Updates II: The Need for QSIDE


See Updates I and the original post for the story thus far.

QSIDE’s previous posts have sparked public attention, receiving thousands of reads. Of the responses to us that were negative, most were with reference to Thompson herself. We note that in our original post, we suggest six actions. Two of them relate to climate and practices at Thompson’s institution/department and the ways that they may impact marginalized people. None of the recommended actions are personal. The most important action we recommend – as suggested by its #1 spot on our list – is to address the role of the American Mathematical Society. Thompson is a Vice President of the society and thus is in a position of great power at the world’s largest mathematics organization. This brings us to…

the need for QSIDE

QSIDE promotes social justice using a quantitative approach. If we are going to use quantitative techniques as a tool for justice, we must also seek justice in the world of quantitative techniques. Put simply, one must get one’s own house in order.

Let us take a look at the landscape in the mathematical sciences, first around gender. Women account for approximately 40% of undergraduate degrees in the mathematical sciences. At the doctoral level, women account for approximately 30%. As for faculty in doctoral-degree-granting departments, women make up 20% of the pool. These three pieces of information come from the American Mathematical Society and represent the most recent data we could find there. A QSIDE-affiliated study on gender balance on mathematical sciences journal editorial boards estimated that 9% of editorships are held by women. In summary, we see a very leaky pipeline with about 10 percentage points lost at each stage along the progression from bachelor’s degree to editor.

The landscape for people of color is even more grim. At the doctoral level, Native, Black, LatinX, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander mathematicians make up only 8% of the pool of mathematical sciences degrees (where we have eliminated respondents for whom information is unknown). We could not readily find statistics at the faculty level for mathematicians of color. This in itself is troublesome. [If any readers know of reliable statistics on mathematics faculty of color, please do let us know so we can update this post.]

Our community needs to do more to center the inclusion of minoritized mathematical scientists.

Of course, the mathematical sciences are not unique. Here are some of QSIDE’s efforts related to inclusion, diversity, and equity in STEM:

Updates on the Thompson/UC Davis/AMS Kerfuffle

Seventeen members of the mathematical sciences community who were concerned by the publication of Thompson’s essay drafted and signed a response letter to the American Mathematical Society, which has now been co-signed by 500+ at last count. Please sign and share.

An opposing letter has now been drafted. We note that the drafters of this letter have not identified themselves. The anonymously drafted letter is below. We leave it to you to decide if the characterizations therein are accurate.

To the American Mathematical Society

We write with grave concerns about recent attempts to intimidate a voice within our mathematical community. Abigail Thompson published an opinion piece in the December issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. She explained her support for efforts within our community to further diversity, and then described her concerns with the rigid rubrics used to evaluate diversity statements in the hiring processes of the University of California system.
The reaction to the article has been swift and vehement. An article posted at the site QSIDE urges faculty to direct their students not to attend and not to apply for jobs at the University of California-Davis, where Prof.Thompson is chair of the math department. It recommends contacting the university to question whether Prof. Thompson is fit to be chair. And it recommends refusing to do work for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society for allowing this piece to be published.
Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue of whether diversity statements are a fair or effective means to further diversity aims, we should agree that this attempt to silence opinions is damaging to the profession. This is a direct attempt to destroy Prof. Thompson’s career and to punish her department. It is an attempt to intimidate the AMS into publishing only articles that hew to a very specific point of view. If we allow ourselves to be intimidated into avoiding discussion of how best to achieve diversity, we undermine our attempts to achieve it.
We the undersigned urge the American Mathematical Society to stand by the principle that important issues should be openly discussed in a respectful manner, and to make a clear statement that bullying and intimidation have no place in our community.