With regard to the issue of accounting at Williams, Professor Zimmerman of the Economics department pointed out that they regularly offer an accounting class during Winter Study. He also noted that almost no other departments of economics offer accounting and that it is almost always offered in business school.

All of this is, of course, quite true. Indeed, this year’s accounting course, ECON 014, looks good. I would be curious to know if it is. I would also be curious to know if many more want to take it than the 30 that are permitted.

Of course, the fact that the Amherst Economics department doesn’t offer accounting (or that Harvard Business School does) is largely irrelevant to the issue of Williams doing so. Moreover, now that I look, it turns out that some peer colleges (e.g., Smith and Mount Holyoke) do offer such a course. My main claims are that: First, such a course could be taught in at least as academically rigorous a fashion as other courses in the department are — we are not talking about basic bookkeeping. Second, many students would want to take it. Third, those students would be glad that they had taken it, both in terms of their understanding of the world in which we live (tough to understand the current wave of corporate scandals with knowing accounting) and in terms of future careers in business. Mike Nery and I are not the only alums who regret not having studied accounting, or at least financial statement analysis, at Williams.

As a side note, it is nice to see that Zimmerman has been promoted to full professor. By all accounts, he has done a great job at Williams over the past 12 years. I especially like the way that he guides students toward projects that use data about Williams. Unfortunately, I can’t find any examples of this for linking to, but I know about work on grade inflation and roommate influences.

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