Re: Canadian Association of University Teachers report on economics department

Letters published in the Manitoban are edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Views expressed in the letters are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manitoban.

Dear Mr. Robinson, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers:

Recent media representations, largely due to a seriously biased report prepared by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), cast the Department of Economics at the University of Manitoba in a poor light. It essentially suggests that a majority of faculty members in the Department have acted to limit the academic freedom of a small group of “heterodox” faculty and graduate students. We deplore the misrepresentations of the Department that have occurred.

The CAUT report attacks the recent curriculum improvements in the Economics Department without any basis. Changes to the curriculum at the graduate and undergraduate level have been made to ensure our department provides students with the education and training in economics that will assure and enhance their success in professional and academic careers. These changes reflect recommendations of two external reviews of our program as mandated by university policies. Further, these changes have emerged from lengthy reviews through committee procedures that again reflect university approved processes. The Department council reviewed, debated, revised, and approved these changes, again in accordance with university-approved procedures. Finally, all curricular changes were approved without dissenting vote by the University Senate.

We reject the simplistic misrepresentation by CAUT on the debate in the Department as being between the “heterodox” fighting against the hegemony of the “orthodox” majority. This perspective is wrong on two counts. First, the classification of economics as having two camps is not sustained by any catalogue of economics, classification of economics by the major journals, or the breadth and diversity of the research and teaching within either the discipline or our department. Second, the Department of Economics is introducing new courses and approaches designed to ensure students have access to the full range of economics topics and approaches, including those taught by the colleagues who supported the CAUT report, and not the particular view of any specific group in the department.

Many of us declined to be interviewed by representatives of CAUT who were preparing this report because none of the departmental, faculty, or university mechanisms to address grievances had been activated. Further, the facts do not support the alleged instances of infringements on academic freedom – the University of Manitoba offers an extremely wide-ranging selection of courses including graduate and undergraduate courses in economic history, history of economic thought, economics of gender, sustainability, and other alternative approaches. Finally, the changes to the curriculum are not in any sense an infringement of academic freedom, but an attempt to meet the rapidly growing enrolments of students who wish suitable training to enter professional and academic careers. As professional teachers in a public institution, we are keenly aware of our obligation to meet the educational needs of students and all sectors of Manitoba society.

We call on CAUT to represent all members of our department, rescind this flawed report, and replace it with an evidence-based understanding of the challenges facing economics training in Canada and recognition that our goal remains the needs of our students.

Pinaki Bose
Laura Brown
Janice Compton
Ryan Compton
James Dean
Ryan Godwin
Hikmet Gunay
Derek Hum
Richard Lobdell
Janelle Mann
Greg Mason
Ashantha Ranasinghe
Wayne Simpson
Elizabeth Troutt
Carlos Yepez

Department of economics, University of Manitoba