UVM Dept. of Economics purge ‘smoking-gun’ email found and released. Will the Provost ignore this? Probably.

Some revealing (and quite appalling) email exchanges between Chair of the University of Vermont’s Department of Economics and several senior members of the department cast new light on my purge allegation. An email obtained from one of my public records requests, per the Vermont Public Records Act, demonstrates a shared motivation to make sure I get removed from my teaching post. And the motivation is centered on disagreement with the “content” of my classes, which is what I’ve argued from the beginning.

Here is one of the more revealing lines:  “The content is really why we are out of patience and not willing to let him continue”  (“out of patience” implies a longstanding displeasure with something, but I was never once told by Chair Solnick that content was a problem  – in 8 years of teaching, despite her awareness of my textbooks, course syllabi and numerous peer observations). After noting that some members of the department are rated poorly by students (unlike me), the Chair states that these “faculty have good peer observations and are teaching good economics.” (my emphasis). My teaching of Marxian economics, Marxian-ecological critiques of the standard model, and other teaching that strongly challenges the neoclassical core curriculum in the Department, apparently just doesn’t cut it as “good economics.”

Chair Solnick’s groping out loud in her email to department members (she sent this to all department members even though this email is showing just one member listed in the address field) reveals a cherry picking approach as she searches for the best negative to emphasize in her summary statement of my teaching that she later sent to the Dean. She even slips up when she says the teachers of the “good economics” have “even worse” evaluations from students than me. But the use of the phrase “even worse” is misleading because my evaluations are “very good” (Solnick in private to me) and in 2016 show a highly rated teacher. “Even worse” is thus a non sequitur.

In fact, Solnick describes me right before this statement as sometimes “above average” (in a department she likes to describe as filled with veteran, highly rated teachers), and sometimes below average, but adding that I am even getting better  (better in more recent classes). In short, I have “acceptable” student evaluations. Therefore, Solnick concludes that they should avoid going after me on this front because it might “open us up to rebuttal” because some poorly student-rated faculty “aren’t considered a problem”!]

In short, this is nothing but an ideological and political purge (which was in play before the department vote against me as this email obtained as a result of my public records request reveals). A neoliberal to liberal-left tenured faculty club united on getting me out. For them, “good economics” does not include Marxist-ecological models, or classical political economy, content that is clearly not a good fit for this gang, who believe they know what “good economics” is all about. Thank you Vermont for being an open records state! Here is the email some are calling the purge “smoking gun”:  OutofpatienceHIGHLIGHTED.pdf

Stay tuned, as there are many more documents soon to be released regarding academic cronyism, bullying and ideological bias. But next up: How much money is UVM getting from the Wall Street gang? You will be shocked when you peek below the veneer of the “Mr. Clean” UVM brand.

-JS