Disgusted with the widespread misogyny, racism and more random viciousness on Economics Job Market Rumors that is becoming more widely appreciated because of Alice Wu's research, I wrote "Signalling When Everyone Knows about Last-Place Aversion: An Application to Economics Job Market Rumors."
As an Emeritus Professor of the University of Michigan Economics Department, I am still on its email lists. I am grateful to Matthew Shapiro, Martha Bailey and Tilman Borgers for giving me permission to share the thoughts about Economics Job Market Rumors that they had expressed to University of Michigan Economics faculty.
Matthew Shapiro (September 8, 2017 email to UM Economics graduate students with the faculty cc'd)
I am writing to call your attention to a statement on the EJMR site by Olivier Blanchard, President-elect of the American Economic Association.
I endorse this statement and urge our students to shun social media activities that propagate sexism, racism, or bigotry.
Martha Bailey (October 5, 2017 email to UM Economics faculty)
As you may (or may not) be aware, the AEA has thus far chosen *not* to make a statement about EJMR. This refusal of the association to take action is, in part, what prompted the eloquent (personal) statement by Olivier Blanchard, President-elect of the American Economic Association. CSWEP [Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession] (where Justin [Wolfers] and I are both board members) has recommended that the AEA take action. Other associations in economics are starting to. One organization that has succeeded is the Economic History Association’s statement (https://eh.net/eha/15371), which Paul [Rhode, Chair of Economics at the University of Michigan] and I both endorsed.
Here is something easy you can do today: sign this petition to encourage the AEA to take action: http://www.iaffe.org/forms/Petition-AEA-EMJR/ (link to petition webpage -- http://www.iaffe.org/petition-aea-emjr/) (See below)
I haven’t ever sent an email like this to my colleagues, but this is an issue very personal to me and one I think deserves more attention. To be clear, I do not believe this is a freedom of speech issue. EJMR has been used as a platform to bully and attack prominent economists—especially women economists. Sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic statements, particularly when those comments target and bully particular scholars, present a large barrier to the diversity of the economics profession and limits our openness to new ideas.
Our department’s hiring strategy notes that, “we wish to create a department that reflects diversity in life experiences, including diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and family background. A diversity of representation of faculty and students will encourage the highest quality research and teaching to address the needs of a diverse world.” Achieving this goal requires that our department and the economics profession promote an intellectual environment and academic discourse that is respectful and collegial for *all*.
The profession has remained silent for too long on this subject, tacitly encouraging the persistence of this harassment and refusing to name it the hate speech that it is. Taking no action is a political statement that can only serve to encourage the perpetuation of harassing and exclusionary discourse. I hope that you will consider speaking to your students and colleagues about this issue, bringing this up in your respective associations, signing a petition, and doing other things to encourage respectful and collegial academic dialogue.
With warm regards,
Tilman Borgers (October 5, 2017 email to UM Economics faculty)
I am sure that you will not welcome an extended exchange of comments on the “Economic Job Market Rumors” (EJMR) website on the department email list. I had this in mind when I nonetheless decided to follow up on Matthew’s and Martha’s recent emails. I want to add two thoughts to the debate. Thank you for your patience, if you read them. I believe they are important.
1) In addition to being a forum for misogynist comments, EJMR has been a forum for discriminatory remarks towards Asian faculty and students. This hasn’t been emphasized enough.
2) EJMR has, at times, fulfilled a "whistleblowing" role, giving a forum to legitimate concerns, for example about publishing practices, expressed by those who otherwise would not have a voice. As people think about alternatives to EJMR, I believe it would be good to find a forum that allows “whistleblowing” outside of the context of racism and misogyny.
Update: Three days after this post appeared, the American Economic Association sent out an email to its members with this:
Statement of the AEA Executive Committee
October 20, 2017
To: Members of the American Economic Association
From: Peter L. Rousseau, Secretary-Treasurer
Subject: Statement of the AEA Executive Committee
Many members of the economics community have expressed concern about offensive behavior within our profession that demeans individuals or groups of individuals. The American Economic Association strongly condemns misogyny, racism, homophobia, antisemitism and other behaviors that harm our profession.
AEA President Alvin E. Roth has charged an ad hoc committee on professional conduct to formulate a set of guidelines for economists to be considered by the Executive Committee. The ad hoc committee is charged with evaluating various aspects of professional conduct, including those which stifle diversity in Economics. It will submit a report in time for discussion in January. There will be a period for comment by the AEA membership on that report following its release.
The Association is also exploring the possibility of creating a website/message board designed to provide additional information and transparency to the job market for new Ph.D.s, and will be surveying departments to assess what information about their search processes might be shared.
Valerie Ramey, Vice President of the AEA, responds to this update in this thread on my Facebook page (which is totally public). This has started an interesting discussion you can see at this link. (Valerie also "liked" my note there that I was posting this link.)