Should I Stay or Should I Go?

How do you determine whether or not to attend a particular conference? As a working example to see through to natural generalizations, let’s use the JMM. [Just to choose a conference we’ve all heard of, attend at least once in our careers, and a conference that literally has something for everyone. Not to mention a conference that just concluded.]

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Posted in balancing research and teaching, collaborations, conferences, joint math meetings, networking, reimbursements, research, time management, traveling, workshops | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment


Literal bed time reading.

Recently, I have been re-reading Michel Houellebecq’s 2015 novel Submission. It’s about a hedonistic literature professor who sleeps with his students, has the diet of a frat boy, and occasionally does “work” researching an obscure (at least, to me) 19th-century French novelist.

Obviously, the man has tenure.

He’s employed at a public university which is not-so-subtly government run. In a surprise election, a conservative faction—led by Muslims—takes power. Polygamy is legalized. Women must wear veils. The main character is offered a more lucrative job in terms of pay and power. There’s just one catch: to get this job (and not lose his current), he must convert to Islam.

The book was highly controversial because of its description of Islam and its (ironic?) timing of being released the same day as the Charlie Hebdo shooting. To me, beyond any politically incorrect statements about religion, it lambasts academia (see below) and really makes me think about “compromise.” Specifically, compromising personal beliefs and character. The climax of the story is whether or not this professor will give up his preferred lifestyle for more pay. Will let his bosses choose his wives for less teaching. Will fake being a social and religious conservative and take on a faith he doesn’t believe in just for a check.

Spoiler alert…

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Posted in bias, books, elections, math in the media, teaching evaluations, tenure, Uncategorized, work-life balance | 1 Comment


“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” Dean Jackson

It’s hard to understand what we haven’t experienced or lived. Particularly, it is hard to make decisions that affect others when we don’t know nor understand the challenges others face. Examples are abundant: rich people failing to understand the challenges faced by those with less fortune yet still making decisions that affect them, men failing to understand the challenges faced by those not identifying as males  yet still making decisions that affect them, faculty failing to understand the challenges current students face yet still making decisions that affect them, citizens of wealthy countries failing to show compassion to those coming from less privileged places yet still making decisions that affect them, among many others.

In one way or another, we have all been there. We certainly haven’t lived every situation to have awareness about the challenges others face. But one thing we can all do is listen. Listen to the marginalized; listen to the underrepresented; listen to those we have discriminated against; listen to the oppressed; listen to those that will be affected by your decisions; listen to those that don’t look like you; listen to those that don’t think like you. Just sit down and listen. 

I want to highlight two events that happened last week. On one side, Thomas Goodwillie, wrote a piece for the Inclusion/Exclusion blog aimed “at people who have good intentions but who also have a tendency toward complacency.” On the post, found here, he states “The main message of this post is: listen and learn.” I encourage you to read it now and then come back to this piece.

Also last week, a Vice President of the AMS stated her personal opinion against the mandated use of faculty diversity statements in hiring decisions and compared such requirements to McCarthyist loyalty oaths. The post, in my view, shows that the author of the article, who is an accomplished mathematician in many axes, has not listened to those affected by the views she shares in the piece. In general, if you agree with her views, I encourage you to think about who are you centering in such views.

A group of mathematician came together and wrote a response to the article. In our response, we chose to center those that have not been traditionally represented in mathematics. We chose to center the people that have not been traditionally represented in the AMS. This response, available here: Response to Notices Editorial, has gathered over 500 signatures and counting. I encourage you to read it, and if you are in agreement, to sign it. Now whether you are in agreement or not, please read it. Think about it. And every time you are set to go into a position of power over others or are about to make a decision that will affect others, please think about whether you have listened to them first.

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