UC Davis math professor demonized for criticizing required “diversity” statements for academic jobs

Abigail Thompson is a well known professor (and department Chair) of mathematics at the University of California at Davis, specializing in topology. Six years ago she became an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and now she’s a vice president.

But in the December issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, she set herself up for public pillorying by publishing an essay criticizing the mandatory diversity statements that must accompany applications for academic jobs at some colleges and universities, including hers. You can read her short essay by clicking on the screenshot below:

Dr. Thompson is certainly not against increased diversity in math departments or colleges in general, nor against efforts to increase diversity. She just doesn’t think that “diversity statements” are the way to do it:
Mathematics has made progress over the past decades towards becoming a more welcoming, inclusive discipline. We should continue to do all we can to reduce barriers to participation in this most beautiful of fields. I am encouraged by the many mathematicians who are working to achieve this laudable aim. There are reasonable means to further this goal: encouraging students from all backgrounds to enter the mathematics pipeline, trying to ensure that talented mathematicians don’t leave the profession, creating family-friendly policies, and supporting junior faculty at the beginning of their careers, for example. There are also mistakes to avoid. Mandating diversity statements for job candidates is one such mistake, reminiscent of events of seventy years ago.

What are these statements? I came of age in academia without the existence of such things, but they are required essays or statements that accompany professorial job applications, outlining your history of diversity-promoting efforts and proposing how you’ll increase diversity if you’re hired. And, as Thompson reports, they’re actually scored at the University of California using a point system. If you don’t say the right stuff, or come off as sufficiently enthusiastic about promoting diversity, you’re not going to get the job.

Thompson:

Nearly all University of California campuses require that job applicants submit a “contributions to diversity” statement as a part of their application. The campuses evaluate such statements using rubrics, a detailed scoring system. Several UC programs have used these diversity statements to screen out candidates early in the search process. A typical rubric from UC Berkeley specifies that a statement that “describes only activities that are already the expectation of Berkeley faculty (mentoring, treating all students the same regardless of background, etc)” (italics mine) merits a score of 1–2 out of a possible 5 (1 worst and 5 best) in the second section of the rubric, the “track record for advancing diversity” category. [JAC: note that “treating everyone the same” doesn’t get you much credit.]

The diversity “score” is becoming central in the hiring process. Hiring committees are being urged to start the review process by using officially provided rubrics to score the required diversity statements and to eliminate applicants who don’t achieve a scoring cut-off.

Now clearly “diversity” here means “ethnic diversity”, but I don’t think they say that explicitly. But those applicants who propose to increase political viewpoint diversity by, say, trying to promote conservative values and accept more conservative students, are simply not going to be hired!

If, like me, you find it worthwhile to promote equality of opportunity—and, to some extent, in outcome—in academics in general, and in STEM and math in particular, why object to diversity statements? Thompson argues, and I agree, that they are ideological statements, weeding out candidates according to whether they align with certain non-academic goals. She compares them to the “I am not a communist and will not overthrow the US government” statements once required as a condition for taking a job at University of California campuses. (I had to sign one when I became a postdoc at UC Davis in 1979.) Thompson explains:

Why is it a political test? Politics are a reflection of how you believe society should be organized. Classical liberals aspire to treat every person as a unique individual, not as a representative of their gender or their ethnic group. The sample rubric dictates that in order to get a high diversity score, a candidate must have actively engaged in promoting different identity groups as part of their professional life. The candidate should demonstrate “clear knowledge of, experience with, and interest in dimensions of diversity that result from different identities” and describe “multiple activities in depth.” Requiring candidates to believe that people should be treated differently according to their identity is indeed a political test. The idea of using a political test as a screen for job applicants should send a shiver down our collective spine.

. . . ‘Mathematics must be open and welcoming to everyone, to those who have traditionally been excluded, and to those holding unpopular viewpoints. Imposing a political litmus test is not the way to achieve excellence in mathematics or in the university.

I have to agree with Thompson here. I am a believer in at least some affirmative action in university hiring, for I see diversity of all sorts as a net good. (I haven’t yet decided how one should balance diversity versus academic quality when they conflict.) But I believe even more strongly in “affirmative action in opportunity“: that is, making sure everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, politics, or background, gets an equal opportunity from the beginning of their lives to follow their interests and to study and achieve without discrimination. We are a very long way away from that.

But I don’t believe those goals should be achieved by these coercive “diversity statements”, which are indeed chilling. You can imagine how candidates struggle to write a successful statement, and surely there exaggeration pervades many of them. Most academics who aren’t bigots simply haven’t done that much in their pre-job lives to promote diversity. And Thompson’s right: these statements are political, aimed at turning a university’s mission toward social engineering and away from teaching students how to think and how to absorb and assess the knowledge is in their chosen field.

But you’re taking your career and your reputation in danger if, like Dr. Thompson, you dare question diversity statements—even if you’re in favor of increasing diversity. This article in Inside Higher Ed (click on screenshot), describes the reactions of academics, pro and con, of requiring such statements.

The statements have sometimes been characterized by a kind of academic doublespeak, as described in that article:

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for instance, mentions connectedness, inclusion and diversity throughout its mission and vision statements. It also requires faculty applicants to submit diversity statements. But Autumn Reed, assistant vice provost for faculty affairs, said, “My stance is that I don’t even like to call them diversity statements. The language we use is statements on commitment to inclusive excellence in higher education.” Such wording moves the discussion away from embodied characteristics of diversity to issues of pedagogical diversity and even diversity of perspective and thought, she added.

Well, let’s see if UMBC favors hiring professors who work to promote the hiring of more conservatives, libertarians, or Ayn Randians! I’m for all sorts of diversity, but in practice, as I said, the word tends to mean ethnic diversity.

Yet if you think diversity is a net good, as I do (and as the Supreme Court decided in its Bakke ruling), then you want good people from all sorts of backgrounds. To suppose that ethnicity is a marker of viewpoints, and thus diversity of ethnicity is a good surrogate for diversity of views, is patronizing, for it assumes that members of certain ethnic groups are relatively ideologically homogeneous as well as ideologically different in a predictable way from members of other groups. In other words, to use statistical theory, this view presumes that most of the variation (diversity) in thought among Americans will be explained by variation in their ethnicity.

But never mind. As you can predict, Thompson’s non-inflammatory criticism of diversity statements angered some of the woke. There have been petitions criticizing Thompson’s equation of diversity statements with McCarthy-esque “I’m not a Commie” statements, as well as statements calling for letters to her department and demands that she step down as chair of mathematics at Davis.

A particularly nasty and vitriolic example of the latter came from Chad Topaz, a professor of mathematics at (you guessed it) Williams College. On his public Facebook page, Topaz posted the following call for public censure of Thompson:

Nothing like “good ‘ol public shame”, eh? (The apostrophe goes after the “l”, by the way.) What a nasty piece of work this Topaz fellow must be!

Topaz also wrote the article shown below on his own diversity organization’s website, QSIDE. But there appears to be a conflict of interest here. Topaz funds that organization in part by giving donors the gift of “diversity statement help” from his organization [UPDATE: link removed– see here for reason why]. To wit:

Donate any amount. For every $100 raised, we will provide one hour of consulting to a graduate student or postdoc who is on the job market for tenure track jobs right now, or who will be next year. Specifically, we will give feedback on any existing diversity statement the candidate has written, and/or we will help develop an equity/diversity/inclusion plan in concert with the candidate.

For any individual who donates $500 or more, the benefactor can, if they wish, designate two people who should receive one hour of consulting services.

. . . The use of the pro bono services will be completely confidential, meaning that we will never share any information about who we help (other than the total number of individuals).

Thus, by promoting requirements for diversity statements, Topaz is also plumping for donations to his own organization. Further, the undisclosed use of outside help in writing your diversity statement seems to me more than a bit sleazy, like relying on those organizations that charge for helping college students write admissions essays. It may not be illegal, but it doesn’t seem right, since your statements are supposed to be your own, not the thoughts of others.

At any rate, here’s Topaz’s new statement on his QSIDE website [UPDATE: Link removed– see here for reason why]:

The article lists several courses of action that Topaz recommends vis-à-vis Thompson’s statement, following those given on his Facebook post. They include 1) advising your math students not to go to UC Davis; 2) emailing the AMS criticizing its publication of Thompson’s piece (he has a boilerplate letter of complaint, including the statement “I believe you have made a grave and very damaging mistake by publishing Thompson’s essay.“); 3) punishing the AMS journal by not writing or “doing favors” for it; 4) “spreading the word about this debacle on social media and in your workplaces” (the call for social-media crucifixion); 5) contacting the UC Davis math department demanding that they dump Thompson as chair; and, most self-aggrandizingly, 6) donating to Topaz’s own organization (my emphasis).

And of course Topaz tweeted, because all manner of social media must be used when shaming the Ideologically Impure:

But Topaz was hoist with his own petard. In a heartening display, people called him out for being authoritarian and McCarthy-esque himself (you can see the thread here). This was the result:

Further, there’s a new essay in Psychology Today by a social psychologist (!) and Chair of Psychology at Rutgers that gives more examples of those enraged by Thompson’s essay while at the same time defending her criticism of mandatory diversity statements (click on screenshot):

Jussim’s ending is a model for the way that we, as liberals, should deal with diversity on one hand and mandatory diversity statements on the other:

I have a sincere Diversity Statement that I chose to put online at Rutgers, which you can find here. I am pretty sure I was the first Rutgers Psych Professor to have such a statement. This was by my choice; no one urged or pressured me to do it. Rutgers has a very demographically diverse student body, and it is genuinely important to me that students know that, regardless of their racial, ethnic, political, religious, or other identity backgrounds, they are welcome here and in my lab.

However, I also respect faculty who would rather not provide a diversity statement. People who strive for excellence in their field of expertise, say, teaching and research for many academics, should not be excluded from positions because they are not sufficiently fluent in the lingo of social justice.

I also have one here, in which I point out the politicized nature of such required statements. Here are some excerpts:

I am not afraid of social justice.

I am afraid of those who will punish others for not subscribing to a toxic and oppressive view of social justice. I am afraid, not of actual social justice, but of what some people are willing to do, and are in fact now doing, in the name of social justice.

This reads almost like a prediction for what is happening to Thompson.

Amen, comrades! The second link, here, goes to another piece by Jussim, published in Quillette, that underscores the maladaptive effects of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statements. It’s worth a read.

51 Comments

  1. Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    A crucial part of such statements is who gets to score them? Do they get scored by the search committee (who may be quite sensible, at least in many science fields), or do they get scored by the college’s “diversity office”, likely to be staffed by the ultra-woke?

    I note also that Topaz misrepresents Thompson’s statement by calling it an “anti-diversity statement” when it quite clearly is not (but that sort of misrepresentation is pretty much de rigueur these days).

    • ploubere
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      It is almost certainly the diversity office at most schools. At my institution, search committees have less and less say in hiring. We are reduced to just offering opinions on which candidates are qualified, and don’t even get to rank them. And the administration disqualifies candidates with no input from the committee.

    • Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      One problem I can also see is: how much is the scoring repeatable across individuals and times?

  2. boudiccadylis
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I was in my teens when McCarthy determined everyone he disagreed with a communist. It was one of the most tightening times of my life. I borrowed books from the public library and concealed them in paper bags fearing something I was reading would put me in jail. I realize today the improbability of my concerns but the fear was there and all these years later it’s as f “woke” has reconstituted it. Where on where is E R Murrow? Who will step in for him?

  3. Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I was only dimly aware of the diversity statements that are now commonly required of job applicants in academia. My, how things have changed. When I was in the hunt the only such thing you would see was a statement from the university saying that they will not discriminate on the basis of race or gender, and that they especially encourage under-represented folks to apply. Now the pressure is being applied to the job seekers too. Right at the start of their careers.

  4. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    At my university, one conservative student group had the effrontery to satirize Affirmative Action. A faculty member (and past Chair of the AAUP, no less) huffily responded by advising the administration to shut the group down. I innocently suggested that perhaps the University should institute a new loyalty oath program, but this time swearing loyalty to Affirmative Action.

  5. Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    These required diversity statements remind me of the loyalty oath I had to take when I taught at the University of California at Northridge. A questionnaire asked: “Do you advocate for the overthrow of the government by force or violence.” I chose violence.

    • ubernez
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      🙂

    • merilee
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      😂

      • Cate Plys
        Posted November 24, 2019 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        Hands down the funniest WEIT comment ever.

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  7. Charles Sawicki
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Tool is fairly modern term which characterizes Topaz. Urban dictionary definition:
    A guy with a hugely over-inflated ego, who in an attempt to get undue attention for himself, will act like a jackass, because, in his deluded state, he will think it’s going to make him look cool, or make others want to be like him.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    It is not quite as repulsive as the loyalty oath to Trump, required to exist in the republican party but it’s close. Loyalty oaths, non disclosure statements, what’s next. Sign up for the next Putin course in how to survive in today’s American political system or worse in Ukraine. The dismantling of our government institutions.

  9. dd
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    It may be tighter than mere “ethnic diversity”.

    Somehow I don’t think the committee evaluating those “loyalty statements” would score highly anyone who has a record of hiring/mentoring people from Asia.

    I take it that the Google, Apples, etc etc of the world have the same problems in hiring their quantitative/technical employees in the United States.

    • Adam M.
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Of course. “Diversity” doesn’t really mean diversity. There’s no push for overwhelmingly black organizations to bring in some white people to increase diversity or for overwhelmingly female organizations to bring in some men, even if they got that way via explicit policies of racial or sexual exclusion.

      “Diversity” means more blacks, Hispanics, women, and sometimes Asians. It never means more whites or males, no matter how much that would increase actual ethnic or sexual diversity. And it sure doesn’t mean diversity of thought…

      • Javier
        Posted December 3, 2019 at 2:32 am | Permalink

        I am a white Hispanic. There are even Asian Hispanics.

  10. ploubere
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    The recurring downfall of human society is tribalism, and this job requirement is just another instance of it.

  11. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    My university also enjoys the services of something called the ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change. One of the Center’s recent proclamations read as follows:
    “More and more people are proclaiming support for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), yet it continues to be elusive. …When we want to grow our scientific skills or knowledge, we engage with experts, review the literature, ask questions and open ourselves to learning. The same approach applies for growing our DEI skills. Having a DEI leadership lens means making a commitment to becoming informed about the issues and acknowledging our own role in either advancing DEI or maintaining the status quo.”

    The proclamation did not quite advise that we acknowledge our own roles through “struggle sessions” of the kind popularized by Chairman Mao in the 1960s; but perhaps requiring that Diversity Statements be issued in every possible connection is a step in the Correct direction.

    One striking feature of these Diversity offices is their superfluity on their own terms. Most STEM departments have been making a point of seeking out female and minority faculty candidates for at least 40 years, long antedating the establishment of the bureaucratic operations like the ADVANCE Center. Of course, the departments still maintain professional criteria in hiring, a practice which Diversicrats frown on. And an unfortunate old custom called tenure has the consequence that faculty demographics cannot be changed overnight—a phenomenon which these offices eagerly seize upon as their raison d’être.

    • dd
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Jon, I am not a STEM person at all. Any insights about the issue that tech companies have in hiring technical people?

      I am referring to the low number of blacks/hispanics at Google, etc etc.

      Because I am fairly sure that if the qualifications were there, they would be hired and showered with bonuses and so on.

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted November 24, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        You are undoubtedly right that qualified technical specialists from certain minority groups would be hired and showered with bonuses. Companies like Google are no doubt beating the bushes for such hires. But a lower level of background/interest/training in technical subjects amongst some groups
        even if it is 100% due to a past history of discrimination—can’t be reversed in the blink of an eye. Psychosocial changes are subject to some hysteresis, just like many physical phenomena. I guess this means that (contrary to pop-Left visions) human phenomena are not utterly different from physical phenomena.

      • Adam M.
        Posted November 25, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Well, I work at a large tech company and I’m one of the people who evaluate candidates. It’s definitely true that they are straining to find blacks and Hispanics who are even minimally qualified, and they don’t mind bending the rules to get them. There’s a much lower bar for calling a “diverse” candidate in for an interview, and then in the evaluation they get extra points for their race, extra interviews, and if interviewers are unsure they try to tilt towards “hire” (where for everyone else there’s a clear policy of “unsure means no”).

        The bosses pretty explicitly tell us that we need to discriminate on the bases of race and sex. “You must hire only, or primarily, diverse individuals” we were told, where “diverse” specifically means “black”, “Hispanic”, or “female”. (The bosses’ bonuses are significantly based on how many “diverse individuals” get hired in their organizations, so they exert a lot of downward pressure.)

        Blacks being only about 1% of programmers and engineers is not because the hiring process is biased against them. On the contrary…

  12. J Cook
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    In 1950 George R. Stewart “In Collaboration with other Professors of the University of California” wrote ” The Year of the Oath”; “A concise and readable account of the fight for academic freedom at the University of California”.
    At the height of the McCarthy red scare panic UC required a “loyalty Oath” from all it’s academics. State employees were also obliged to profess loyalty. Earl Warren was governor would you believe. He was also the chair of the Board of Regents of UC
    I was 9 or so in those years when TV was first available and I had a vague realization that even being a Democrat was suspect and I remember my parents being uncomfortable being the only Democrats in the neighborhood. And this was in Berkeley fercrisake.
    There is more on this book and parts of it are available online. Well worth the effort as a mirror on what is happening on campuses.
    Now instead of Commies….

  13. BJ
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    This is really frightening to me. Making mandatory an accounting of one’s belief in and contributions to a specific ideology to get jobs at public universities. This is reminiscent of the Ontario Association’s adopted requirement that lawyers “must prepare and submit a personal ‘Statement of Principles’ attesting that we value and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.”

    Forcing people to do this is Orwellian.

    • BJ
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      *Ontario Bar Association

  14. DrBrydon
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    There is no room in today’s world for false equivalencies and both-sides-ism.

    Chad Michael Higdon-Topaz’s comment also applies well to the outrage at Harvard over the college newspaper’s asking ICE for a comment. I’ve come to the point in my life where I assume any group that shuts down debate is wrong, and has no valid argument for their position.

    While I find the idea of diversity statements repulsive, the ultimate question is, How much weight do they have in the hiring process? When they get to the last two candidates, are the statement a tie-breaker? Or are they used to initially reduce the applicant pool? In the later case, as at some UC schools, they would be treated as more important than any other consideration, ensuring only a diversity of poorly educated people.

  15. eric
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    A typical rubric from UC Berkeley specifies that a statement that “describes only activities that are already the expectation of Berkeley faculty (mentoring, treating all students the same regardless of background, etc)” (italics mine) merits a score of 1–2 out of a possible 5 (1 worst and 5 best) in the second section of the rubric, the “track record for advancing diversity” category.

    Because associate/assistant professors working towards tenure don’t already have enough to do…[eye roll]

    People work towards what their job is graded on. Your tenure requirement emphasizes research production, your professors will produce research. Your tenure requirement emphasizes teaching quality, they’ll teach with quality…and put research second. Your tenure requirement emphasizes diversity, they’ll increase diversity…by spending less time doing quality teaching or quality research. A young, smart, driven person can be good at all of these things…but probably not all of them simultaneously. So, UC, choose carefully what you decide to emphasize.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      It raises a question- how exactly can a professor affect diversity? It’d have to be something to do with the genetic / environmental background of the individuals the professor is directly responsible for either bringing to campus or – probably not what is meant – removing. Setting the latter overly pedantic mathematical interpretation aside, the professor would be choosing grad students and post docs to their own lab (or equivalent), recruiting undergrads, or simply promoting only applicants of any sort that exhibit only the highest diversity. I’m not sure what else they can do..?

  16. uhoh
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    In one sense, this is worse than the loyalty oaths. The loyalty oaths required people to swear to something that the vast majority of the US population actually did belief. They were really pro forma. The diversity statements, on the other hand, cut down the middle of the US population. The whole point is to separate the right-thinking half from the rest.

    • uhoh
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      *believe

      • Joe
        Posted November 25, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        It’s worse than the loyalty oaths, if you ask me, as it’s not enough to sign on the dotted line like everyone else does. You have to not only absorb enough of the ideology to write a competent essay in its terms, you also have to have demonstrated enthusiasm. You have to have carried out actions which they approve of, ideally original and inventive ones, and they explicitly exclude anything which was actually part of your job.

        A better analogy comes from the other side of the Wall. Higher education in many eastern-block countries came with obligatory communist philosophy classes, and more of them at higher levels.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

      “The loyalty oaths required people to swear to something that the vast majority of the US population actually did belief. They were really pro forma.”

      And if one disagreed what should one do? Lie?

      Loyalty oaths are evil. The sort of thing one expects from Nazis.

      I am quite happy to say, right now, that I will automatically be an enemy of anyone who *demands* my ‘loyalty’. If they deserve my loyalty they’ll get it. They don’t get it by force.

      cr

  17. Williams Student
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I go to Williams. This obsession with social justice just creates divides between people. You can even see it in day-to-day interactions. I wish the political atmosphere was better here. I love Williams, but this fixation with labeling people and discerning their minority points is creating an unhealthy culture. Makes us feel more alone than we already are. I really like Lee Jussim’s diversity statement.

    • dd
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Dear Williams Student,

      1. How free would you feel to express that opinion on campus without too much fear of retribution? Disagreement, of course, but a kind of fear of retaliation is what I am mean.

      2. Have you ever attempted to estimate what percentage of the student body is tired/exasperated, opposed to, the creation of this atmosphere? How many in tune with the more notorious tactics of “social justice warriors” ?

      • Williams Student
        Posted November 24, 2019 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        I would be terrified to express that opinion on campus. I was speaking on the subject with a friend in the dining hall, and I am afraid that I was overheard admitting to that. I am afraid that I was overheard admitting to making a comment on your post. The campus is so small. It’s bullying, really: imagine fearing that your opinion will force entire friend groups to ignore you and hate you, just based on principle. Being hated/ostracized is never fun.
        I have no idea what percentage it’d be. It’s scary– nobody wants to admit to thinking that some of these antics are truly absurd, in fear of the retaliation. It’s not like there’s one simple question that I could ask to find out who of the student body has retained their true skepticism and critical thinking skills, anyway. I think we’re lacking empathy for one another nowadays. People are people, too– not just the labels that make up their political identity.

        • denise
          Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          What is it that you love about Williams then? It doesn’t sound like a good environment for intellectual or personal growth at all.

          • Williams Student
            Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:27 am | Permalink

            It’s pretty here. My friends are nice. Williams is giivng me a lot of money to be here. I like that I am being given a chance to spend 4 years of my life in the mountains, basically taking whatever classes I want. I like my professors, usually. I think that graduating from Williams is going to provide me with a lot of opportunities in the future.

  18. Posted November 24, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I had to laugh at some of Chad Topaz’s most extreme statements. His is clearly an anti-free speech extremist. He wrote that one of the problems with the AMS Notice publication is that it valued telling both sides of an argument. Amazing. I think people like this are dangerous to higher education and a great example of how Williams College has become the next Evergreen State University.

    • BJ
      Posted November 24, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      The part where he encouraged people to harass the author’s place of work and try to get her fired as Chair of her department was particularly disgusting. Not that I expect anything less from people like him. This has become a popular tactic among his crowd in the last few years.

      • Posted November 25, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        It’s ironic really. One of his complaints is her comparison of diversity statements to McCarthyism, but by demanding she be fired he validates the comparison.

  19. Posted November 24, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Topaz is no gem.

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I fervently agree with Thompson. Purity tests of any sort are objectionable.

    ‘Treating all students the same regardless of background’ should be essential and sufficient to qualify for a position. Anything more than that is an individual, personal and political choice, and not the business of the employer to enforce or police.

    cr

    • ladyatheist
      Posted November 25, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      People who believe this is enough are the most likely to harbor unconscious bias because they don’t work on eliminating it. If you make an effort to pro-actively engage with diversity issues and learn more about concepts such as implicit bias and communication style, you will be more able to catch yourself in a biased form of thinking that could adversely affect students. For example, if you simply address questions raised in class “equally” you may not notice that women and minorities are less likely to raise their hands in class than the confident white male who went to a prep school. If you’re self-aware and read the room, you may change your style and start calling on students, or tell the preppie “Let’s hear from someone else now.” and start looking around the room, focusing on the women and minorities who have been silent all semester. Your diversity essay would say “After learning that faculty tend to call on students who resemble themselves, I made an effort to engage all students, and the result was less disparity in test scores.” I’d vote to hire that person.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted November 25, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Amend that proposed sentence: “After learning that women and minorities are less likely to ask questions in class…” (though the other is also true)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 26, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

        I think it’s very worthwhile to try and encourage e.g. minorities to participate. We’re talking about mathematics here, a good lecturer should always try to make his explanations clear and check that all the students have understood it.

        I am just cynical about requiring applicants to write screeds in their applications about how virtuous they are. I suspect what you will end up with is just lies and meretricious bullshit couched in the currently approved jargon.

        cr

  21. A C Harper
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    It would seem as if many work by the rule that if you are not politically correct then you are politically wrong.

    This lacks all nuance, ignores the shifting sands of what is ‘politically correct’, and displays an inherent lack of philosophical diversity.

    Let a hundred flowers blossom – as long as they are the correct type, the correct colour, and only occupy the approved flower beds?

  22. ladyatheist
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    The idea of diversity as defined by qualities that are beyond control of the person is what I am on board with. Someone who happens to be different from the person in power based on race, sex, sexual identity or disability should be judged by what they bring to the table, and evidence has shown that intrinsic bias does affect hiring and promotion. When it comes to politics, I think it would require connection to the curriculum to justify treating all sides equally.

  23. JHeimer
    Posted November 25, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the well-written summary of these events.

    You were kind enough to link Chad Topaz’ website in your article, but he has subsequently redirected all traffic to his site to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    You may wish to consider editing your article and providing the Internet Wayback Machine’s latest archive of Mr. Topaz website instead. It is available at

    https://web.archive.org/web/20190824164258/https://chadtopaz.com/

  24. Posted November 25, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Diversity conversation as it *should* be in a math department:
    “You know, we should hire more in algebraic topology.”
    “Why?”
    “University wants more diversity in our math deparment.”
    “Oh, but I thought we were short in differential equations.”
    “No, Professor Z handles that nicely.”
    “Right. Do we need another set theorist?”
    “No, philosophy can work on one with us, thanks to the legacy of that Suppes guy.”

    Incidentally, one other form of diversity that I think would be valuable in math (and in many other departments where most of the students will likely not take it as a concentration) – ability to do *good* interdisciplinary work. So in mathematics, with folks in *any* field where mathematics can and should be used (which is almost anywhere in science and technology).

  25. Posted November 25, 2019 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I, too, remember my fears during the McCarthy era when I was in my late teens, early twenties. There were places I didn’t go and things I didn’t talk about. That stayed with me for years as did that fear. I am too old now to be afraid of what pseudoMcCarthyites might do to me. I go where I want to go and say what I think.

    It seems that too many of us warriors for whatever issue, including this one, write instead of act. Why is it always the other persons who must change their ways and act?

  26. Ted
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    Well-meaning people like this Abigail Thompson will forever lose because they already accept half of the campus totalitarians’ premises — that racial/ethnic diversity helps generate more good ideas, that people need others that “look like them” around, and that there’s some intrinsic value in equalizing the ethnic/racial/sexual representation across fields of endeavor (apart from just ensuring equal opportunity).

  27. John
    Posted December 5, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the world of far left liberalism. It’s a world where the only opinion that is allowed is theirs , and truth and common sense no longer matters. Good luck and stay strong. Your peers will now do their best to destroy your life


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  1. […] against diversity statements. Chad Topaz, a mathematician at Williams College, wrote in a Facebook post that Thompson’s article was a “travesty” and that it was a “grave and very damaging […]

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