation of the plan would quickly lead to a complete split of the department, a prospect he favors.
The memorandum cites the department's large size, the "extensively adverse" attitudes of graduate students and the "danger of a growing homogeneity," as sources of continued dispute within the department which would be partially remedied under the experimental plan.
Both the retirement of an older generation of economic individualists and the failure to promote younger dissenters raise the prospect of orthodoxy, Galbraith writes.
Other faculty members contacted yesterday refused to comment on the substance of the proposal, saying that they had not yet had a chance to think about it.
But a graduate student who had discussed the proposal with Galbraith said he thought the proposal was "Galbraith's way of saying to the department 'I will solve the political problems of the department if you give me a blank check.'