Monday, May 5, 2014

More on the UMKC crisis: a graduate student view

A while ago at the New School I participated on a panel on the role of the Economics Department there in academia. As I said back then I think that heterodox graduate programs are in the business of the production of heterodox economists by means of heterodox economists (my definition of the heterodox camp here). In that respect, UMKC is one of the few departments that continues to do that in the US. As I posted earlier, the retirement of two faculty members and the financial cuts may result in a significant additional burden on the economics department there. Note that this is true whether the cuts are ideologically biased or not, and simply result from the financial burdens associated to the economic crisis.

Below a letter from Christian Dodge a graduate student at UMKC. It represents a view of what is going on more broadly at the University. Note that student mobilization can be, and it has been in other cases, important in preserving the character and vitality of the institutions they belong to.
Dear Friends in the Heterodox Community,

As many of you are aware, higher education in the United States is under tremendous pressure to cut costs (i.e. hire exploited adjuncts). UMKC is no exception. As such, our economics department has come under fire as a result of a history of poor funding from the state of Missouri, and from a special initiative of the UM president to build a 60-90 day cash reserve (which is roughly 60-90 million dollars). The budget cuts are crushing our ability to grow with the larger and larger population of individuals dissatisfied with orthodox economics. More than that, we are losing two excellent professors, John Henry to retirement, and are somewhat unexpectedly losing our heterodox microeconomics professor Fred Lee. The bean counters in administration feel that these individuals can be replaced by adjunct faculty; they just don’t understand, like we do, that economics professors are not substitutable goods (nor are other goods!!)!

As members of the student movement, we have been collecting data to argue our case for 4 new professors and to replace our current losses. Here is what we know. UMKC uses the Delaware Cost study to determine how productive each department is relative to peers (University of Kansas and University of Missouri – in our case). One important note: UMKC is an urban commuter college which puts us at a disadvantage relative to our peers who are universities with large residential enrollment. The study uses two, asinine, metrics for determining how costly a department is. One measure counts the costs of compensation for full time faculty, divided by the number of students instructed. The other metric counts the costs of compensation for full time faculty, divided by total student credit hours attributed to the department. As a result, and because of the strong emphasis on the cost side and because we are an urban commuter school, any overstatement of costs can be very harmful to our department.

For one example of overstatement, we are allocated the costs of compensation and overhead of the Missouri Council for Economic Education (MCEE) (a non-profit group), which is unassociated with our department. We have estimated such costs to be roughly $200,000 in salaries. In short, the cost is no spare change. In addition, the MCEE has a fairly neo-liberal agenda, which is diametrically opposed to what we stand for, and you stand for, in our department. We think the costs of such an organization need to be counted somewhere else.

We are asking you today, for your support. If you think, as we strongly do, that heterodox economics is important not only theoretically, but for the betterment of the world, please e-mail, telephone, or write a letter to one of the people listed below. Also, let the individuals listed below know that to continue to be an epicenter of new heterodox thought we need to replace Professor Henry and Professor Lee, and also that to grow with student demand, we need 4 more professors – in fields such as development, labor, feminist economics, and ecological economics.

Thank you to Matias for allowing us this forum, and thank you to all of you for your support.

In Solidarity,

Christian Dodge (3rd year PhD student)

A Handy Link:
Individuals to Contact:

Wayne Vaught, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: (816) 235-5421

Gail Hackett, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Phone: (816) 235-1107

Denis M. Medeiros
Vice Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Phone: (816)235-1301

Cindy Pemberton
Deputy Provost for Academic Affairs
Phone: (816) 235-5623 
Lawrence Dreyfus
Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development
Phone: (816) 235-5246

Dan Chambers
Director of Business Affairs
Phone: (816)235-2760 
Leo E. Morton
Phone: 816-235-1101 
Sharon Lindenbaum
Vice Chancellor, Finance and Administration
Phone: 816-235-2650
Fax: 816-235-5582


  1. While it is great and understandable that graduate students are making their voices heard, apparently UMKC econ faculty feel that it is not YET time for letter writing and contacting administrators. According to faculty that I know please hold off on this campaign.


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