Economics students unhappy with courses

John Riedel, Staff Writer

Economic students have been unhappy with the lack of topics covered within the courses offered by the department of economics, senior Kevin Santamaria said.

He and senior Jessica Fuller are founders and co-leaders of Evolving Econ Coalition, which is a group of students that want the department of economics at UVM to open up the curriculum to more schools of thought, according to their website. “There are just so many different kinds of economics and the fact that students only get exposed to one perspective, is so limiting, because not only are you being exposed to only one perspective, but that perspective is never challenged,” Santamaria said.

UVM’s department of economics has a great faculty that has been trained in multiple economic views but students are primarily exposed to one economic viewpoint, Santamaria said.

Professor John Summa is a lecturer at UVM that teaches courses on microeconomics. “It’s a practical matter, people don’t have the time and or the motivation [to create new courses],” Summa said. “If you want to break out and do something outside of the box, you have to do a lot of work.” Summa said that the economics profession has been at war with itself, resulting in neoclassical ideas often dominating the classroom.

“Our department is exceptional in that we have complete autonomy and trust in what we say and teach,” Summa said. He also said that he is free to choose what textbooks to use in his courses and he can propose new courses each year. The Evolving Econ Coalition includes students from many different economic views and emphasizes multiple views being taught in the classroom, according to their website.

“We understand you can only cover so much material in a semester and what is covered is dependant upon the professor, but we could be doing better,” Fuller said.

Fuller and Santamaria both said they want more student engagement from faculty within the department and a wider range of economic views to be covered.

Economics professor Stephanie Seguino teaches courses on macroeconomics here at UVM. She says that she tries to incorporate multiple economic views into her courses. “The challenge is to find textbooks that are compatible with  [teaching different economic perspectives]. The truth is there is a very narrow range of textbooks available,” Seguino said. “The industry is not interested in producing textbooks for a small audience,” Seguino said. Professors have to work to provide content not covered by mainstream textbooks, she said.

Associate professor Sara Solnick is the chair of the economics department here at UVM. “Our department is much more open to alternative economics than most departments,” Solnick said. The economics department tries to teach the majority of students what they want, but they can’t teach everything that every student wants, Solnick said.

“We are trying to do the classes that we feel are hitting the stuff that we think is most important and that does vary from faculty member to faculty member on what they’re are going to spend a little bit more time on, or leave out, or include, and I think that is the best that we can do,” Solnick said.

Disclosure: Kevin Santamaria is a writer for The Vermont Cynic’s Opinion section.