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Nobel Prize-winning Economist, MTSU Alumnus James Buchanan Dies

Press release from Middle Tennessee State University; January 9, 2013:

Nobel Prize-winning economist and MTSU alumnus Dr. James M. Buchanan died Wednesday morning in Blacksburg, Va., family members said. He was 93.

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and a Rutherford County, Tenn., native, received the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his leadership in developing the public choice theory of economics.

Of receiving the Nobel award, Buchanan once wrote: “If Jim Buchanan can get a Nobel Prize, anyone can. Recognition and acceptance of this simple truth are very important.”

Buchanan is the only MTSU alumnus so far to win the honor.

“The university mourns the loss of Dr. James Buchanan, whose legacy as a scholar in economics, Nobel laureate and educator will live on as the namesake of our most prestigious academic honor, the Buchanan Fellowship,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.

“Dr. Buchanan, born in rural Rutherford County, always treasured his Tennessee roots and was a proud alumnus of our university. His passion for economic theory was ignited by a professor on our campus, and his generosity to MTSU has allowed many more students to find their calling.

“His continued involvement and connection to this University brought honor to our institution. We are forever in his debt.”

A stridently independent thinker, Buchanan earned the Nobel for “his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making.” Within the economics discipline, his contribution is known as the field of Public Choice, which brings the tools of economic analysis to the study of public decision making.

His book, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, which he co-authored with Gordon Tullock, is considered a classic work on public choice theory.

After he received the Nobel Prize, Buchanan continued to write and lecture on his interests around the world into his 94th year. He lived in Blacksburg, Va., and was married to the late Anne Bakke Buchanan, who died in 2005.

Buchanan spent much of his academic career in Virginia with tenures at the University of Virginia; Virginia Tech, where he established the Center for Study of Public Choice; and George Mason University, to which he and the Center for Study of Public Choice moved in 1983 and from which he retired in 2007. He also taught at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Florida State University and UCLA.

In 1997, MTSU established the Buchanan Scholarship in his honor to recognize top students, known initially as Buchanan Scholars. When visiting MTSU in 1997 to address the first group of Buchanan Scholars, he shared these words of encouragement:

“Economics, the discipline that was to become my scientific home, requires expository writing skills, logical structures of analysis, and a grounding in ultimate reality. And political economy, the branch of moral philosophy from which economics springs, requires philosophical coherence. I came away from Middle Tennessee with all of these …”

In 2006, McPhee established the Buchanan Fellowship program in the University Honors College intended to attract top scholars from across the state and country. Only 20 applicants each year are selected as Buchanan Fellows, the highest academic award given to an entering MTSU student.

Rutherford County author and MTSU emeritus professor in economics Reuben Kyle will soon release a book, From Nashboro to the Nobel Prize: The Buchanans of Tennessee, with proceeds going to the Buchanan Fellows program.

The grandson of Tennessee Gov. John P. Buchanan, James M. Buchanan grew up on a Depression-era farm in the Gum community of Rutherford County. He attended Buchanan School, which was named such because it was built on land once part of the Buchanan family farm.

In his book of personal essays, Better Than Plowing, the down-to-earth Buchanan pointed out that his family’s humble roots instilled within him a strong work ethic — he earned money for college books and fees by milking cows — that set the stage for his distinguished career.

Buchanan graduated in 1940 from what was then Middle Tennessee State Teachers College with majors in mathematics, English literature and social science. He went on to a graduate fellowship at UT-K and an economics fellowship at Columbia University.

Duty to country called during World War II, and Buchanan entered officer training in the U.S. Navy ROTC program, eventually serving on the staff of Adm. Chester Nimitz in Hawaii.

Following his Naval service in the Pacific, Buchanan earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

The prolific scholar and author would serve later as the advisory general director of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he also served as a distinguished professor emeritus.

Speaking at the MTSU spring commencement in May 2000, Buchanan challenged graduates to question the day’s political leadership, which seemed to lack the Middle Tennessee values he held so dear.

“An open politics makes no distinction between the Ivy Leagues and the bush leagues when it comes to telling us what we want our government to do. The people, yes, but all the people, treated as equals, and not some more equal than others. Along with this attitude, there is an abiding mistrust in allowing others, no matter whom, to control too many elements of our lives.”

During Buchanan’s visit to campus in 2000, then-MTSU President James Walker made Buchanan the third recipient of the MTSU President’s Award, which recognizes those who have distinguished themselves through exemplary service to MTSU; extraordinary contributions to education, the community or society; or remarkable professional achievement.

Buchanan is survived by two sisters, Lila Graue of Fayetteville, Ark., and Elizabeth Bradley of Pearland, Texas, as well as three nephews: Doug Graue, Jim Whorley and Jeff Whorley.

An announcement regarding memorial services is pending.

You can listen to a brief audio clip of Buchanan, along with two other MTSU-affiliated Nobel winners, at http://mtsu.edu/news/podcast/2012/MIAM_23.mp3.

Ketron: MTSU Poll Vindicates TN Voter ID Law

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; October 30, 2012: 

(NASHVILLE, TN) — State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said today he is very pleased that a Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) poll shows Tennesseans continue to express strong support for the state’s new voter identification law after implementation. The poll, conducted by MTSU’s Survey Group, showed 81 percent of Tennesseans continue to support the law, which took effect January 1 and has applied to numerous elections conducted since that date.

“We continue to have strong support for this law both in Tennessee and nationwide,” said Senator Ketron. “But, it is very reassuring that voters in our state continue to overwhelmingly favor it after the law has been put into practice.”

The poll showed that “four out of every five Tennessee likely voters approve of the state’s new law requiring people to show an approved photo ID before voting. Just 16 percent oppose the measure, and 3 percent are unsure.” In his detailed analysis, Dr. Ken Blake, Director of the MTSU Survey Group, wrote, “What opposition there is to the photo ID requirement is strongest among Democrats, 34 percent of whom oppose the law compared to only about 13 percent of independents and about 4 percent of Republicans.”

The poll was conducted through telephone interviews during the week of Oct. 16-21, 2012. MTSU Survey Group reported 609 poll respondents were interviewed.

Earlier this month, a Rasmussen national telephone survey reported 71 percent of voters nationwide favor voter identification. That poll also said 66% of likely U.S. Voters believe voter fraud is a serious problem in America today.

“Voters are smart enough to realize that there is a problem, regardless of claims to the contrary,” added Ketron. “I am very pleased our constitutional right to put this law into place in Tennessee was upheld last week. I also am hopeful that our Judiciary will overturn the Appeals Court decision to accept library cards after further review as our intent to only accept state- and federally-issued photo identification was clear. We considered alternative means, but after reviewing the process decided that the safeguards were not in place to ensure the integrity of the ballot like state- and federal-issued identification.”

“Our right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms. Requiring photo ID to vote will help maintain the integrity of elections in our state and the purity of the ballot box,” he concluded.

Haslam Includes $127M MTSU Science Building in Budget

Press Release from Middle Tennessee State University; Jan. 30, 2012:

MTSU applauds Haslam’s decision to include Science Building in budget

MURFREESBORO—Middle Tennessee State University applauded Gov. Bill Haslam’s announcement Monday night that the University’s $126.7 million Science Building project has been included in his proposed 2012-13 budget.

“We are grateful to Governor Haslam for recognizing the importance of the Science Building project and including funding for its construction in this year’s budget proposal,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “As home to the state’s largest undergraduate student population, the Science Building is critical to our continuing efforts to provide Tennessee with graduates ready for the 21st century workforce.

“We appreciate the governor’s leadership, as well as the encouragement and support we have received from the members of the General Assembly, especially our local delegation. And we thank the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission for their help in moving this project forward.”

The new Science Building will provide more than 250,000 gross square feet of teaching, faculty and student research laboratories and collaborative learning spaces. The University’s existing Wiser-Patten Science Hall and Davis Science Building were built in 1932 and 1967, respectively, and have a combined total of only 75,332 net square feet.

In 1968, just after the Davis building opened, MTSU’s student head count was at 6,779. By fall 2011, the University’s enrollment was 26,442. That means MTSU has seen its head count increase almost four times with no increase in space for science education.

At least 80 percent of all MTSU students will take at least one class in the new building, and every student is required to take biology as a general-education requirement.

Science courses offered in the new building will serve academic programs beyond general education, biology andchemistry. Those additional programs include aerospace, agribusiness/agriscience, engineering technology, nursing, physics and astronomy, elementary education, education teacher licensure in science education, wellness and exercise science in health and human performance, human sciences nutrition/food science/dietetics, geology, social work, and recording-industry production technology.

McPhee said the new Science Building will:

  •  enable the University to address needs identified in the America Competes Act by creating additional science graduates to fill high-technologyjobs and teach science and math in K-12 schools;
  • enhance middle Tennessee’s regional economy by providing technical entrepreneurs and researchers who launch small businesses throughideas and research;
  • make MTSU and the state more competitive for federal grants and contracts in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and
  • support greater collaboration with Oak Ridge National Labs through MTSU’s new science doctoral programs.

Haslam’s budget proposal included nearly $264 million to fund long-deferred capital-outlay projects in higher education, including:

  •  $126.7 million for the MTSU Science Building, which was confirmed last year as the No. 1 capital priority of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Tennessee Board of Regents system;
  • $94 million for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Strong Hall science lab; and
  • $24.1 million for a simulation center at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis.

MTSU already has received $16.8 million from the state for a campus chilling plant, distribution lines and planning for the Science Building project, as well as $1.7 million for site demolitions and other preparations.

For more information about the new MTSU Science Building, including full-color renderings of theproject, visit www.mtsunews.com/sciencebuilding.

Citizen Action: MTSU Poll Proves New Voter ID Law Is Confusing

Statement from Tennessee Citizen Action; Oct. 24, 2011: 

TENNESSEE CITIZEN ACTION STATEMENT ON PHOTO ID LAW MTSU POLL RESULTS

Nashville, Tenn. (October 24, 2011) — A new poll issued by the MTSU Survey Group reveals that most Tennesseans are aware of new voter ID law, but many confused about the details. Tennessee Citizen Action released the following statement:

“We’re not surprised that many Tennesseans are confused about the details of the new photo ID to vote law because it’s in the details that the devil lives. The requirements necessary for Tennesseans to comply with the law are restrictive, excessive, and extremely confusing.

For instance, the law states that the ID must be a “Valid government-issued photo ID” but we’re being told we can use an expired drivers license. We’re not sure when “valid” and “expired” started to mean the same thing. We’re also being told that certain government-issued photo IDs, such as those issued by state universities and colleges, cannot be used, while others, such as gun permits, can.

Adding to the confusion is the very specific and excessive ID requirements needed for Tennesseans to obtain the necessary ID. You need proof of U.S. Citizenship, a primary proof of identity with full name and date of birth (like an original copy of a birth certificate) AND a secondary proof of identity AND a proof of name change if different from name on primary ID AND TWO proofs of Tennessee residency.

Basically, this law is taking away a person’s right to vote, telling them they have to get a government-issued photo ID to get it back, and confusing the hell out of them in the process. This is NOT what democracy looks like.”

Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization focused on justice for all. As part of the No Barriers to the Ballot Box coalition, TNCA is working to repeal the photo ID to vote law.

Poll: http://mtsusurveygroup.org/

Repeal: http://www.tnca.org/petition

MTSU Poll: Tennesseans Don’t Like Teacher Tenure; Split on Eliminating Collective Bargaining; Favor Wine in Grocery Stores

Press Release from the Middle Tennessee State University Survey Group, March 2, 2011:

Obama would lose to a Republican opponent, but his low approval rating has stabilized

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Tennesseans take a dim view of teacher tenure but show no consensus on whether to do away with collective bargaining power for teacher unions, the latest MTSU Poll finds.

Fifty-four percent of state residents choose the statement, “Tenure makes it hard to get rid of bad teachers” as most representative of their viewpoint, while 29 percent choose the alternative statement, “Tenure protects good teachers from being fired without just cause” as most indicative of what they think. Sixteen percent say they don’t know, and the rest decline to answer.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of Tennesseans favor “eliminating the ability of teacher unions in Tennessee to negotiate with local boards of education about teacher salaries, benefits and other employment issues.” But a statistically equivalent 41 percent oppose such a move, and a substantial 22 percent are undecided.

“Compared to public opinion about teacher tenure, public opinion about collective bargaining for teacher unions seem to be still taking shape in Tennessee,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll. “The people most likely to have any opinion at all on the collective bargaining issue are also, based on other measures in the poll, the ones most likely to be politically active and politically knowledgeable. They probably are creating a framework for the debate and soon will start contending with each other for the support of those who are undecided.”

Conducted Feb. 14 – 26, 2011 by Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication, the telephone poll of 589 Tennessee adults chosen at random from across the state has an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. Full results are available on the poll’s website, www.mtsusurveygroup.org.

The poll also finds President Obama currently trailing whoever the Republican 2012 presidential nominee might be. Thirty-one percent of Tennesseans say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today, but a 48 percent plurality say they would vote instead for “his Republican opponent.” 14 percent say that they don’t know who they would vote for at this time, and 6 percent volunteer that they would vote for neither candidate.

The downward slide in Obama’s approval rating among Tennesseans seems to have leveled off, though, according to Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll.

“The president’s approval rating stands at 39 percent in Tennessee, a possible uptick from his 35 percent approval rating in our Fall 2010 poll,” Reineke said. “But, of course, he’s still down quite a bit compared to his 53 percent approval rating in the Spring 2009 MTSU Poll.”

In other findings, three in four Tennesseans considers illegal immigration a “somewhat” or “very” serious problem, and a 42 percent plurality describe as “about right” the new Arizona immigration law’s requirement that police making a stop, detention, or arrest must attempt to determine the person’s immigration status if police suspect the person is not lawfully present in the country. Another 25 percent say such a law “doesn’t go far enough,” and 28 percent say it “goes too far.”

Additionally, 55 percent characterize as “about right” the Arizona law’s requirement that people produce documents proving their immigration status if asked by police. Twenty-three percent say that aspect of the law doesn’t go far enough, and 17 percent say it goes too far.

Meanwhile, closing the Tennessee’s projected budget gap could prove politically difficult for state lawmakers.

A 52-percent majority of state residents think dealing with the budget gap will require either cutting important services (16 percent), raising state taxes (6 percent) or both (30 percent). Despite these attitudes, though, Tennesseans show little support for cuts to any of five of the state’s largest general fund budget categories. Only 25 percent of state residents favor cuts to TennCare, 14 percent favor cuts to K-12 education, 24 percent favor cuts to higher education, and 17 percent favor cuts to children’s services. Cuts to a fifth major budget category, prisons and correctional facilities, drew the most support (44 percent), but the figure is still well below a majority.

Asked about gun regulation, Tennesseans divide essentially evenly on whether laws governing the sale of guns should be kept at their current levels (43 percent) or made more strict (41 percent). Similarly, 45 percent of Tennesseans say they would support a nationwide law banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, defined in the poll question as those that hold more than 10 bullets. But a statistically equivalent 42 percent say they would oppose such a law.

In still other poll findings:

  • Sixty-nine percent of Tennesseans favor letting food stores sell wine.
  • A 50 percent plurality think Congress should repeal the health care law.
  • Support remains high for the religious rights of Muslims.
  • Tennesseans think neither President Obama nor Congressional Republicans are doing enough to cooperate with each other.
  • More Tennesseans approve than disapprove of new governor, legislature, but many are undecided.

For over a decade, the Survey Group at MTSU has been providing independent, non-partisan and unbiased public opinion data regarding major social, political, and ethical issues affecting Tennessee. The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising Middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001. Learn more and view the full report at www.mtsusurveygroup.org.