In today’s Notre Dame Observer, a viewpoint written by Sean (better known as smallin here):
The students of Notre Dame will suffer an incredible loss if the administration goes forward with their plan to close the Department of Economics and Policy Studies. We currently have something our peer universities lack: an economics program that is concerned with social justice, human dignity, and theoretical openness. It is a focus that sets us apart from the narrow mainstream and reflects the wider commitments of this university – best exemplified by Fr. Theodore Hesburgh – to academic freedom and the Catholic Social Tradition.
I am a proud graduate of Notre Dame, lucky to have received an economics education at Notre Dame. In courses with faculty from the Policy Studies department, I was able to read the “classics” – Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and others – alongside more recent economists that borrow from literature, philosophy, psychology and other disciplines. This approach, though eclectic, never strayed far from an emphasis on real-world relevance and socioeconomic justice. At Notre Dame, I was encouraged to study the economy in broad terms, with a critical curiosity and exposure to novel perspectives. It was an education in line with the university’s goal of fostering a vibrant and committed intellectual community.
In his inaugural address, Fr. Jenkins asked: “If we are afraid to be different from the world, how can we make a difference in the world?” This question strikes at the heart of the situation of economics at Notre Dame. For decades the University has been the proud home of a different type of economics, with faculty who have made a difference in the world, both through their research and teaching. I hope that the administration pauses to reconsider their move to close the Policy Studies department, for if their goal is, in fact, the “best economics conversation,” than disbanding a department that embodies this goal would be antithetical to the mission, purpose, and character of the University of Notre Dame.