U. alumnus Milton Friedman deserves more recognition

During the application process, incoming first-year students decide what their future alma mater will be based on personal criteria. Some will choose to value a school’s name and reputation, while others base their choices on how well they enjoy the campus. Some take pride in their school’s diversity (sound familiar?), and others proudly flaunt their school’s acceptance rate or their U.S. News and World Report ranking. I chose Rutgers for all of the above (although the U.S. News ranking could be more generous), but also for something slightly odd. I chose Rutgers because Milton Friedman went here.

“Who’s that?” I’ve been asked whenever I reveal that personal quirk of mine to a fellow underclassman. I thought everyone who went to Rutgers would know who he was at least from Wikipedia, especially after meeting several students whose intelligence exceeds mine by miles. But none so far share my idolized-this-man-since-eighth-grade passion for this Jewish-American economist who, after receiving a scholarship from Rutgers and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1932, went on to become one of the most famous economists in the world, winning a Nobel Prize along the way. Sure, he’s a bit controversial because his theories were so radically libertarian, and he’s not exactly a favorite with the more liberal scholars of economics. But at a certain point, you have to admit that he’s worthy of some recognition here — a street name, a statue, whatever. The small clip of him in the summer orientation’s welcome video I saw in June was, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.

There are so many reasons that we take pride in Rutgers, and the school’s former students are definitely one of them. We’ve seen Rutgers alumni on "The Sopranos," "30 Rock" and "Sex and the City." We’ve heard former Scarlet Knights in everything from My Chemical Romance to Yu-Gi-Oh (Dan Green, the English dub voice for Yu-Gi-Oh, went to Rutgers. Now you know.) We may not have been familiar with Joyce Kilmer or Paul Robeson before we came here, but their names and their work are quickly recognized by us during our stay. But why not Milton Friedman, who is arguably the most valuable alumnus Rutgers has?

Don’t care about economics? Well, that’s fine. It’s not exactly a subject that draws in young minds, but you should care about your school’s reputation, and associating it with Milton Friedman definitely improves it. And if you don’t like Milton Friedman’s theories, well, you’re not alone. Actually, his support of monetarism has isolated conservatives and libertarians as well as liberals. He also advocated for LGBT rights, criticized the Iraq War and was agnostic. He was not as conservative as Ronald Reagan, despite being an advisor to the right-wing icon. Also, as someone who attended Rutgers on a scholarship during the Great Depression, as the son of Jewish immigrants, does he not contribute to the Rutgers model of diversity?

I’m not advocating for a name change to Friedman University’s Scarlet Knights, but in my opinion, the man needs recognition. Some could think the lack of his presence on campus is a supposed political bias coming into play, but I choose not to believe that. Perhaps it was because he’s more associated with the University of Chicago and wasn’t too involved with Rutgers, although both Kilmer and Robeson matriculated at Columbia. Perhaps he was simply forgotten here, despite being very, very famous around the world.

Rutgers, take a hint. Friedman was one of the most accomplished people to graduate from this university. Use that to your advantage, because trust me, after the protests against Condoleezza Rice speaking at the Class of 2014’s Commencement Ceremony, no one will confuse Rutgers for Liberty University or Hillsdale. Embrace the diversity of your student body, in not only appearance but also mind.

Andrea Vacchiano is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in history and political science.

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