Extra credit for beating up students who challenge mainstream assumptions in UVM’s Dept. of Economics?

Night of Rage in support of          UVM-purged heterodox lecturer John Summa. 

In my long (well into the second year) and ongoing fight-back against wrongful denial of reappointment as a lecturer in the University of Vermont’s Dept. of Economics (after 8 years of teaching at UVM full-time and nearly 30 years teaching economics), only a few faculty at UVM have had the courage to say anything at all publicly.

One of them is Josh Farley (a popular and respected tenured faculty member in UVM’s transdisciplinary department of Community Development and Applied Economics, or CDAE), who correctly describes what happened to me as a ‘purge’ (for challenging a largely defunct economics orthodoxy). I quote Josh below from a recently published interview with him. The link to the full interview with Josh, published in EuroZine magazine, is provided here.

[Josh Farley] Promotion and tenure in universities are closely tied to publication in top journals, and in economics departments, this requires toeing the ideological line. Those who fail to do so lose their jobs, further ensuring homogeneity. Fortunately, I am not part of a mainstream economics department, but rather of UVM’s transdisciplinary department of Community Development and Applied Economics. My open-minded colleagues are far more interested in improving society than in ideological purity. UVM’s economics programme appears distinctly different, actively discouraging alternatives to the conventional approach. Economics students have repeatedly tried to get their department to cross-list courses in ecological and applied economics, publishing calls for more pluralistic approaches in the student paper and setting up student committees to push for the same. At the insistence of economics students, I have repeatedly submitted proposals for cross-listing my courses, to no avail. Students have told me that one professor (no doubt tongue in cheek) offered extra credit to his students if they would beat up my teaching assistants, who are notorious for asking difficult questions and challenging core mainstream assumptions. One of the few heterodox lecturers in the economics department, very popular with the students, was recently purged. He used the Freedom of Information Act to access the emails discussing his firing, and it is quite obvious that his crime was to challenge the economic orthodoxy, as he has chronicled in his blog. Economics departments appear to be advocates of competition everywhere except in ideas (my emphasis).

In a later post, I will share a series of email exchanges Josh Farley had with Econ. Chair Sara Solnick, which will provide more background on his ‘to no avail’ comment in the interview. Solnick, as the factual record shows, was the engineer of my ouster, who falsely accused me, with help from several of my neoclassical/mainstream ‘peers’,  of not teaching the so-called standard model ‘fully and fairly’, (one they are ideologically and professionally attached to) an orthodox and largely discredited model that sits at the core of the economics curriculum at UVM.

In you have been following my case, it is important to note, meanwhile, that Solnick (plus UVM and its shark lawyers) have yet to produce a single piece of evidence to support her (the Chair’s allegation) that I was not teaching the standard model ‘fully and fairly’), despite my requests in legal discovery at the Vermont Labor Relations Board for that evidence. Nada!  Sad state of affairs for an economics department that in 2005 was officially self-described as  ‘heterodox’ (where on page 62 the previous Chair says, “The Economics Department at the University of Vermont is a heterodox department” and explains why). It is today, however, dominated by neoliberals and neoclassicals (and some leftover half-hearted non-neoclassicals teaching with neoclassical textbooks, unlike me). The current chair (Solnick), when deposed by me (under oath; excerpts pending), repeatedly denied even knowing what ‘heterodox’ means! She ventured a guess when pressed, implying it was a foreign term to her (she got her PhD from Harvard Econ, a place where some of the famous intellectual pitched battles between heterodox and neoclassicals have taken place historically). This is either a lie, or she is completely out of touch with current debates in her own profession, and her own department’s history. Not sure which is worse.


PS, on January 4 I will be before the Vermont Labor Relations Board to argue in opposition to UVM’s motion to compel written discovery. That is legal jargon for UVM wants current and former student, faculty and staff PRIVATE EMAILS. Because I refuse to hand over private emails to UVM based on among other objections complete irrelevance to my case and a violation of privacy, I must now make an oral argument (following my written opposition) before the Board. Please note, UVM is demanding I give them all private (UVM server-based emails and non-UVM server based emails). I have nothing to hide, but I fear for others who might be vulnerable to retaliation by UVM among other institutions for supporting my fight-back. UVM has a long history of retaliation, which of course they would deny. ~JS