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In a lopsided vote, the economics department turned down a proposal yesterday to give students an alternative to Social Analysis 10: “Principles of Economics” (Ec 10), a course some students and professors have criticized as politically biased.
The proposal called for a new course, which would have been taught by Barker Professor of Economics Stephen A. Marglin ’59, to replace the first semester of Ec 10. The class is currently taught by Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein.
Yesterday’s defeat was not a surprise; it comes just two weeks after the Committee on Undergraduate Education in Economics rejected the proposal. After that vote, Chair of the Department of Economics Oliver S. Hart said the passage of the plan was unlikely.
The proposal has met with criticism from students and professors, who see Feldstein’s course as sufficiently balanced.
But Marglin said yesterday that he plans to continue his effort to provide alternative courses to students.
After yesterday’s two-hour meeting, Hart said that the department “decided not to support the Marglin proposal.” He declined further comment.
The alternative course has been championed by Students for Humane And Responsible Economics (SHARE), which says Ec 10 fails to stimulate critical thinking about economics or present a diversity of perspectives within the discipline.
“The course discourages intellectual stimulation,” Eileen H. Chang ’04 wrote in an e-mail.
Chang, who is a member of SHARE, wrote that she feels that “fundamental issues” in economics are not being addressed either in lecture or section.
“There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Ec 10,” Marglin said.
Ec 10 fails to question the assumptions of the neoclassical model of economics, Marglin added. In his opinion, the course does not devote enough attention to fields such as behavioral economics.
The main goal, Marglin said, is to put “criticism on the assumptions of economics” into the discussion. Through a broader set of readings, his proposal aimed to challenge the roles of self-interest and individualism in our lives.
“If a professor wants to do something and it is a reasonable proposal, then he should be able to do it,” said Boas Professor of International Economics Richard N. Cooper.
Cooper and Marglin cast the sole dissenting votes in yesterday’s decision.
SHARE members say they are disappointed with the decision, but say that they expected it.
“It is frustrating. It shows how incredibly insensitive the Economics department is to students’ views,” said Marglin’s daughter, Jessica M. Marglin ’06, who is involved in SHARE.
But the proposal has not been without its critics. Some students who support Ec 10 organized a petition against the alternative course, arguing that it would segregate students by ideology.
“Ec 10 is sufficient,” said James P. M. Paquette ’06, who said the proposal was “ill-conceived” because the alternative course would be “another biased class,” and two biased classes would not cancel each other.
After yesterday’s defeat, Marglin said he is considering several options.
The department encouraged him to create “a course that criticizes the assumptions, and that will have Ec 10 as a prerequisite,” he said.
Another option is to develop a second economics core class, but such a move would require the approval of the Core Office.
Feldstein could not be reached for comment last night.
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