Letter from Faculty

President Robert Zimmer Provost Thomas Rosenbaum University of Chicago 5801 South Ellis Avenue Suite 502 Chicago IL 60637 Dear President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum: We were interested to read President Zimmer’s recent message announcing the Milton Friedman Institute, with its 200 million dollar plus endowment and prime real estate location on campus. We understand that the University of Chicago’s association with Friedman has been important to its international reputation during the last four decades, and can imagine that the University reasonably sees benefit in cultivating a continued involvement with his school of economic thought. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the project in which the University is now investing. The signatories of this document are not ideologically homogeneous, nor interested in advancing a single alternative view that we find more socially progressive. But we are all disturbed by the ideological and disciplinary preference implied by the University's massive support for the economic and political doctrines that have extended from Friedman's work. This is not a question of academic freedom, to be sure: we know that the work of scholars at the Milton Friedman Institute will not have a chilling effect on the development of other kinds of knowledge at the University. This is a question of the meaning of the University’s investments, in all senses. We are concerned, additionally, that this endeavor could reinforce among the public a perception that the University’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity. A variety of other specific concerns includes the following: * Many colleagues are distressed by the notoriety of the Chicago School of Economics, especially throughout much of the global south, where they have often to defend the University’s reputation in the face of its negative image. The effects of the neoliberal global order that has been put in place in recent decades, strongly buttressed by the Chicago School of Economics, have by no means been unequivocally positive. Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world's population, leading to the weakening of a number of struggling local economies in the service of globalized capital, and many would question the substitution of monetization for democratization under the banner of “market democracy.” * When the University of Chicago invests so heavily in culturally and politically conservative thought we wonder about its commitment to strong intellectual diversity in the tradition of the Kalven Report. Consider, for instance, the following passage in the Proposal to Establish the Milton Friedman Institute, which construes a certain orthodoxy as the starting point for any discussion: "Following Friedman’s lead, the design and evaluation of economic policy requires analyses that respect the incentives of individuals and the essential role of markets in allocating goods and services. As Friedman and others continually demonstrated, design of public policy without regard to market alternatives has adverse social consequences." Given the fact that our University is known for its commitment to interdisciplinarity, methodological diversity, and to discussion across political lines, some colleagues seek to secure these principles in both the structure and governance of the Institute and feel this commitment is belied by the Institute's founding documents. 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. Many of us are also perturbed that other units of the University that routinely engage the issues that the Friedman Institute is designed to address were not included in the planning, nor included in the ongoing core scholarly endeavors of the Institute.  * In the interests of equity and balance, many of us feel that the University ought to reconsider contributing to the proposed Milton Friedman Institute, which will inevitably be a powerful magnet for scholars and donors who share a specific set of interests and values to the exclusion of others, whether this is openly acknowledged or not. Still others believe that, given the influx of private contributions to the MFI, the University now has the opportunity to provide roughly equivalent resources for critical scholarly work that seeks out alternatives to recent economic, social, and political developments. Virtually all of us are distressed by the position the University has taken and by the process through which decisions have been made. We would ask to meet with you at your earliest convenience. Sincerely yours,
Hussein Agrama, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology Muzaffar Alam, Carl Darling Buck Professor, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College Yali Amit, Professor, Departments of Statistics and Computer Science Clifford Ando, Professor of Classics Leora Auslander, Professor, Department of History, Committee on the History of Culture, Committee on Jewish Studies, and the College Ralph Austen, Professor Emeritus of History Lauren Berlant, George M. Pullman Professor, Department of English Michael Bourdaghs, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Mark Bradley, Associate Professor of History Bill Brown, Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of English and Visual Arts; Committee on the History of Culture Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and History Tamara Chin, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature Kyeong-Hee Choi, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Cathy J. Cohen, David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science Jennifer Cole, Associate Professor, Dept of Comparative Human Development Jean Comaroff, Bernard E. & Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences John Comaroff, Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology and the College Raúl Coronado, Assistant Professor, Department of English Bruce Cumings, Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College Michael C. Dawson, John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College Hilary Parsons Dick, Postodoctoral Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Center for Latin American Studies Michael Dietler, Associate Professor of Anthropology Fred Donner, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Prasenjit Duara, Professor of History and East Asian Languages & Civilizations Darby English, Associate Professor of Art History Jacob Eyferth, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Christopher Faraone, Frank Curtis Springer and Gertrude Melcher Springer Professor of Classics James Fernandez, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology Pedro Felzenszwalb, Department of Computer Science Norma Field, Robert S. Ingersoll Professor of Japanese Studies Cornell H. Fleischer, Kanuni Suleyman Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies Richard Fox, Assistant Professor of History of Religions Rachel Fulton, Department of History and the College Susan Gal, Mae and Sidney G. Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics Leela Gandhi, Professor of English Michael Geyer, Samuel N. Harper Professor of German and European History McGuire Gibson, Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, NELC, Oriental Institute W. Clark Gilpin, Margaret E. Burton Professor of History of Christianity Andreas Glaeser, Associate Professor of Sociology and of the Social Sciences in the College Jan Goldstein, Norman and Edna Freehling Professor of History Robert Gooding-Williams, Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor, Department of Political Science and the College Ramón A. Gutiérrez, The Preston and Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor of History Susan Gzesh, Lecturer in Law, Director, University of Chicago Human Rights Program Elaine Hadley, Associate Professor, Department of English Miriam Hansen, Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities, Department of English / Committee on Cinema and Media Studies Donald Harper, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Neil Harris, Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus, Departments of History, Art History Elizabeth Helsinger, John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of English and Art History Thomas Holt, James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Service Professor of History Paola Iovene, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Travis A. Jackson, Associate Professor of Music and the Humanities Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Assistant Professor of British History Matthew Kapstein, Numata Visiting Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and the History of Religions in the Divinity School John Kelly, Professor, Department of Anthropology Robert L. Kendrick, Professor of Music James Ketelaar, Professor of History and East Asian Languages & Civilizations Emilio Kourí, Associate Professor of History, Director, Katz Center for Mexican Studies Loren Kruger, Professor, Departments of Comparative and English Literatures, African Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies Laura Letinsky, Professor, Department of Visual Arts Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions John A. Lucy, Department of Comparative Human Development Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, Associate Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and Center for Latin American Studies Amanda Macdonald, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of English Patchen Markell, Associate Professor, Political Science Françoise Meltzer, Mabel Greene Myers Professor of Comparative Literature, Romance Languages, and Divinity Janel Mueller, William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of English Matam P. Murthy, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics and the College Joseph Masco, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology William Mazzarella, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and the College. John P. McCormick, Professor, Department of Political Science Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelly Professor Emeritus of Theology, History of Christianity, and Medieval Studies Omar M. McRoberts, Associate Professor of Sociology Jason Merchant, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics Stuart Michaels, Associate Director, Center for Gender Studies W.J.T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of English and Art History Nancy D. Munn, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology Deborah Nelson, Associate Professor, Department of English; Chair, Center for Gender Studies David E. Orlinsky, Professor, Department of Comparative Human Development and Social Sciences Collegiate Division Stephan Palmié, Associate Professor of Anthropology Moishe Postone, Professor of History Francois G. Richard, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology Seth Richardson, Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History Mel Rothenberg, Professor Emeritus, Dept of Math Danilyn Rutherford,  Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus Mario Santana, Associate Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures Julie Saville, Associate Professor of History William Sewell, The Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and History Emeritus Bart Schultz, Director of the Civic Knowledge Project and Senior Lecturer in the Humanities William Schweiker, Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics Dan Slater, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science Joel Snyder, Professor of Art History, Visual Arts, and the College Amy Dru Stanley, Associate Professor of History Richard A. Strier, Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor Katherine Fischer Taylor, Associate Professor of Art History Russell H. Tuttle, Professor in Anthropology, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Biology and Medicine, and the College Theo van den Hout, Professor in the Oriental Institute and Dept. of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations Candace Vogler, Professor, Department of Philosophy Kenneth W. Warren, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English Lisa Wedeen, Professor of Political Science Christian Wedemeyer, Assistant Professor of History of Religions Anthony C. Yu, Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Humanities Tara Zahra, Assistant Professor of History Rebecca Zorach, Associate Professor, Department of Art History