Journaltalk - McCloskey's 1988 Letter Responding to a Letter from the President of Penn State

McCloskey's 1988 Letter Responding to a Letter from the President of Penn State

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  1. I was one of two Economics faculty who were involved with this sordid incident back in 1988. The student who complained was in my course. I’ll provide some context beyond the two letters. First, the course was in “microeconomic theory” for first-year graduate students, with intro calculus. Nicholson was the main text used. It was not a “price theory” course in the Chicago-sense, but McCloskey’s book was assigned to give students broader exposure to thinking like an economist. I never discussed the economic of slavery or the economics of discrimination. Second, the student in question was an older Black female, whose home department was Business Finance (econ is in Liberal Arts). She did poorly in the course although i believe the incident in question started before final grades were handed out. Third, Penn State is a top-down institution and handled the issue as such. The Finance department investigated my background and the book, but never contacted me. The Liberal Arts Dean (Hart Nelsen, sociology) did meet with me — it was clear he knew my wife is not White (she is Asian and we are now married for 56 years). My department head may have met with me (bad memory here), and i think did the best he could to deflect the incident. Most troubling was a meeting with some Black student organization, which was recorded. The President’s representative at that meeting was visibly upset we were not down on our knees. People would walk into the meeting to make a political statement, and depart without further comment or discussion. Fourth, in the end, the issue seemed to blow over, but not without threats of outside intervention. Some strange incidents also followed in my other courses. Fifth, I shutter to think what would happen in today’s college environment. McCloskey’s letter nails it for me. Bryce Jordan was a cowardly bully of the first degree.(his background is musicology — Yikes).My final take always was McCloskey;s comment that “we all come from slave backgrounds, which makes it all the more important to understand the economics of slavery.” I’m pretty sure my immigrant ancestors and those of my wife would understand the meaning of this statement. I know what it was like to be treated as a faculty minion.

    posted 02 Nov 2023 by Jon Nelson

  2. shudder not “shutter”

    posted 02 Nov 2023 by Jon Nelson

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