The University of Chicago announced it would no longer consider offering a business major, in response to months of backlash from students.
The decision to back out of the designed proposal came two months after the major was first pitched at a meeting of the College Council, a group of faculty members from departments across the university. The major was proposed by John List, the University’s Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor and chair of economics.
Even through the university currently has a graduate school of business — the Booth School of Business — the undergraduate community spoke out against the new business major proposal, arguing that it threatened the liberal arts education at the university. Posters with the messages “business has no business here” and “in the name of critical thinking, tell faculty to vote no” showed up around campus in late January and early February by anonymous means.
In an op-ed published in The Chicago Maroon, fourth-year philosophy and political science major Eero Arum argued that if this major was approved, “It will have capitulated to the prevailing credentialist ethos of the modern American university system, which defines the value of a college degree in terms of the future earnings it yields.”
Nonetheless, the proposal garnered some support across campus.
University of Chicago student Matthew Foldi wrote on Twitter that the major was a “terrific idea” and that “critics forget that at the University of Chicago in particular, there is next to no risk that this major strays from our focus on the life of the mind.”
University of Chicago College Dean John Boyer said he was “very comfortable” with the proposal because the university had offered an undergraduate business major in the Booth School until 1955.
Penn’s own undergraduate business program recently underwent curriculum changes as well. In 2016, Wharton redesigned their undergraduate curriculum to include a four-year Management 100 course and a focus on ethics and legal studies, after suggestions from students.
In 2017, Wharton 101 replaced Management 100 as a pass/fail alternative to the Wharton requirement. Students supported the change because it gave them the chance to explore more topics in a low-pressure environment, but some say that it had its downsides. “I feel like my team was unnaturally close compared to other groups. If they could encourage more friendship in the teams, I think it would have made the class a lot better for everyone as a whole," Engineering and Wharton freshman Will Morgus told The Daily Pennsylvanian at the time.
Despite the business reversal, the University of Chicago has decided to implement a new business economics “track” to be held through the economics department starting in the fall.