US: Faculty split over Milton Friedman centre naming

Few names are more associated with the University of Chicago than Milton Friedman's. But that is exactly the problem, say some faculty who want to put the brakes on a plan to name a new research centre after the Nobel Prize-winning economist, reports the Chicago Tribune. And critics say the proposed Milton Friedman Institute would be a right-wing think tank.

In a letter to University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, 101 professors - about 8% of the university's full-time faculty - said they feared that having a centre named after the conservative, free market economist could "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity".

About a half-dozen faculty members aired their concerns last week in a meeting with Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum, who remain committed to the project. Rosenbaum said the university plans to put about $500,000 toward launching the centre next year, but it hopes an expected $200 million endowment will come mostly from private funds from alumni and business leaders.

"It is a right-wing think tank being put in place," said Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions and one of the faculty members who met with the administration. "The long-term consequences will be very severe." The controversy highlights tensions between the university's historically conservative economics department and law school and the generally liberal humanities and social sciences.
Full report on the Chicago Tribune site