Professor Wins Award After Having Contract Terminated By YU
Yeshiva University’s research faculty is well represented in all fields when it comes to receiving noteworthy fellowships and academic awards. One of the reasons for YU’s excellent reputation as a highly ranked private university is the quality of research published by its professors in the science, humanities, and business disciplines. Prof. Michael Richter of the economics department is one such faculty member who has had his research recognized this year by receiving the prestigious Bergmann Memorial Award for Young Scientists.
This award is a significant honor for Richter and his peers in the economics department, yet the news of it comes at a bittersweet time. This is because Richter was one of the two economics professors let go by YU a year ago as a result of institution-wide budget cuts. Therefore, despite accepting the award on behalf of YU, Prof. Richter will most likely be teaching at a different university in the coming academic year.
The Bergmann Memorial Award for Young Scientists is presented annually by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation. The BSF is an independent academic body whose goal is to “promote scientific relations between the U.S. and Israel by supporting collaborative research projects in a wide area of basic and applied scientific fields, for peaceful and non-profit purposes.” By and large, the BSF is well known to researchers in both countries for its substantial research funding, in addition to the fact that some awardees have gone on to receive greater honors like the Nobel Prize.
Richter was one of just three recipients for the 2015 Bergman Award (all of whom are under the age of 35) for his research on abstract competitive equilibriums. Although the award is more noteworthy for its prestige than its monetary component, it does contain a research grant worth close to $100,000 in value. Regarding this money, Richter commented: “The funds will enable me to plan to travel back and forth from Israel working on my research, to buy equipment, and to fund students which will be helpful for me and I hope just as helpful for them.” However, the grant was not accepted by YU because of Richter’s impending departure from the school after this academic year, and he has been unable to access these funds as long as he is still technically employed by Yeshiva University."
“This award is a great honor for Professor Richter, and one that will reflect well on whichever institution is fortunate enough to hire him” said Dr. James Kahn, head of the Yeshiva College’s economics department.
The decision last year to terminate Richter’s contract was made against the wishes of Kahn and the economics department as a whole. Prof. Richter’s accomplishment did not get any official coverage on the YU News page, but a picture of him at the award ceremony was shared on the Yeshiva University Admissions’ Facebook page. Ironically, the caption given to the photo was “#TopFaculty teaching #TopStudents ~ #NowhereButHere.”
When reached for comment, the Office of Communications and Public Affairs said, “We congratulate Professor Richter on this achievement.”
At the present time, there been no reversal in the administration’s decision to terminate the contracts of Prof. Richter and Prof. William Hawkins (the other economics faculty member whose job fell to budget cuts), and it is unlikely the recent news will have any effect on their status at YU. Both professors are currently visiting economics professors at Ivy League schools--Richter at the University of Pennsylvania and Hawkins at Yale University. Richter is the first-ever Yeshiva University faculty member to receive an award from the BSF. Reflecting on his current situation, Prof. Richter said: “In our lives we make decisions not knowing what the future holds. As a Jewish scientist, I took an offer from Yeshiva over other more prestigious universities and it is a decision that I regret.”