With the publication of the December edition of the AMS Notices this week, equity-minded mathematicians have once again taken time out of our busy lives to respond to an editorial by AMS Vice President Abigail Thompson. In it, Thompson suggests that hiring committees should not be required to ask for diversity statements, and that forcing people to use rubrics she deems as “bad” to evaluate diversity statements from candidates is tantamount to asking for a loyalty oath a la McCarthy era. This is a false equivalence, a weak argument, and frankly a dangerous one on par with “reverse racism” claims. Asking for people to identify how they will create an environment (for students and colleagues) that allows EVERYONE to flourish and be welcomed into mathematics is not equivalent to political persecution. Disliking an enforced rubric is fine, but jumping from that to the Red Scare is overly dramatic and problematic. Anyway, much of this has been said already, in different places, very well. We at inclusion/exclusion wanted to do two things with this post:
- Give a forum for people to comment on the Notices piece (“A Word from… Abigail Thompson”), beyond responses in the form of letters to the editor. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We will post disagreements with our stance and counterarguments, too, as long as they are made in good faith (read: racist/sexist/homophobic comments and ad hominem attacks will not be approved).
- Give a few resources that we find particularly useful when thinking of these issues. For example, if you want to learn more about WHY people might want to require diversity statements, read this terrific piece by Chad Topaz. If you want to read what some really smart people are saying on Twitter, threads by @MBarany, @dagan_karp, @stanyoshinobu, @dtkung, @j_lanier and @mathprofcarrie are particularly insightful, in different ways. If you want to read a letter some of us drafted to send to the AMS Notices, you can go here (and if you agree, you may want to consider signing the letter).
Finally, even though we are disappointed by the publication of this opinion piece, we are heartened by the response of many in the math community who care about and support processes that lead to more equitable and inclusive math departments.