New Controversy Over Milton Friedman Institute

May 21, 2010

The selection of architects for the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics has renewed controversy over the University of Chicago's planned center to honor the late professor. The university announced last night that Ann Beha Architects has been selected for the project -- just hours after faculty critics issued a press release questioning why architects had been selected with minimal public discussions of the next stages of the project. The controversy isn't about the architects, but the center itself. Many professors have feared that the institute would be so focused on honoring Friedman that it would be associated only with one (right-wing) school of thought. Further, faculty members question the need for a new institute, especially compared with other priorities. "We would hate to think that the university's evident fixation on financial assets and its desire to exploit the Friedman brand name for fund-raising purposes would lead it to neglect its most valuable assets, its students, faculty and staff, while committing itself to a project whose very name reinforces a narrow, retrograde, and now demonstrably failed set of social and economic policies," says a statement announcing a drive to question the next stages in the center.

The architects hired by the university are being asked to renovate a building that has been used by the Chicago Theological Seminary, which is moving to a new facility. The university announcement was fairly routine (except being rushed out after the university was criticized for not having revealed the news). The university has said repeatedly that the Friedman project will be consistent with academic standards, and will not be restricted in any way to scholarship consistent with the late professor's views.

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