February 23, 2018

Let's Get Down To Business

The lack of transparency surrounding the proposed business economics major cannot become the norm for University announcements.

Last Tuesday, the University’s College Council decided to delay a vote on the prospective addition of a business economics major to the College. While there is a robust debate to be had about the value of a more pre-professional major at UChicago, the Maroon Editorial Board is chiefly concerned with the College Council’s lack of transparency on this secretive vote.  

Most troublingly, most College students and faculty found out about the potential for a business economics major not from the University itself but from an anonymous poster campaign. When asked for comment by The Maroon, only then did John List, economics professor and department chair, confirm that they were discussing the possibility. 

College Council meetings are off-the-record and closed to students. One member of College Council has stated definitively that discussions around the business major are absolutely confidential, and many others have denied The Maroon’s request for comment. However, the Constitution of the College does not explicitly forbid discussion of Council matters, and multiple other members of the College Council have spoken about the proposal openly. Dean of Admissions Jim Nondorf mentioned the possibility of a business economics major at an admitted students event last fall, long before the poster campaign even began. 

Given that the business economics major may constitute a departure from the College’s traditional curriculum, one would imagine that the College Council would want to communicate a clear idea of what is at stake. 

Instead, along with its unwillingness to clarify events for the community, College Council has  only offered a vague sketch of what the business economics major would look like. Based on current speculative accounts of what the major would involve—whether it would rely on existing economics and Booth courses or necessitate the creation of new classes entirely—it is impossible to envision what UChicago’s business economics major would even entail. 

Because of the confusion within the College Council and varying levels of candor with the student body, those outraged about the possibility do not even know what it is that they are arguing over. 

The lack of transparency surrounding the potential for a business economics major cannot become the norm for University announcements. We cannot allow relevant campus news to be disseminated by haphazard posters and swirls of competing information from faculty.  

Announcing that a business economics major had been proposed and was under consideration—and a broad outline of what that major could look like—could have saved a lot of misinformation, confusion, and needless argument. The next time the College Council considers a similarly contentious measure, the University community is owed more transparency, information, and respect.   

Katie Akin recused herself from this editorial due to her previous coverage of the proposed major. Michael Perry has also recused himself.