The future of AMS-MAA Meetings + MathFest 2019 Equity Round-up

As you may have heard, the AMS and MAA will move away from co-organizing JMM after 2021. This week, at MAA MathFest 2019 in Cincinnati, OH, the executive directors of both the AMS (Catherine Roberts) and MAA (Michael Pearson) will host “A Conversation with AMS and MAA on the Future of Meetings”. Here is their description:

Last year’s announcement that AMS and MAA would discontinue shared management of the Joint Mathematics Meetings has raised questions among many in our community about how we can sustain the value of the collaboration associated with this annual event beyond 2021.

This session will allow leadership of both organizations to share their vision for the future, including annual and section meetings, and new initiatives to provide professional opportunities for members of our community. You are also invited to provide feedback directly to AMS at  http://www.ams.org/about-us/jmm-reimagined  and https://www.maa.org/meetings/jmm.

I have several concerns with this change related to the mission of this blog:

  1. In my career, I have seen the gap between the AMS and MAA narrow. While neither the AMS nor MAA is completely focused on teaching or research, they do stand as symbolic short-hand for these dimensions of faculty. This symbolic short-hand impacts their memberships and programming. However, what had initially seemed, 15 or more years ago, like a forced choice between scholarship and teaching was becoming a false dichotomy. Honestly, I (and many others) hope that these two professional organizations will recombine to further support this change in the way we as a discipline view being a mathematician. I am worried that this progress will be undermined and regress if the MAA is no longer part of JMM.
  2. Within the first concern, some people in higher education seem to conceptualize equity as a concern within teaching. I worry that any separation between teaching and research will further isolate some members of our community from discussions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. I worry that this change will mean that we are less able to engage all mathematicians in important discussions of equity.
  3. It is my understanding that the AMS is happy to continue having MAA programming at this re-imagined JMM management. This is positive in my mind, but as anyone who has looked at systems through an equity lens knows, there can be big gaps between an action being technically possible in a system and it actually happening (not to mention happening easily). Moreover, it can matter a lot who is in the room for decisions and when in the flow of design people get access to those decision.

Put simply, even trusting the good intentions and skills of the AMS and MAA leadership as I do, I think it matters exactly how this change is effected, and I think the recent progress made in the mathematics community related to equity is still fragile and particularly sensitive to these changes.

Fortunately, I also think that the most powerful tool for making this transition positive is already in reach: sustained engagement by people across the mathematics community, especially people asking about the implications for equity in our conferences and our community. I am concerned because I think there are possible paths through this change that lead backwards, but I also genuinely believe that we can avoid the worst paths and counterbalance many of the possible negatives together. So, in the end, I am encouraging you to attend this invited conversation with Roberts and Pearson if you are able and to give feedback through the links above.

And now that I have your attention, here is a list of other events related to the mission of this blog at MAA MathFest 2019.

Following Adriana’s past decision-making process for building this kind of list, I went through the web program searching for large events and sessions that explicitly center themes of equity, inclusion, diversity, or justice as well as events that were promoted by groups with missions focused on supporting underrepresented mathematicians (like the Association for Women in Mathematics and the National Association of Mathematicians). There certainly are talks and posters about equity in broader sessions that are not captured by this process, and I think it’s important that these discussions weave through the whole conference rather that only being separated into special sessions; moreover, I think it’s important that there are talks by people known for justice work that center their proving and computing work. But reading every title and abstract was beyond what I could manage for this post, so if there is something I missed that you think should get some attention and promotion, please share in the comments section below.

Invited Addresses:

  • AWM-MAA Etta Zuber Falconer Lecture — Dance of the Astonished Topologist … or How I Left Squares and Hexes for Math, by Tara Holm. Friday, August 2, 1:30 p.m. – 2:20 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A
  • NAM David Harold Blackwell Lecture and National Association of Mathematicians Celebration — Dudeney’s No Three-In-Line Problem: Problem, Solutions, Conditions, Progress, and Conjectures, by Johnny L. Houston. Friday, August 2, 4:00 p.m. – 5:45 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A
  • MAA James R.C. Leitzel Lecture — What’s at Stake in Rehumanizing Mathematics?, by Rochelle Gutiérrez. Saturday, August 3, 9:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Invited Paper Sessions:

Contributed Paper Sessions:

  • Ethics in the Mathematics Classroom, Thursday, August 1, 1:30 p.m. – 4:10 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 260, 261 & 262
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Mathematics, Part A: Friday, August 2, 10:10 a.m. – 12:10 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 260, 261 & 262; Part B: Friday, August 2, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 260, 261 & 262; Part C: Saturday, August 3, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center Room 237 & 238
  • A Centennial Celebration of David Harold Blackwell, Thursday, August 1, 1:30 p.m.. – 3:30 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 232

Panel Sessions:

  • Living Proof: Stories of Resilience Along the Mathematical Journey, Thursday, August 1, 1:30 p.m. – 2:50 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 263

Town Hall Meeting:

  • Quantitative Literacy and Social Justice, Friday, August 2, 3:00 p.m. – 4:20 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 201

Workshops:

  • Create and Recreate: A Celebration of Women in Recreational Mathematics, Thursday, August 1, 9:00 a.m. – 10:20 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 201
  • The Mathematics of Gerrymandering: Engaging and Authentic Tasks with Civic Significance, Friday. August 2, 1:30 p.m. – 2:50 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 201

Social and Other Events:

  • IBL SIGMAA Reception with invited presentation “Why Inclusivity Matters for IBL” by Victor Piercey, Thursday, August 1, 4:30 p.m. – 5:50 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 200
  • SPECTRA Meet-up, Thursday, August 1, 7:00 p.m., Birdcage
  • A Conversation with the AMS and MAA about the Future of Meetings, Friday, August 2, 11:20 a.m. – 12:10 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Junior Ballroom C
  • MAA MathFest Mentoring Workshop for Women (MMWW), Saturday, August 3, 8:30 a.m – 1:00 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Room 201

 

Many other sessions have themes that contribute to the larger effort to value and engage the humanity of people as they engage in mathematics. Feel free to comment below about sessions that I missed in this round-up.

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