Division of Labour (via Craig Newmark) posts links to four items on troubles within various economics departments. First is the dissolution of the heterodox Notre Dame economics department. Second is one on the University of Cincinnatti. This is subscriber-only link at the Chronicle of Higher Ed that I do not have access to and have, therefore, not read. But I link to it for those with subscriptions. Third is a situation I posted on before (see here), the proposed elimination of the Southern Mississippi economics department. Fourth is a forum discussing the Auburn economics department.
I find the situation at ND very interesting. Their department was split into two departments awhile back because of internal disagreements about what an economics major should constitute. One branch believed that it should be more quantitative while another branch, the heterodox branch, thought it should be more of a liberal arts major.
In my department, we have had similar discussions about the direction that a major should take. Recently, we have moved to make our major more quantitative, a decided movement away from the more liberal arts flavor our major used to have. We now require majors to take Econometrics and Math for Economics, a course in which students are introduced to some of the basic mathematical modeling methods used in economic analysis.
Part of the reason for the switch to a more quantitative major was because economics per se is a quantitative discipline. Even in our verbal models, the logic of math plays a serious role. So it's important to be exposed to the mathematical tools economists use.
Many in my department also felt that the quantitative tools taught by our faculty would be useful in a lot of different careers, and not only those who seriously want a job titled "economist" (which requires graduate study). Data and data gathering techniques have improved by leaps and bounds over the past 20-25 years and the computing power needed to crunch the data has grown exponentially. Econometric and other modeling techniques can help majors who seek careers in management, accounting, finance, and many other careers.
But mostly, a major in economics helps prepare students for all kinds of careers. Economics is the study of rational and self-interested people. These are the types of people we all are and that we all deal with every minute of every day. If you leave one career to start another, you will still encounter rational, self-interested people. Economic skills travel well from one career to the next.
My department used to be part of the College of Business. However, approximately 10-12 years ago, the department was removed from the COB because of the department's unwillingness to support COB's accreditation efforts. For one, accreditation would require the COB to gut itself. It would have to decrease the number of departments housed within the COB and it would have to dissolve the MBA program. Because the MBA program fed many students to the economics grad program, it also meant dissolving our graduate program.
In addition, it would require faculty to undertake research efforts. At that time, my department was a teaching department and active research had not been supported for years. So it had been a long time since the faculty had done much research. Asking them to break open their research toolbox and sharpen their research skills after so many years*, especially at a time when many of the faculty would be retiring within the next 5 years, was asking too much.
To summarize, the faculty did not support the accreditation efforts and my department is now part of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
*We now have several new faculty members that arrived on campus after the move. My colleagues and I are active researchers and have published numerous papers in journals such as the Southern Economic Journal, Applied Economics, the Journal of Public Economics, and the National Tax Journal. One of my colleagues presents every year at the ASSA meetings. The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences supports our research in various ways, and we make full use of that support. We also are dedicated teachers, so we're no longer just a teaching department. We are a teaching *and* research department.