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One Concern

From Math Professor Chad Topaz:

Here at QSIDE, we wake up early, drink coffee, and write these:

Hi organizers [of a one-day conference],

Thanks so much for organizing this event. I know it takes a lot of work to pull it off.

I do want to bring up one concern. If I am wrong in my assessment, please forgive me and ignore the rest of this email, but it seems all the speakers are liberal. It’s disappointing to see the many excellent not-liberals excluded from participating as speakers, and moreover, it sends a really discouraging message to any attendees who aren’t liberals.

I hope you might find a way to bring political diversity to your set of speakers. There are lots of great, effective practices for speaker selection that would result in a more politically-diverse program.

Thanks for hearing me out on this, and thanks again for the work you do to put it all together.

Cheers,
Chad

1) How wonderfully (passive) aggressive! Not that there is anything wrong with that!

2) Does Topaz send these out to colleagues organizing such conferences at Williams? Kudos to him if he does! The more thought put into panel selection, the better. EphBlog has been complaining about the lack of political diversity on panels at Williams for decades!

3) If you were a junior member of Topaz’s department, what would you think? EphBlog’s advice would be to follow Topaz’s suggestions! They are sensible (or, at least, not nonsensical) and, more importantly, he will be voting on your tenure in a few years.

4) How would you feel if you were organizing a conference at, say, Harvard and some rando from Williams sent you this e-mail? Good question! Perhaps our academic friends like dcat and sigh might opine.

5) I would chuckle, then ignore it. Does Topaz really think that I am unaware of political diversity and its importance? What wonderful arrogance from some nobody teaching at a jumped-up prep school! Putting together conferences is difficult, balancing participant priorities is hard, and even getting people to agree to come is annoying. The last thing I want to deal with is somebody who isn’t even attending the conference kvetching about his personal hobbyhorse. Of course, at the end of the conference, I will seek opinions from the attendees to see how we might improve things next year and, if others share Topaz’s (idiosyncratic?) views, I will try to adjust, subject to all the other constraints I need to deal with.

More:

Did regular readers expect some EphBlog trickery? You were right to be suspicious! It is, of course, almost inconceivable that a Williams professor (outside of a tiny handful?) actually believes in the importance of political diversity enough to send such an e-mail. Topaz’s actual post:

Here at QSIDE, we wake up early, drink coffee, and write these:

Hi organizers [of a one-day conference],

Thanks so much for organizing this event. I know it takes a lot of work to pull it off.

I do want to bring up one concern. If I am wrong in my assessment, please forgive me and ignore the rest of this email, but it seems all the speakers are men. It’s disappointing to see the many excellent not-men excluded from participating as speakers, and moreover, it sends a really discouraging message to any attendees who aren’t men.

I hope you might find a way to bring gender diversity to your set of speakers. There are lots of great, effective practices for speaker selection that would result in a more gender-diverse program.

Thanks for hearing me out on this, and thanks again for the work you do to put it all together.

Cheers,
Chad

Does this change your opinion of what Topaz did? It does not change mine! Is gender diversity more or less important than political diversity? At Williams today, the first is close to a religion, the second is an after-thought.

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6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "One Concern"

#1 Comment By abl On November 13, 2019 @ 11:02 am

“Is gender diversity more or less important than political diversity?”

It’s fundamentally different (and, as a consequence, matters for different reasons and to different extents in different contexts).

#2 Comment By ’11 On November 13, 2019 @ 2:14 pm

you can choose your politics but not your gender thats the key difference

#3 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On November 13, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

> but not your gender

Please, no transphobia on EphBlog! If I say I am a woman, than I am a woman.

Also, genetics affect political views.

Almost forty years ago, evidence from large studies of adult twins and their relatives suggested that between 30-60% of the variance in social and political attitudes could be explained by genetic influences. However, these findings have not been widely accepted or incorporated into the dominant paradigms that explain the etiology of political ideology. This has been attributed in part to measurement and sample limitations, as well the relative absence of molecular genetic studies. Here we present results from original analyses of a combined sample of over 12,000 twins pairs, ascertained from nine different studies conducted in five democracies, sampled over the course of four decades. We provide evidence that genetic factors play a role in the formation of political ideology, regardless of how ideology is measured, the era, or the population sampled.

You can’t, completely at least, “choose your politics.”

#4 Comment By abl On November 13, 2019 @ 4:59 pm

David –

The fact that gender identity doesn’t always align with biological sex doesn’t necessitate the conclusion that gender is “chosen.”

Gender identity is our internal experience and naming of our gender. It can correspond to or differ from the sex we were assigned at birth.

Understanding of our gender comes to most of us fairly early in life. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “By age four, most children have a stable sense of their gender identity.” This core aspect of one’s identity comes from within each of us. Gender identity is an inherent aspect of a person’s make-up. Individuals do not choose their gender, nor can they be made to change it. However, the words someone uses to communicate their gender identity may change over time; naming one’s gender can be a complex and evolving matter. Because we are provided with limited language for gender, it may take a person quite some time to discover, or create, the language that best communicates their internal experience. Likewise, as language evolves, a person’s name for their gender may also evolve. This does not mean their gender has changed, but rather that the words for it are shifting.

https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/

Another difference: there’s a long history of discrimination in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education). That’s just not true when it comes to politics.

#5 Comment By Williams Alum On November 14, 2019 @ 11:23 am

#6 Comment By Recent grad On November 14, 2019 @ 3:24 pm

Worth noting that WA’s article references a couple who were profiled in the Record not long ago: https://williamsrecord.com/2019/10/hitched-and-living-on-hoxsey-lara-and-jason-meintjes-22-settle-into-life-at-the-college/