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Chicago. Economics Department on Possible Candidate for Permanent Employment, 1950

 

How big was the split within the department of economics in 1950 at the University of Chicago? Judging from the decision by chairman T. W. Schultz to essentially table the matter of approaching the central university administration with a candidate for a permanent position, there was a departmental deadlock.

The half-dozen economists discussed were: George Stigler, Abba Lerner, Kenneth Boulding, Leonid Hurwicz, Kenneth Arrow, and Lawrence Klein. Contemplate those names for a moment and then read aloud the following two sentences:

Several members of the Department stated that none of these men had all of the qualities sought: a good mind reaching out fruitfully in new directions in economics. It was agreed, however, that there were no likely candidates possessing these qualities in a high degree.   

We can only speculate which alpha economists happened to lock horns in those three meetings.

_________________________

From the MINUTES, Meeting of the Department,
May 24, 1950.

Present: T. W. Schultz, T. Koopmans, A. Rees, H. G. Lewis, D. G. Johnson, E. J. Hamilton, R. Burns, J. Marschak, F. H. Harbinson, F. H. Knight, M. Friedman, B. Hoselitz, L. Metzler

[…]

II. Appointments

Schultz informed the Department that Hildreth’s position has been renegotiated for a term of three years. The Department approved a motion authorizing for Hildreth the courtesy rank of Associate Professor for a three year term.

The Department then considered the appointment problem raised by the leaving of Blough (probably initially on a one year leave of absence) and Brownlee. Schultz suggested that the Department had two alternatives open to it: a temporary replacement (construed broadly) and a permanent appointment of a top ranking person.

The Department considered first possible candidates for permanent appointment. Attention centered on George Stigler, Abba Lerner, Kenneth Boulding, Leonid Hurwicz, Kenneth Arrow, and Lawrence Klein. For a temporary appointment Schultz suggested Gunnar Myrdal.

[Meeting began at 3:30 pm and ended 5:45 p.m.]

_________________________

From the MINUTES, Meeting of the Department,
May 30, 1950.

Present: T. W. Schultz, R. Burns, D. G. Johnson, E. J. Hamilton, F. H. Knight, L. Metzler, R. Blough, F. H. Harbinson, A. Rees, H. G. Lewis, T. Koopmans, J. Marschak, M. Friedman.

Appointments

The discussion of appointments continued from the previous meeting. Schultz expressed the conviction that the time was propitious for a new permanent appointment. On Metzler’s suggestion, the Department returned to discussion of the following candidates for a permanent appointment: Stigler, Hurwicz, Boulding, Klein, Lerner, Arrow.

Several members of the Department stated that none of these men had all of the qualities sought: a good mind reaching out fruitfully in new directions in economics. It was agreed, however, that there were no likely candidates possessing these qualities in a high degree.

The chairman then polled those present with respect to their first choice (or ties for first) for a permanent appointment. As a result of the poll the list of candidates was narrowed to Hurwicz, Stigler, and Lerner. The chairman then polled those present on their position toward permanent appointment of each of these men.

The poll showed that of those present

4 would favor and 5 oppose the permanent appointment of Hurwicz
4 would favor and 5 oppose the permanent appointment of Lerner
6 would favor and 6 oppose the permanent appointment of Stigler

A motion was passed instructing the chairman to poll the absent members of the Department in the same way on the appointment of Hurwicz, Lerner, and Stigler and to report back to the Department for further discussion.

[Meeting began at 3:30 pm and ended 6:15 p.m.]

_________________________

From the MINUTES, Meeting of the Department,
June 8, 1950.

Present: T. W. Schultz, H. G. Lewis, D. G. Johnson, J. Marschak, H. Kyrk, P. Thomson, M. Friedman, T. Koopmans, A. Rees, E. J. Hamilton, F. H. Knight, R. Blough.

Appointments

Schultz reported that he had polled Kyrk, Thomson, Mints, and Nef (but had not heard from Goode) on the matter of a permanent appointment for Stigler or Hurwicz or Lerner. The upshot of the poll was that the Department, the Chairman not voting, was evidently divided in its rating of Stigler for a permanent appointment; both permanent members and temporary members of the faculty showed an even division. The Chairman explained that he would abstain from voting on the belief that the Department was not now prepared to advance, with a strong meeting of minds, a strong case to the Central Administration for a permanent appointment. Schultz proposed that we investigate a slate of names for a one-year appointment.

A motion was passed authorizing the Chairman to put Gunnar Myrdal in the first position on the slate for a one-year appointment.

Successive motions passed by the Department added the following names to the slate:

Nicholas Kaldor   Simon Kuznets
Arthur F. Burns
H. M. Henderson
W. Vickrey
A. Hart
H. Stein

The Department then, following the system of ranking used in fellowship appointments, ranked these seven persons. The rank order follows:

1. Kaldor
2. Burns
3. Henderson
4. Kuznets
5½. Vickrey
5½. Hart
7. Stein

[Meeting began at 3:30 pm and ended 6:00 p.m.]

Source: University of Chicago Archives, Department of Economics Records, Box 41, Folder 12.

Image Source: Social Science Research Building.  University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf2-07466, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

 

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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