U. Of Chicago faculty members oppose Milton Friedman Institute

By on June 25, 2008

One hundred faculty members at the University of Chicago signed a petition expressing their "distress" at their university’s recent decision to form the Milton Friedman Institute for studies in economics and society.

Milton Friedman, a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, taught at the University of Chicago from 1946 until 1976. His work in monetarism theory propelled him as one of the most influential free-market economic thinkers. He died in 2006.

The petition expresses concern over "ideological and disciplinary preference."

"We are concerned, additionally, that this endeavor could reinforce among the public a perception that the University’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity," the petition reads.

The university announced on May 14 an endowment of $200 million to fund the institute. Individuals donating $1-$2 million will be invited to join the Milton Friedman Society.

"The goal of the Institute is to build on the University’s existing leadership position and make the Milton Friedman Institute a primary intellectual destination for economics by creating a robust forum for engagement of our faculty and students with scholars and policymakers from around the world," said President Robert J. Zimmer in a press release.

"The Milton Friedman Institute will continue Chicago’s extraordinary tradition of creating new ideas that stimulate the academic world and innovative approaches that influence policy."

Faculty from the schools of economics, law and business will lead the institute and will be joined by international scholars. A search for a director of the institute is underway.
"Some colleagues are disturbed by the specter of the University of Chicago becoming another Stanford, with the Milton Friedman Institute taking on the imposing campus presence of the Hoover Institution," the petition reads.

The petition requested additional money be diverted from the institute for "alternatives" in scholarly research.

"I wonder if this foray is really just a matter of money. I really do not think the dissenting faculty members think they can win divestment from Milton Friedman, but I think they do believe they are playing for more investment for their own politicized causes," said Adam Kissel, a director with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Mr. Kissel points to the fact that the University of Chicago is already home to the Center for Gender Studies, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the School of Social Work Administration.

The 100 petitioners represent roughly8 percent of the university’s faculty. In the university’s history, 25 faculty, researchers or alumni have received Nobel Memorial Prizes in economics. Milton Friedman joined this rank when he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in 1976.