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    Faculty, alumni firestorm as U. Chicago courts future Obama Library

    Faculty, alumni firestorm as U. Chicago courts future Obama Library

    The University of Chicago, the once prestigious home to Milton Friedman and Art Laffer and birthplace of the “Chicago School” of free-market economics, is now flirting with the idea of becoming the future home to a quite different type of thinker–Keynesian Barack Obama.

    University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson has raised the alarm that the school is considering becoming home to the future Obama presidential library, a move that would not only be highly political but that is also, according to Lipson, strictly forbidden by the school’s own rules. The other school vying for the opportunity is the University of Hawaii.

    Lipson, who has been vocal about his opposition to housing the Obama Library there, spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times about his concerns:

    I want to raise the alarm because I think a presidential museum will inevitably become our university’s highest-profile institution on a national basis….It will not be a disinterested, scholarly institution. It will be advancing a political agenda, funded by President Obama’s political allies, including foreign donors who cannot give money to his presidential campaigns.

    Lipson is continuing his efforts to bring the controversy to the attention of the broader public and alumni community:

    Lipson has made his case to the university president, provost and his fellow professors — many of whom are Obama’s close friends, neighbors and donors. So far, Lipson admitted, he is a minority of one, unlikely to stop the inevitable library. “This thing is baked in the cake,” he said.

    The University of Chicago is in the midst of a tug-of-war between its alumni and some of its left-leaning faculty. The alumni object to its marked departure from its free-market heritage, while many on its faculty decry its perception as free-market.

    In 2008, a controversy over the proposed Milton Friedman Institute led to a faculty backlash against the so-called politicization of the university in naming the institute for its most famous academic. Judge Richard Posner wrote:

    Some 170 faculty members have signed a petition circulated by a Committee for Open Research on Economy and Society–which opposes the decision naming the new institute after Friedman–asking that a meeting of the University Senate (which consists of some University administrators and all faculty members who have been on the faculty for more than a year) be convened to discuss the decision. The stated ground of opposition is that naming the Institute after Friedman would constitute the University’s endorsement of his political views and would bias the research conducted by the Institute in favor of the free-market ideology that Friedman promoted so strongly. But the opposition is also and probably primarily powered by distaste for Friedman’s political and policy views and for his willingness to provide economic advice to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

    A 2008 letter from 101 University of Chicago faculty members expressed their concern over the politicization of naming the Institute for Friedman:

    But we are all disturbed by the ideological and disciplinary preference implied by the University’s massive support for the economic and political doctrines that have extended from Friedman’s work. This is not a question of academic freedom, to be sure: we know that the work of scholars at the Milton Friedman Institute will not have a chilling effect on the development of other kinds of knowledge at the University. This is a question of the meaning of the University’s investments, in all senses.

    Where are those 101 faculty now when the University pursues its most political positioning yet?

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    Why would any university try to attract this Presidential library? It’s not like any of the papers stored inside will be available for anyone to read….

    The alumni of University of Chicago should take the list of the 101 faculty and take out full page advertisements in both the School daily newspaper and all the major Chicago newspapers with a 72 point font headline reading

    HYPOCRITES. Describe that these professors objected to the mere NAMING of the Institute for Research in Economics after Friedman because it would appear as an endorsement of his free-market beliefs, but these HYPOCRITES haven’t made a peep about the proposal to bring in the Obama Presidential library which would undoubted be dedicated to advancing a specified political agenda at the expense of truly disinterested scholarship.

    Then NAME the professors and put their titles or teaching area after their name.

    It’s time to SHAME these individuals for their hypocrisy and make sure that the public KNOWS that these professors are willing to prostitute their beliefs on the value of scholarship to the alter of their ideology.

    Since lefties care more about ends than means, they will respond to Judge Posner by pointing out the Friedman Institute was built and thrives today, completely ignoring the hypocrisy both Posner and Jacobson are pointing out.

    Being a hypocrite is par for the course on the left, after all.


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