EphBlog’s favorite woke mathematician, Professor Chad Topaz, has a new analysis.

In November, 2019, the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (AMS Notices) published an essay critical of the use of diversity statements in academic hiring. The publication of this essay prompted many responses, including two public letters circulated within the mathematical sciences community. Both public letters were signed by hundreds of people and will be published online by the AMS on December 13, 2019. In this research brief, we report on a crowdsourced demographic study of the signatories to the two public letters. Letter A highlights diversity and social justice issues, and was signed by relatively more women, members of underrepresented ethnic groups, and professionally vulnerable individuals. Letter B highlights the need for discussion and debate, and, in stark contrast, was signed by substantially more men, white people, and professionally secure individuals.

Comments:

1) I like Topaz. No, really, I do! Some of my closest friends/family share his woke political outlook. He is also an outstanding teacher, and there is no faculty attribute that EphBlog values more highly than excellence in teaching Williams students. Also, he is highly transparent in his research, providing, for example, the raw data underlying this analysis.

2) Despite his recent arrival, Topaz might play a major role at Williams over the next few decades. Note the blurb on his homepage: “data science, applied mathematics, and social justice.” Topaz, a topologist, has, in recent years, dived into data science, a field likely to play a major role at Williams (and everywhere else) over the next few decades. Indeed, there are rumors that one of the major outcomes from Maud’s strategic planning process is a new focus on Data Science. Topaz would be a natural leader for such an effort.

3) Topaz’s entrepreneurial energy is impressive. He does a lot of stuff! A faculty member told me that, when Williams was hiring a senior mathematician a few years ago, Topaz was clearly the number one candidate on the market. I think that Topaz deserves 90% of the credit for the creation of QSIDE. What other Williams faculty members have done something like this over the last decade? The best analogue I can come up with is Economics Professor Stephen Sheppard and the Center for Creative Community Development. Other examples?

4) Should we be worried that Topaz is a little too entrepreneurial? Note that “The Center for Creative Community Development (C3D) is a Williams College research center.” This is the normal way that such things are organized. Sheppard fund-raises, runs the effort and so on. But Williams College gets a cut and is, ultimately, in charge. QSIDE, on the other hand, seems to exist (completely?) independently of Williams. It is a 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organization. Does it use Williams resources? How do the finances work? If I were a trustee, I would ask some questions.

5) The problem at Williams is not Chad Topaz, a dedicated teacher and skilled researcher. The problem is that there is no one (?) on the faculty who represents the other side of politics in America, much less globally. No one on the Williams faculty voted for Trump while, probably, about 10% to 20% of the students will.

6) And the problem with Chad Topaz is that he probably doesn’t see a problem with this. He doesn’t “debate social justice” and I bet that he has no interest in seeing such debates at Williams, or in even hiring a junior professor who thinks that such debates might be a good idea. Am I being unfair? Comments welcome!

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