Friedman of speech

Let’s hear out MFI opponents at the Faculty Senate meeting

By Maroon Editorial Board

Sometimes the diplomacy leading up to an argument can be just as important as the argument’s substance.

In the debate about the Milton Friedman Institute (MFI), this is a lesson worth heeding. The Maroon agrees with President Zimmer on the heart of the issue—that the Institute is worth keeping—yet his decision to revise the schedule of Wednesday’s meeting of the Faculty Senate is shortsighted and possibly arrogant.

Citing concerns that his keynote address would run over its allotted time (as Zimmer’s speeches are wont to do), he reduced the period for discussion regarding the MFI, also eliminating the prepared speeches of both an Institute advocate and a prominent dissenter. But in tinkering with the format at the last minute, Zimmer unnecessarily exacerbated an already contentious situation.

It’s unlikely that any significant points would be made in the original 80-minute block that can’t be made in 55 minutes. The convening of the Faculty of the Senate, a body that has sat dormant for a decade, was always more symbolic than practical; however, it will allow the Committee for Open Research on the Economy and Society (CORES) and its pro-Institute counterparts to clear the air. By revising the schedule at the last minute, President Zimmer doesn’t gain much, but he risks further polarizing faculty who fear he is silencing dissent.

Zimmer can allay CORES’s concerns by allowing its co-chair Bruce Lincoln, the Divinity School professor originally scheduled to speak for the group, a chance to present his views before opening the session to discussion. Undoubtedly, CORES would still have been given the opportunity to express their views during the meeting, but they should have a chance to give a coherent and cohesive presentation. By granting Lincoln time to make his case, Zimmer can give the group the platform it deserves—its petition is, after all, the reason the Senate was convened in the first place—and save face with professors unhappy with the switch.

Wednesday’s meeting is presumably the final time Zimmer will have to stand before the faculty before the Institute opens for business. Plans for the Institute have already been set in motion and, barring a sudden unforeseen occurrence, are unlikely to be impeded. But good relations with the faculty are essential for the health of the University. A small concession on Wednesday could go a long way towards cooling tensions on the quads.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.