Movement and Mirrors, Frida Graumann


Project Description

For my creative project, I decided to capture the mathematical topic of reflection through dance.

Essentially, I created a miniature music video to the song Mirrors by Justin Timberlake. The title of the song was quite fitting because I chose to use none other than the common household mirror to display the aspect of reflection in my project. With the help of a good friend and her novice videography skills, about seven mirrors of different shapes and sizes, and my dancing ability, I was able to aesthetically showcase the concept of reflection accompanied by Timberlake’s vocals.

The math behind how mirrors, meaning reflections, work is described by physics principles. Light is an essential aspect of reflection. The law of reflection explains how when light hits a surface it bounces back in a certain way, similar to a ball bouncing off of a wall. It says that the incoming angle of light, known as the angle of incidence, is always equal to the angle leaving or bouncing back from the surface, known as the angle of reflection. This is how reflection works. However, something I found interesting to ponder is that light itself is invisible until it bounces off something and hits our eyes. Meaning, a beam of light moving through space cannot be seen until it hits a surface. When the light beam runs into an object, the light is then scattered. This concept is called diffuse reflection and it represents how we see light when it hits an uneven

surface. The law of reflection is still present, but rather than the light hitting one even surface it is bouncing off of several microscopic surfaces. Because mirrors have a smooth surface, they don’t scatter light in this way. Instead, with a smooth reflecting surface, the light bounces off without disarranging the incoming image, which is known as specular reflection. This is why mirrors swap the image, turning it left to right and visa versa. A mirror image is a light-print of the image, not a reflection of the image from the perspective of the mirror.

Another aspect I wanted to focus on in my project is infinity in reflections. Meaning, whether two mirrors facing each other create infinite reflections. In my video, I tried to capture this aspect by holding up a mirror to another mirror to produce this infinite reflection looking effect. However, I learned that although they seem to create infinite reflections, it is not actually the case. The reflections get darker and darker and fade into invisibility long before they reach infinity. This is because mirrors absorb only a small fraction of the energy of the light striking them each time. There are never more than a few hundred visible reflections. Thus, when watching my video and awe-ing at the infinite reflections I had seemingly produced, remember it might not be as limitless as it appears. There is the wonderfully rhymed saying, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” Perhaps, in regards to capturing infinity my music video, it should instead state, “although it appears this way to you and me, infinity is not, in fact, what we truly see.”

Of course, I also wanted my project to represent the aesthetics found in mathematics. I think dance is a very beautiful art form that has numerous connections to math. Although I wouldn’t say my project is an excellent example of aesthetic dancing, movement represents both mathematics and aesthetics. As with reflection, physics connects movement to math. Motion is the occurrence of an object changing positions over time and is thus mathematically connected to concepts and forces including velocity, displacement, distance, speed, acceleration, and time. Movement is math. Additionally, in hopes to make my video more aesthetically appealing, I wore green to match the grass and trees, and blue to reflect the sky. The bright colors in the background and reflected in the mirrors all contribute to portraying this appealing aesthetic. I wanted my project to display the mathematical aspect of reflection, but I also intended to make it enjoyable to watch. This is why I allowed my dog to make a special appearance. I think music, movement, and dance are brilliant ways to express creativity, but also to even exhibit more conceptual concepts. Mathematics and aesthetics are so much more interviewed than I think are initially presumed, and I hope my project was able to portray this beautiful connection.

References

Matthews, Robert. “Do Two Mirrors Facing Each Other Produce Infinite Reflections?” BBC Science Focus Magazine,​ www.sciencefocus.com/science/do-two-mirrors-facing-each-other-produce-infin ite-reflections/.

Flinn, Gallagher. “How Mirrors Work.” ​HowStuffWorks Science​, HowStuffWorks, 27 Jan. 2020,

science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/mirror2.htm.

“Physics Tutorial: The Law of Reflection.” ​The Physics Classroom​, www.physicsclassroom.com/class/refln/Lesson-1/The-Law-of-Reflection.

“Mathematical Movement.” ​Mathematical Movement​, American Physics Society, physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2012/10/mathematical-movement.html.

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untitled, Stella Feuerborn

Project Description

When we were first told of the guidelines for our final project, my mind went to graphs.

Graphs, linear graphs in particular, have always helped me to better understand the math I was working with. They have created visual representations of data I couldn’t previously visualize, and helped me see clearly what I was working with. I also feel like they’re a form of math that has been pretty universally worked with, and therefore would make my project more accessible. Once I had the idea graphs, I needed a way to display them in an artistic medium. Photography is a field I’ve been working for about 3 years now, and using the human body as an art medium is a powerful form of symbolism. So, I landed on the project I just finished.

For my project, I chose to depict 5 common graphs through photography with environmental elements and the human body. The sign post and curb acted as my x and y-axis. Then, I positioned the model (the lovely Carmen) at the visual intersection of these two lines, and had her shape her body to resemble graphed lines. The five graphs I chose to show were:

= |x| , and sin(x).

After taking the photos and color-correcting them, I drew a digital axis and where the rest of the graph would’ve gone beyond the figure.

From start to finish, this project ended up going beyond just the representation of graphs in terms of mathematical engagement. I used color theory and the mathematical field of optics to form my photographs, and angle tools to draw right-angle axes. It really speaks to how much

math goes into simple aesthetic creations, and asks rather than “What is influenced by math?”, “What isn’t?”.

If I were to do this project again, I think I would either choose the forest or another more picturesque backdrop than a street corner, just to spice up the photos and make them feel like they carry more weight. I like that I stuck with the straight-on angle for all five of them, because it makes most of the lines that run through the photo appear perfectly horizontal or vertical. This maximizes the appearance of a 2-D plain, and pushes the idea that you’re looking at a flat graph rather than a piece of art with visual depth. I also thought originally about being more artistic with Carmen’s outfits, but I didn’t want to distract from her body shape and the surrounding elements that made up the axes, so I think the simple outfit was okay. One thing that would’ve been cool would be if she had worn clothes that had a grid pattern on them, to further push the graph idea.

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Ad Infinitum, Jonathan Ely

Ad Infinitum

The Fibonacci Sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377 …

___

Grapes.

Gravel.

Long ago.

Cars racing by.

It’s six in the morning.

“There goes Fred. He’s an elementary school teacher.” 

As a former teacher herself, my grandmother had quite a fondness for them.

To me, the people streaking by on the Michigan highway were more exciting –firefighters and astronauts. Maybe there was a nurse.

If we had seen her that morning, she would have been driving east, making the long, winding trip towards Marquette Hospital. It’s a two-hour drive, though. She probably lived closer to the medical center.

I never did know her name. She came and left quickly, bustling off to another calamity. An unknown variable, she shall live forever undefined to me. This is a conundrum for the defined world. We who scoff at Socrates’ musing that a wise man knows he knows nothing. The foolish Greek never encountered big data.

Roommates of mine may follow in this tradition. They are certain of their beliefs, certain of the misery of the world and are worse for it in the end. They didn’t see the cars go by that day; they didn’t eagerly munch on grapes from a Tupperware container that helped win the cold war; and they weren’t there that night. They did not rush into the hallway, hurling glances around wildly, unable to form words. And in their frenzy, they saw no savior, briskly walking towards them, scrubs swishing.

The other day, with sleep alluding me, I took a walk late at night, just after three. I came to a park bordered by a stream called Dixon Creek. The music in my earbuds was paused as I watched that bubbling torrent for a while. It was constructed of turbulent order, always there and yet never there again. But, as scientists may study their whole lives and find no answers in turbulence, I moved on, finding a large grey cat whose back I scratched. It must have been past the feline’s bedtime. Finally, I came across two wheels, the first of which was a prayer wheel like those found in Nepal. It was erected by a neighbor to commemorate a dead friend. The whole neighborhood had written prayers, placed in the wheel to be released when spun. I spun it. Why anger a ghost?

The second wheel belonged to a rusty old wheelbarrow with a “FREE” sign taped on. My grandmother used to tell me, “always be kind to everyone, you never know their burdens.” As I had spun the last wheel for someone whose stream had bubbled to a halt and likely did not necessarily need any prayers at the moment, thank you very much, I decided to spin the wheel of the wheelbarrow too, just in case it held prayers for some other poor fellow struggling with his own burden. Perhaps prayers from that second wheel flew straight up and east, crossing the Rocky Mountains and Mississippi River, before resting with an unknown nurse in northern Michigan. I’ve crossed the Mississippi many times by plane and car. One time, I crossed in a dust colored suburban. My grandfather drove; my grandmother sat with my sister and me in the back. We were following the car containing my parents as we travelled from Connecticut to our new life in Oregon. I was just three, but I remember the lummi sticks provided by my grandmother. Long and hard, the sticks made an impressive sound when struck together, perfect to accompany the exciting rhythms of Leroy Anderson that blared from the speakers. We also looked at the cars that we saw from our windows, much like that morning by the highway, inventing stories for everyone that streamed by.

Asked later, my grandfather said it was “the best wedding anniversary we’ve ever had.” Given the racket that we were making behind him, I am tempted to think that he was lying, but since he is the most honest man I have ever known, I must then conclude that he is, instead, slightly mad. Kant was equally mad when he turned to monstrous buildings and ferocious storms to discuss the sublime. The silly man needed only to walk up to a stranger and ask, “who are you?” It is there that we can find infinity. The enormous complexity of the human mind and spirit is enough to leave you standing in awe. All humans have lives, as infinitely complex as your own, and feelings, opinions, fears, burdens, all infinite. But it gets worse!  They just keep living every day, increasing the infinity bit by bit. Then go to an intersection, or crowded café. You will watch as infinitely complex people rush by you, like a raging flood where our own infinity is but a trickle. In this vast torrent of humanity, my grandmother’s current is almost done bubbling. When I was a senior in high school, she suffered a stroke, leaving her with extremely limited mental capability. My mother and I flew to upper Michigan in March to aid as we could. With my uncle and grandfather, we took turns sitting with her at night, making sure that in her confusion she wouldn’t wander or injure herself further. It was one night that she would not listen to me, when she insisted on getting up, that I darted into the hallway with terror in my eyes. I could not form complete sentences as I pleaded for help, but she came anyway. She talked with my grandmother patiently, helping her back to bed. She wasn’t our normal nurse who would come regularly to check in. Instead, she was a stranger who I never saw again, and I love her. I wish that I could describe all the infinities of this stranger’s life, where she grew up, if she has children, if she likes pineapple on pizza. But like a car on the highway she burst into my life, providing aid and respite, before rushing off towards the horizon. 

I wish too that I could tell you everything about my grandmother. How she was one of the first female instructors at Michigan Technological University, how she stood up to a crooked cop who abused two youthful vagabonds, or how, as a member of the league of women voters, she followed the all-male city council to a bar in order to prove that they were making deals behind closed doors and off the public record. But I cannot, just as I cannot stop the flood of time or save her from a brain’s collapse. So, I will instead leave you with a thought as your own story infinitely unfolds. You may call it the Norma Lee Stuart Conjecture if you wish. Take note of the nameless who stream around you, you know not their burdens…

Ad Infinitum 


Ad Infinitum, Author’s Description

There’s a word that I quite like, sonder. Its not a word that can be found in Webster’s dictionary, it hasn’t quite hit the mainstream. It was created in a project called the “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” which aimed to put words to feelings that had been previously undefined. The following definition is given: sonder is “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” When I came upon this phrase I was immediately reminded of my grandmother and our early mornings making up stories for the people that drove by on the road below us. Since she became injured, I have thought about that memory a lot. I believe that my grandmother was the first person to instill the feeling of sonder within me. It has also occurred to me that few people will ever know her incredible story, unless I told them. Unfortunately, I knew that no short story could ever contain such a meaningful life, so I instead aimed to create a broader, more applicable narrative. 

I hoped to capture the infinity of humanity in my story. By following the form of the Fibonacci Sequence, I attempted to visually capture the unfolding process that occurs when you get to know someone. Each line could be thought of as a day, the words contained then become the lived experiences of the individual which expand into infinity. Ideally, if I have done my job right, this will instill in you a feeling of sonder. I hope too that it will encourage you to call your grandmother if you can.

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untitled, Emily Colson

My project aims to construct what my peers find to be  the most aesthetically ideal face compiled from a pre-selected group of facial features and characteristics. In order to conduct this project I had to assemble a survey for my peers, gather the results, and implement them into the project.

With my project I have had to take some concepts that would be best suited to a larger study and cater them to the size of our class. Facial features are generally difficult to confine to defining categories, so instead of asking which type of nose (for example) my classmates found most aesthetically pleasing, I provided examples. I tried to make the examples as varied as possible. I also took my examples from people who are generally predetermined to have more aesthetically pleasing features: actresses and models. This choice was also made in order to ensure an easier completion of the project on my part, as with celebrities I can find many photos of them with different angles of the facial feature so that it is easier to understand and draw it. I decided that all the features should come from the same gender for a more coherent facial structure. If I were to have included a mix of genders I would have had to determine what gender the final grouping of features would have, and I did not feel comfortable determining that based purely off appearances.

As for gathering the data, I found all the images I would use as examples of each facial feature and compiled them into an accessible multiple choice survey which was then sent out to my peers. This way, the results could be relayed to me in a statistical format, from which I could gather which facial features were most commonly agreed upon as the most aesthetically pleasing. I decided to choose the mode to determine which features I would use, as that represented the largest consensus by my peers. 

The results of my survey are as follows: 

  • The preferred nose was option B, Zazie Beetz’s, with a majority of 56.3%
  • The preferred eyes were option C, Janelle Monae’s, with a majority of 31.3%
  • The preferred mouth was option C, Naomi Scott’s, with a majority of 56.3%
  • The preferred face shape was oval, with a majority of 37.5%
  • The preferred hair texture was wavy, with a majority of 62.5%
  • The preferred hair length was medium, with a majority of 62.5%

If I were to conduct this survey again, I would primarily look for a larger sample size. I got sixteen responses on this survey, which is almost the entire class, but is still not nearly enough to eliminate bias. Another thing I would likely change would be the selection of the examples of facial features for this project. The best way to do this would be to show only the features intended for use so the participants would not let their personal beliefs about the celebrity influence their decision. It would also be better if the examples did not come from celebrities, but I chose to do this to make the execution of the project easier, as stated above. Since I did choose celebrities, my own bias is incredibly present in this project. I chose celebrities that I could think of and also like. Thus, this project would more accurately represent which of Emily Colson’s preferred celebrities’ facial features does this class prefer. Overall, though, I believe I did the best I could with the constraints that I had.

As for the execution of the project itself, I only had a few difficulties. I love to draw, and I especially love to draw people, so this project seemed the logical choice to play into what I enjoy. I originally planned to draw this project digitally, but as I went through the process of it I was unsure of the results. I tried both traditional and digital drawings and ended up sticking with the digital because the tools allowed for a more symmetrical face.

In conclusion, this project has been a great test of both my mathematical and drawing skills. It was invigorating to create a survey and compile data; it is incredibly rewarding to see results. It was also a nice change of pace to draw for my homework instead of typical homework tasks. Overall I am happy with the results of this project.

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Clark Honors College, Faculty in Residence application

When I was last on the academic job market in 2008, I was torn between positions at liberal arts colleges and research universities. I had offers from excellent liberal arts schools, including Claremont McKenna College and Bucknell College, but ultimately decided to come to UO so that I had an opportunity to supervise graduate students. I enjoy supervising undergraduate students as well, and have advised four CHC Honors theses, three departmental Honors theses, and several other undergraduate research/reading projects. Supervising students is my favorite aspect of the job. Beyond the usual reward one finds in sharing knowledge with others, getting to know our varied students—understanding their knowledge and skills, their likes and dislikes, and their dreams for the future—is the major driving force keeping me in academia.

I am applying for a Clark Honors College, Faculty in Residence position so that I can pursue the academic work I love in an environment where it is rewarded.

My research lies at the intersection of number theory, probability and mathematical statistical physics. This is a fascinating genre of mathematics research, with many opportunities for undergraduate research. The connection with physics allows intuition to be brought to bear on mathematical problems, which in turn allows undergraduates to make meaningful contributions to mathematical research—at least in the form of conjectures, and discovery of new phenomena.

I also enjoy reading mathematics broadly, and have experience supervising students on mathematics research that is either outside my educational background or applied to other domains of knowledge.

Besides supervision of research, I am also interested in undergraduate mathematics education, especially for students who may not ultimately pursue a degree in a quantitative/scientific field. Mathematics is simultaneously the language of the universe and a ubiquitous tool in modern life. Mathematics education tends to favor the latter, but it is in the former where the rich beauty of mathematics lies. The aesthetics of mathematics is often invisible to individuals who view it only as a tool. I would like to bring this aesthetic vision of mathematics to undergraduates (and others) who may not otherwise experience the sublime beauty of mathematics.

An example of a seminar I would like to offer would be the Development of New Numbers. Such a seminar could trace the history and necessity of new kinds of numbers (natural, integer, rational, algebraic, transcendental, real, complex, etc) as human knowledge has developed. I see such a seminar lying at the intersection of history, philosophy and mathematics, and I would interweave group exercises/projects to motivate the mathematics and inform the necessity (and beauty) of the development of new numbers.

Besides teaching, supervision and research, I also engage heavily in university service. Currently I am the Past President of the University Senate and the President of United Academics, as well as a member of many other committees (including chair of the Core Ed Council). I see some of my current service as fulfillment of certain projects/initiatives started as Senate President. My experience working on core education may be useful in any curricular redesign happening in CHC. While I expect to always be involved in university service, I also expect the level to subside from the current high-water mark. I enjoy the challenge of leadership, but I also wistfully dream of a time when I can fill my days reading, doing math, working with students and doing a sensible amount of service, and hopefully earning the rank of full professor.

Finally, I would like to underscore my commitment to the diversification of mathematics (and science more broadly). Much of this problem arises from enculturation of expectations by society at large, but many issues arise from an old guard of mathematicians who propagate racial and gender disparity via preferential treatment for men and microaggression towards others. These attitudes are incongruent with how I view myself as an educator and scholar, and I look forward to working in a unit that values the various backgrounds and experiences of our students, faculty and staff.



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Post-tenure Review Statement

Research

I study the distribution of algebraic numbers, mathematical statistical physics and roots/eigenvalues of random polynomials/matrices. 

Projects in Progress

1The distribution of values of the non-archimedean absolute Vandermonde determinant and the non-archimedean Selberg integral (with Jeff Vaaler). The Mellin transform of the distribution function of the non-archimedean absolute Vandermonde (on the ring of integers of a local field) is related to a non-archimedean analog of the Selberg/Mehta integral. A recursion for this integral allows us to find an analytic continuation to a rational function on a cylindrical Riemann surface. Information about the poles of this rational function allow us to draw conclusions about the range of values of the non-archimedean absolute Vandermonde.

2Non-archimedean electrostatics. The study of charged particles in a non-archimedean local field whose interaction energy is proportional to the log of the distance between particles, at fixed coldness $\beta$. The microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical ensembles are considered, and the partition function is related to the non-archimedean Selberg integral considered in 1. Probabilities of cylinder sets are explicitly computable in both the canonical and grand canonical ensembles.

3Adèlic electrostatics and global zeta functions (with Joe Webster). The non-archimedean Selberg integral/canonical partition function are examples of Igusa zeta functions, and as such local Euler factors in a global zeta function. This global zeta function (the exact definition of which is yet to be determined) is also the partition function for a canonical electrostatic ensemble defined on the adèles of a number field. The archimedean local factors relate to the ordinary Selberg integral, the Mehta integral, and the partition function for the complex asymmetric $\beta$ ensemble. The dream would be a functional equation for the global zeta function via Fourier analysis on the idèles, though any analytic continuation would tell us something about the distribution of energies in the adèlic ensemble.

4Pair correlation in circular ensembles when $\beta$ is an even square integer (with Nate Wells and Elisha Hulbert). This can be expressed in terms of a form in a grading of an exterior algebra, the coefficients of which are products of Vandermonde determinants in integers. Hopefully an understanding of the asymptotics of these coefficients will lead to scaling limits for the pair correlation function for an infinite family of coldnesses via hyperpfaffian/Berezin integral techniques. This would partially generalize the Pfaffian point process arising in COE and CSE. There is a lot of work to do, but there is hope.

5Martingales in the Weil height Banach space (with Nathan Hunter). Allcock and Vaaler produce a Banach space in which $\overline{\mathbb Q}^{\times}/\mathrm{Tor}$ embeds densely in a co-dimension 1 subspace, the (Banach space) norm of which extends the logarithmic Weil height. Field extensions of the maximal abelian extension of $\mathbb Q$ correspond to $\sigma$-algebras, and towers of fields to filtrations. Elements in the Banach space (including those from $\overline{\mathbb Q}^{\times}/\mathrm{Tor}$) represent random variables, and the set up is ready for someone to come along and use martingale techniques—including the optional stopping time theorem—to tell us something about algebraic numbers.

Instruction

I have three current PhD students and one current departmental Honors student. I have supervised two completed PhDs and six completed honors theses. You can find a list of current and completed PhD and honors students on my CV.

My teaching load has been reduced for the last five years (or so) due to an FTE release for serving on the Executive Council of United Academics. As President of United Academics, and Immediate Past President of the University Senate I am not teaching in the 2018 academic year. In AY2019, I am scheduled to teach a two-quarter sequence on mathematical statistical physics.

I take my teaching seriously. I prepare detailed lecture notes for most courses (exceptions being introductory courses, where my notes are better characterized as well-organized outlines). When practical and appropriate I use active learning techniques, mostly through supervised group work. I am a tough, but fair grader.

Service

Service encompasses pretty much everything that an academic does outside of teaching and research. This includes advising, serving on university and departmental committees, reviewing papers, writing letters of recommendation, organizing seminars and conferences, serving on professional boards, etc. The impossibility of doing it all allows academics to decide what types of service they are going specialize based on their interests and abilities.

I have spent the last three years heavily engaged in university level service. I currently serve as the president of United Academics of the University of Oregon, and I am the immediate-past president of the University Senate. Before that I was the Vice President of the Senate and the chair of the Committee on Committees. All of these roles are difficult and require a large investment of thought and energy. The reward for this hard work is a good understanding of how the university works, who to go to when issues need resolution, and who can be safely ignored.

I know what academic initiatives are underway, being involved in several of them. I am spearheading, with the new Core Education Council, the reform of general education at UO. I am working on the New Faculty Success Program—an onboarding program for new faculty—with the Office of the Provost and United Academics. I am currently on the Faculty Salary Equity Committee and its Executive Committee. I have been a bit player in many other projects and initiatives including student evaluation reform, the re-envisioning of the undergraduate multicultural requirement, and the creation of an expedited tenure process to allow the institution alacrity when recruiting imminent scholars. This list is incomplete.

Next year, with high probability, I will be the chair of the bargaining committee for the next collective bargaining agreement between United Academics and the University of Oregon (this assumes I am elected UA president). I will also be working with the Core Ed Council to potentially redefine the BA/BS distinction, with a personal focus on ensuring quantitative/data/information literacy is distributed throughout our undergraduate curriculum. I will also be working to help pilot (and hopefully scale) the Core Ed “Runways” (themed, cohorted clusters of gen ed courses) with the aspirational goal of having 100% of traditional undergraduates in a high-support, high-engagement, uniquely-Oregon first-year experience within the next 3-5 years.

As important as the service I am doing, is the service I am not doing. I do little to no departmental service (though part of this derives from the CAS dean’s interpretation of the CBA) and I avoid non-required departmental functions (for reasons). I do routinely serve on academic committees for graduate/honors students, etc. I decline most requests to referee papers/grants applications, and serve on no editorial boards. The national organizations for which I am an officer are not mathematical organizations, but rather organizations dedicated to shared governance.

Diversity & Equity

The two principles which drive my professional work are truth and fairness.

I remember after a particularly troubling departmental vote, a senior colleague attempted to assuage my anger at the department by explaining that “the world is not fair.” I hate this argument because it removes responsibility from those participating in such decisions, and places blame instead on a stochastic universe. And, while there is stochasticity in the universe, we should be working toward ameliorating inequities caused by chance, and in instances where we have agency, making decisions which do not compound them.

I do not think the department does a very good job at recognizing nor ameliorating inequities. Indeed, there are individuals, policies and procedures that negatively impact diversity. See my recent post Women & Men in Mathematics for examples.

My work on diversity and equity issues has been primarily through the University Senate and United Academics. As Vice-president of the UO Senate, I sat on the committee which vetted the Diversity Action Plans of academic units. I also worked on, or presided over several motions put forth by the University Senate which address equity, diversity and inclusion. Obviously, the work of the Senate involves many people, and in many instances I played only a bit part, but nonetheless I am proud to have supported/negotiated/presided over the following motions which have addressed diversity and equity issues on campus:

Besides my work with the Senate, I have also participated in diversity activities through my role(s) with United Academics of the University of Oregon. United Academics supports both a Faculty of Color and LGBTQ* Caucus which help identify barriers and propose solutions to problems affecting those communities on campus. United Academics bargained a tenure-track faculty equity study, and I am currently serving on a university committee identifying salary inequities based on protected class and proposing remedies for them.

I have attended in innumerable rallies supporting social justice, and marched in countless marches. I flew to Washington D.C. to attend the March for Science. I’ve participated in workshops and trainings on diversity provided by the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors.

I recognize that I am not perfect. I cannot represent all communities nor emulate the diversity of thought on campus. I have occasionally used out-moded words and am generally terrible at using preferred pronouns (though I try). I recognize my short-comings and continually work to address them.

There are different tactics for turning advocacy into action, and individuals may disagree on their appropriateness and if/when escalation is called for. My general outlook is to work within a system to address inequities until it becomes clear that change is impossible from within. In such instances, if the moral imperative for change is sufficient then I work for change from without. This is my current strategy when tackling departmental diversity issues; I work with administrative units, the Senate and the union to put forth/support policies which minimize bias, discrimination and caprice in departmental decisions. I ensure that appropriate administrators know when I feel the department has fallen down on our institutional commitment to diversity, and I report incidents of bias, discrimination and harassment to the appropriate institutional offices (subject to the policy on Student Directed Reporters).

Fairness is as important to me as truth, and I look forward to the day where I can focus more of my time uncovering the latter instead of continually battling for the former.

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Diversity and Equity

Notice

This post is part of my post-tenure review. If it seems self-serving, that is because it is.

The two principles which drive my professional work are truth and fairness.

I remember after a particularly troubling departmental vote, a senior colleague attempted to assuage my anger at the department by explaining that “the world is not fair.” I hate this argument because it removes responsibility from those participating in such decisions, and places blame instead on a stochastic universe. And, while there is stochasticity in the universe, we should be working toward ameliorating inequities caused by chance, and in instances where we have agency, making decisions which do not compound them.

I do not think the department does a very good job at recognizing nor ameliorating inequities. Indeed, there are individuals, policies and procedures that negatively impact diversity. See my recent post Women & Men in Mathematics for examples.

My work on diversity and equity issues has been primarily through the University Senate and United Academics. As Vice-president of the UO Senate, I sat on the committee which vetted the Diversity Action Plans of academic units. I also worked on, or presided over several motions put forth by the University Senate which address equity, diversity and inclusion. Obviously, the work of the Senate involves many people, and in many instances I played only a bit part, but nonetheless I am proud to have supported/negotiated/presided over the following motions which have addressed diversity and equity issues on campus:

Besides my work with the Senate, I have also participated in diversity activities through my role(s) with United Academics of the University of Oregon. United Academics supports both a Faculty of Color and LGBTQ* Caucus which help identify barriers and propose solutions to problems affecting those communities on campus. United Academics bargained a tenure-track faculty equity study, and I am currently serving on a university committee identifying salary inequities based on protected class and proposing remedies for them.

I have attended in innumerable rallies supporting social justice, and marched in countless marches. I flew to Washington D.C. to attend the March for Science. I’ve participated in workshops and trainings on diversity provided by the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors.

I recognize that I am not perfect. I cannot represent all communities nor emulate the diversity of thought on campus. I have occasionally used out-moded words and am generally terrible at using preferred pronouns (though I try). I recognize my short-comings and continually work to address them.

There are different tactics for turning advocacy into action, and individuals may disagree on their appropriateness and if/when escalation is called for. My general outlook is to work within a system to address inequities until it becomes clear that change is impossible from within. In such instances, if the moral imperative for change is sufficient then I work for change from without. This is my current strategy when tackling departmental diversity issues; I work with administrative units, the Senate and the union to put forth/support policies which minimize bias, discrimination and caprice in departmental decisions. I ensure that appropriate administrators know when I feel the department has fallen down on our institutional commitment to diversity, and I report incidents of bias, discrimination and harassment to the appropriate institutional offices (subject to the policy on Student Directed Reporters).

Fairness is as important to me as truth, and I look forward to the day where I can focus more of my time uncovering the latter instead of continually battling for the former.

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Post-tenure Reviews

As I wrote in Women & Men in Mathematics, tenure is a platform to change the world. I encourage all newly-tenured individuals to pause and reflect on what is important to them—to take a break from the academic conveyer belt, assess their skills and passions, and determine for themselves how best to change the world.

For many, this will involve a short pause to recoup from the trauma of hoop-jumping, before hopping back on the academic conveyer. Others may reflect and decide that their passion lies in one of the other official job-duties of tenured professors: teaching and service. Still others may decide to jump fields, angle for an administrative position or use their accumulated academic and political capital to work on social issues. Academics are legion, and there are lots of ways to change the world!

Post-tenure reviews work great for those happy to hop back on the academic conveyer belt, and those whose passion truly lies in their scholarship. But what is their use for individuals who want to reinvent themselves? How do we reconcile the narrow standards put forward by department heads and associate deans, with the lofty dreams and ideals of those who have moved beyond them? How does a university harness the passion and energy of these diverted academics without relegating them to the insulting, false category of dead wood?

I do not have an answer for these questions, except to say that the answer does not lie a hastily written summary of activity ending in the words Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations or the dreaded Does Not Meet Expectations.

The diverted academic has transcended your expectations, and any assessment based on narrow, metrics-driven criteria is more apt to drive them farther from the academic milieu than bring them back to the fold.

One possible path forward is to use a post-tenure review to identify all faculty activities that support the university mission (hint: that’s most of them) and to determine what resources are available to support that work.

Occasionally, though I suspect much less frequently than associate deans would have you believe, individuals are not fulfilling the required parts of the job. Independent of their dreams and ideals, most tenured faculty still have to teach and sit on committees. This is real work, and it should be done well. For those individuals falling down on this portion of their job, a suggested course correction is necessary and appropriate.

I understand the motivation for post-tenure reviews. I just wish they reflected the diversity of opinions on what it means to be an academic in the modern age. Instead, as currently envisioned, they drive us to the least-common-denominator of expectations as pushed by metrics-chasing administrators more worried about rankings than actually changing the world for good.

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