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Black Math Prof Discovers He Made Bad Career Choice, Campaigns to Get More Blacks to Make Same Bad Choice
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Amy Harmon is back in the New York Times:

For a Black Mathematician, What It’s Like to Be the ‘Only One’

Fewer than 1 percent of doctorates in math are awarded to African-Americans. Edray Goins, who earned one of them, found the upper reaches of the math world a challenging place.

Edray Goins is one of about a dozen black mathematicians among nearly 2,000 tenured faculty members in the nation’s top 50 math departments.

By Amy Harmon, Feb. 18, 2019

BALTIMORE — It was not an overt incident of racism that prompted Edray Goins, an African-American mathematician in the prime of his career, to abandon his tenured position on the faculty of a major research university last year.

The hostilities he perceived were subtle, the signs of disrespect unspoken.

Microaggressions.

There was the time he was brushed aside by the leaders of his field when he approached with a math question at a conference. There were the reports from students in his department at Purdue University that a white professor had warned them not to work with him.

One of only perhaps a dozen black mathematicians among nearly 2,000 tenured faculty members in the nation’s top 50 math departments, Dr. Goins frequently asked himself whether he was right to factor race into the challenges he faced.

That question from a senior colleague on his area of expertise, directed to someone else? His department’s disinclination to nominate him to the committee that controls hiring? The presumption, by a famous visiting scholar, that he was another professor’s student?

What about the chorus of chortling that erupted at a lunch with white and Asian colleagues when, in response to his suggestion that they invite underrepresented minorities as seminar speakers, one feigned confusion and asked if Australians qualified.

“I can give you instance after instance,” Dr. Goins, 46, said as he navigated the annual meeting of the nation’s mathematicians in Baltimore last month. “But even for myself I question, ‘Did it really happen that way, or am I blowing it out of proportion? Is this really about race?’”

The ‘leaky pipeline’
Black Americans receive about 7 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded each year across all disciplines, but they have received just 1 percent of those granted over the last decade in mathematics. Like many who see in that disparity a large pool of untapped talent, Dr. Goins has long been preoccupied with fixing what is known as the “leaky pipeline.”

In other words, black professor of mathematics discovers he shouldn’t have become a professor of mathematics (e.g., Goldman Sachs pays more than Purdue for a black with quant chops), so he campaigns to get colleges to try even harder to lure smart blacks into making the same bad choice as him.

… The 10 black students in his incoming class were the largest group Caltech had ever enrolled, he learned when he wrote a paper on the little-known history of being black at Caltech for a summer research project. Only three of the others graduated with him four years later.

I’m not a big believer in Thomas Sowell’s Mismatch Theory, but Caltech is an obvious case.

… Last fall, in a move almost unheard-of in the academic ecosystem, he traded his full professor post at Purdue, where federal resources are directed at tackling science’s unsolved problems and training a new generation of Ph.D.’s, for a full professorship at Pomona, a liberal arts college outside Los Angeles that prioritizes undergraduate teaching.

That’s kind of like a popular but not intensely talented golf pro giving up the struggle to win on the PGA Tour to become the teaching pro at Riviera.

“Edray,” he recalled one colleague telling him, “you are throwing your career away.”

In an essay that has been widely shared over the last year, Dr. Goins sought to explain himself. He extolled the virtues of teaching undergraduates and vowed to continue his research. But he also gave voice to a lament about the loneliness of being black in a profession marked by extraordinary racial imbalance.

“I am an African-American male,” Dr. Goins wrote in a blog published by the American Mathematical Society. “I have been the only one in most of the universities I’ve been to — the only student or faculty in the mathematics department.”

“To say that I feel isolated,” he continued, “is an understatement.”

Solution to my unhappiness: spend zillions to trick more blacks into my same unfulfilling career.

Experiences similar to Dr. Goins’s are reflected in recent studies by academic institutions on attrition among underrepresented minorities and women across many disciplines. Interviews with departing faculty of color indicated that “improving the climate” would be key to retaining them, according to a 2016 University of Michigan report. Officials at Columbia, which has spent over $85 million since 2005 to increase faculty diversity, with disappointing results, suggested last fall that progress would hinge partly on majority-group faculty members adjusting their personal behavior.

“In most cases, faculty are not consciously or purposely trying to make colleagues feel unwelcome or excluded,” said Maya Tolstoy, dean of Columbia’s arts and science faculty. “But it happens.”

Those white and Asian racist mathematicians microaggress by talking about complicated math stuff all the time.

And at the recent math meeting, where Dr. Goins delivered a keynote address titled “A Dream Deferred: 50 Years of Blacks in Mathematics,” his presence kindled conversations about racial slights in the math world. …

Hiring committees that reflect the mostly white and Asian makeup of most math departments say they are compelled to “choose the ‘best,’” said Ryan Hynd, a black mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania, “even though there’s no guideline about what ‘best’ is.”

I mean, math is just a socially constructed exercise of power and interpersonal dominance with no objective underlying reality. For example, the one time I was at a math conference, some math professor wrote some gibberish on the whiteboard. I raised my hand and said, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man,” totally pwning him.

… For the representation of African-Americans in math departments to reach parity with their 13-percent share of the country’s adult population, their ranks would have to increase more than tenfold. (The number of women, also notoriously low among math faculty, would need to triple.)

Mr. President, we must not allow a mathshaft gap!

Dr. Goins’s colleagues at Purdue said his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio in light of his extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students.

“While these areas are not necessarily ‘traditional’ markers for excellence at major research universities, they were valued,” Greg Buzzard, the head of Purdue’s math department, who is white, said in a statement.

But Dr. Goins said he was looking for something else.

“I just never really felt respected,” he said. …

Amy Harmon is a national correspondent covering the intersection of science and society. She has won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for her series “The DNA Age,” and another as part of a team for the series “How Race Is Lived in America.” @amy_harmon • Facebook

Here’s iSteve commenter Utu’s count, presumably going by pictures, names, and bios:

Purdue Math Dept. Faculty Count

33 China
27 American (White)
6 Germany
3 American (Jewish)
3 South Asia
3 Romania
3 S. America/Spain
2 American (Black)
2 Hungary
2 Italy
1 France
1 Poland
1 Bulgaria
1 Armenia
1 Iran
1 Korea
1 Japan

Update: By the way, Professor Goins is from South-Central Los Angeles, so there’s nothing too remarkable about him preferring an opportunity to live, as he gets older, in Southern California rather than in Northern Indiana.

Besides being close to elderly loved ones, the climate of the Pomona College campus, which as part of the Claremont Colleges consortium is 49 miles inland from the Santa Monica Pier, is a little hot in summer (average high 92 F in August), but close to ideal during the school year (average high 68 F [20 C] in January). Pomona is tied for #5 in USNWR’s list of national liberal arts colleges, behind only Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, and Wellesley, so I imagine the pay for a tenured professor isn’t bad even if lower than at some research universities.

I wish Prof. Goins well in his choice.

 
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  1. Can someone explain what mathematicians do? I understand physics, chemistry, and biology. But like 99% of Americans I’ve never seen a single instance where “Higher level math” has been useful for anything.

    So, maybe AA know this, and avoid the field.

  2. Jack D says:

    OT. Proof of life. RBG is “just fine” according to her own words. Well, maybe not really just fine, but not dead either:

    She was spotted jogging thru Reagan Airport on her way to her workout. Well, maybe not jogging but the woman was on her feet. Well, her daughter was kind of holding her up, but she was not in a wheelchair.

    The woman may not be in the greatest of health, but she ain’t dead. I am so sorry to disappoint those who thought she was being kept on ice in Nancy Pelosi’s basement pending Kamala’s Inaugural Address.

  3. For the representation of African-Americans in math departments to reach parity with their 13-percent share of the country’s adult population, their ranks would have to increase more than tenfold. (The number of women, also notoriously low among math faculty, would need to triple.)

    Remember when it seemed fields like this would be immune to quotas due to common sense and lack of public interest? Man is that black pill going down fast.

  4. I thought CalTech was staunchly against affirmative action in admissions. Does anyone know otherwise?

  5. Jefferson says:

    “For the representation of African-Americans in math departments to reach parity with their 13-percent share of the country’s adult population”

    What percentage of Generation Z Black kids want to become mathematicians when they become adults?

  6. I don’t know about you Steve, but after checking out Professor Goins creds on the Internet, I’ve decided he’s a pretty good mathematician, even by academic standards. Algebraic geometry and number theory are not easy branch of mathematics to master. I’m a big fan of yours, but your snarks seem poorly directed here. Unless you feel comfortable discussing algebraic varieties you probably shouldn’t have touched this one.

  7. Jack D says:

    For the representation of African-Americans in math departments to reach parity with their 13-percent share of the country’s adult population, their ranks would have to increase more than tenfold.

    While a 1,000% increase in the number of black math professors seems like a daunting goal, I am sure comrades, that if we just redouble our efforts that this goal can be achieved in during the next Five Year Plan! Yes, some slight relaxation of standards may be required, but since mathematical talent, like basketball playing ability, is randomly distributed throughout the population without regard for that artificial construct that some call “race” (despite what the evil pseudoscientists Watson and Murray would have you believe) this goal is entirely achievable once we rid our math departments of white men, who are so steeped in the toxic broth of systemic racism that no progress will be possible so long as they are allowed to make hiring decisions.

    Amy Harmon is a national correspondent covering the intersection of science and society.

    What is this “intersection” crap? 42nd Street and Broadway “intersect”. “Science” and “society” are not streets or lines and they don’t “intersect” at all – they are inexorably linked in every way, because without a functioning society no science is possible, and without a scientific community in which membership is based on talent and not race (which is the only kind of science worthy of the name), it will not be possible for science to progress.

    • LOL: GermanReader2
    • Replies: @inertial
  8. @Jack D

    Should we assume they were boarding a flight to Rochester, MN?

  9. Dansidea says:

    sure Dr Goins all those other Math PH’ds are Haven Monahan studly frat boys I’m sure none of them have ever felt “different “

    • Agree: Tyrion 2
  10. Thirdtwin says:

    “Black Americans receive about 7 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded each year across all disciplines…”

    I don’t know what they’d do if there was no Doctorate in Education…oh, wait…

    “Last fall…he traded his full professor post at Purdue…for a full professorship at Pomona, a liberal arts college outside Los Angeles that prioritizes undergraduate teaching…”

    See what I mean?

    • Replies: @Art Deco
  11. @Jus' Sayin'...

    I didn’t read any insults about the guy’s math ability. Snarks were directed at his unhappiness in his choice of occupation, and his inconsistency in pushing more blacks to follow said occupation.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  12. Does Professor Goins have a gripe?

    Yes, he could have “kept his head down” and soldiered on in his tenured position at Purdue, but there is a public misconception that pressure cannot be brought to bear on a tenured faculty member to offer such a person strong encouragement to seek another job. Think Cornell West and Larry Summers.

    Could he work for Goldman Sachs and made a lot more money? Perhaps.

    But if true that a colleague had advised students not to work under his direction, the Math faculty at Purdue may be soon griping about a lot more about their portion in life than Professor Goins is doing, especially after the Diversity Squad zeros in on them.

    It doesn’t appear that the Math Department at Purdue has such a serious committment to Diversity, especially as it is understood these days in an academic setting. On the other hand, I seriously doubt anyone from that department ever stood up in the Purdue Faculty Senate to push back against any diversity initiative from upper administration.

    Certainly, the vibe I get is that not a person on that faculty would disagree one iota from the general consensus on iSteve. Could we encourage one of Professor Goins faculty colleagues to offer their “side of the story.” Here. Posting under their legal name?

    • Replies: @Nicholas Stix
  13. Anon[997] • Disclaimer says:

    Doesn’t Richard Sander deserve credit for mismatch? Sowell did write about it after Sander published his initial paper in the Stanford Law Review in 2004 (and the paper was known before that because Sander had trouble finding a publisher). I think the term mismatch was coined by Sander.

    • Replies: @gregor
    , @Unladen Swallow
  14. newrouter says:

    >Dr. Goins’s colleagues at Purdue said his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio in light of his extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students.<

    Another Cornel West?

    • Replies: @Song For the Deaf
  15. Anon[997] • Disclaimer says:

    Unless Goins was the Bob Beamon of mathematics, he was probably number 2,000 among the 2,000 tenured faculty members in the nation’s top 50 math departments, and it’s probable that there was a big gap between number 1,999 and Goins, since there would have been affirmative action involved. So what does he expect?

    He could have done a lot of teaching, something that tenured professors don’t do that much of, especially at the undergraduate level. That’s a satisfying career, and a good role for women and blacks. If he wants respect among his peers however, he needs to publish important stuff, and math is brutal for that. The emperor’s new clothes are not recognized.

    Practicing academic mathematicians are notoriously non-social, and weird. I remember a professor in an undergraduate first year honors math class I took I at UCLA who never made other than momentary eye contact with me over the entire three quarters, despite a class size of about a dozen. But he kind of lit up when he started talking about match, glancing up to the heavens.

    Math has several objective awards programs, like the Fields Medal, as well as many prestigious competitions. He should have proven himself in these.

  16. Promote unworthy black candidate to full professorship, get complaints of microaggressions for their trouble. No good deed goes unpunished.

    • Agree: Nicholas Stix
  17. Polynikes says:

    Dr. Goins’s colleagues at Purdue said his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio in light of his extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students.

    “While these areas are not necessarily ‘traditional’ markers for excellence at major research universities, they were valued,” Greg Buzzard, the head of Purdue’s math department, who is white, said in a statement.

    But Dr. Goins said he was looking for something else.

    “I just never really felt respected,” he said. …

    Doesn’t have traditional credentials, doesn’t add anything of value, doesn’t understand why he isn’t respected. And they say math guys aren’t people persons…

  18. utu says:

    His h-index is 6 meaning that his 7th highest cited publication has less than 6 citations (it actually has 4). This is followed with 5 papers with 3 citations and 2 papers with 2 citations and the several with 1 citation.

    His most cited paper (27 citations) is in International Algorithmic Number Theory which ranks 23rd in Journal Rankings on Algebra and Number Theory – SCImago.

    This guys never did any serious math work. He is a lecturer who dabbled in maths, mostly crumbs and minutiae left by 19 century mathematicians. A floor sweeper.

    • Replies: @PiltdownMan
  19. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:

    The bell curve suggests that out of the many millions of blacks in America, indeed, there will be somewhere between three and twelve blacks capable of doing the highest level of academic mathematics. Because American blacks have a wide admixture of white and other genes the mix can come up that way, meaning that the chances are way better than for pure Africans, althoough I’m told there are one or two tribes of sufficient size and average IQ they might have one or two at the right tail as well.

    But for most whites even, a career as a Ph.D mathematician is not in the cards: much less for blacks even. Each black and each white should be carefully tested for IQ and encouraged to pursue a career path partially based on that. The nilitary does it with the AFQT, and there should be a Safe Harbor for employers to use the AFQT in hiring.

  20. Polynikes says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    Sure. Because you have to have a mastery of the underlying subject to know when affirmative action has went wrong.

  21. Jack D says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    If he was such a hot mathematician, why did he abandon his research post for a position that primarily emphasized undergrad teaching? The top of any field is a very pointy and narrow place. Being part of the spear instead of somewhere halfway down the shaft is more than most of us will accomplish, but it’s not the same thing as being at the tip of the spear where the real cutting edge work gets done.

    Anyway, wearing a giant chip on your shoulder is not a good look for anyone, let alone a top mathematician. The traditional way to handle this is to produce work that is so undeniably good that even the most doctrinaire racists will feel no choice but to bow before the edifice of your work and accomplishments. But Prof. Goins doesn’t seem to have chosen that path and instead is just running his mouth.

    Also see newrouter at #14 – it sounds to me like the snark is well deserved and Dr. Goins got his job due to the color of his skin more than his mathematical chops.

    • Replies: @ic1000
  22. @Jus' Sayin'...

    He didn’t say he was a bad mathematician – although amy harmon pointed out that Purdue made an exception to their criteria to promote him.

  23. @Jus' Sayin'...

    What does Amy Harmon mean by this?:
    “the university’s willingness to overlook [Goins’] sparse research portfolio ”

    She spends a LOT more time highlighting his obsession with the “numbers gap” for blacks in advanced degrees & research for mathematics than discussing his actual contributions to the science of mathematics at a research university.

    Doesn’t everybody know, that it doesn’t matter much how inspiring an instructor or mentor you are, you’d better publish or else?

  24. Professor Goins appears to have been a token Black in his department, unproductive—”sparse research portfolio”—and in over his head. If the respect he sought from his colleagues was in fact withheld, that would have been right and proper.

  25. Edray Goins =

    Dry agonies.
    Raged noisy.
    I grade nosy.

    A nerd’s yogi.

    Ya dis Negro!

  26. @Jus' Sayin'...

    They said he was promoted despite his sparse research record. That no doubt lies at the bottom of the disrespect he says he gets from his colleagues.

    Contra Steve, Goins’ experience lines up perfectly with Sowell’s mismatch theory. The disrespect blacks in his situation feel always comes from resentful colleagues with more credentials (Exhibit A: Michelle Obama).

  27. Gannet says:

    Steve says, “I’m not a big believer in Thomas Sowell’s Mismatch Theory, but Caltech is an obvious case.”

    In 2015, Sowell wrote an article for RealClearPolitics in which he explained this theory:

    Much empirical research over the years has confirmed Justice Scalia’s concern that admitting black students to institutions for which their academic preparation is not sufficient can be making them worse off instead of better off.

    I became painfully aware of this problem more than 40 years ago, when I was teaching at Cornell University, and discovered that half the black students there were on some form of academic probation.

    These students were not stupid or uneducable. On the contrary, the average black student at Cornell at that time scored at the 75th percentile on scholastic tests….

    Why were they in trouble at Cornell, then? Because the average Cornell student in the liberal arts college at that time scored at the 99th percentile. The classes taught there — including mine — moved at a speed geared to the verbal and mathematical level of the top one percent of American students.

    …This “favor” turned black students who would have been successful at most American colleges and universities into failures at Cornell.

    None of this was peculiar to Cornell. Black students who scored at the 90th percentile in math had serious academic problems trying to keep up at M.I.T., where other students scored somewhere within the top 99th percentile.

    (source: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/12/15/attacking_the_truth_129041.html)

    He doesn’t source the “empirical evidence,” but his position seems logically sound. I would be curious to hear someone with more knowledge weigh in.

  28. @RationalExpressions

    I remember the old chestnut about how at least Math couldn’t be politicized, i.e. you would never see a class called “The Calculus of Oppression”. Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s an actual class somewhere.

  29. @newrouter

    I was thinking Neil Degrasse Tyson

    • Replies: @newrouter
  30. TGGP says:
    @Honesthughgrant

    As it happens, Steve has noted the unexpected usefulness of mathematics* before. Math is abstract by design, which means there’s a wide range of situations over which it can be applied, even if those applications aren’t obvious at first. Then once they’re applied, the knowledge will be embedded in some process and people can take advantage of that advanced math without knowing it themselves. High level physics, for example, is closely intertwined with advanced math.

    *Embedded links don’t appear to work, so here it is https://www.unz.com/isteve/the-unexpected-uselessness-of-philosophy/

    • Replies: @Hail
  31. the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio

    “Figure? Pleeeze. I hate calculus, always gets on my teef. Ain’t gonna cosine that sheeit. Hypotenoose? That’s racist.”

    • Replies: @Gannet
  32. j mct says:

    I once had lunch with an assistant math prof from Harvard who was on some sort of sabbatical in that he was at the time working in the real world. He was trying to hire me, I didn’t end up taking his offer, but we had a nice lunch. He eventually went back to Harvard, and I think he’s tenured, so this story isn’t sour grapes. In order to get tenure at a place like Harvard, the best way in is to solve an old traditional problem, like the Goldbach Conjecture, or a present day practical problem stumping physicists, or computer algorithms, or maybe now, geneticist types. Hardly anybody does that. Most candidates do prove some novel theorems and the like, all of no practical value whatsoever, that no one had ever thought of before, not just the proof, but the proposition to be proved also, but since mathematics is, completely objective, and all the work is of zero practicality, how does the math department decide who’s work is the ‘coolest’. Pure politics, and if you give it any thought, that’s really the only way given that apart from practicality, pretty much all math is objectively equal, the quality of the work itself cannot do it. That was an interesting lunch. There might be something to the guy’s gripes.

    • Agree: PhysicistDave
    • Replies: @Polymath
  33. @RationalExpressions

    Couldn’t they just fill their quotas with a bunch of inspiring charismatic glib Black science guys, who are bright if not extraordinarily so, like Neil Degrasse Tyson, while leaving the hard work of research, teaching & grading papers to underpaid & exploited Asian graduate students?

    Sounds perhaps like business as usual already for the corrupt Ivory Tower?

    A similar straw-man approach to the “White Guys in Ties” Asian enterprises use sometimes to figurehead their operations for public image purposes.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/rent-a-white-guy/308119/

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  34. Mr. Blank says:

    I’m not sure why it’s such a problem to find top black math talent. Hollywood assured me that the entire U.S. space program would have collapsed without the heroic efforts of black female mathematicians.

    Perhaps they’ve all been hired by the Chinese? President Trump should look into this!

    • LOL: jim jones
  35. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:

    Tom Lehrer;

    What more can be said?

  36. Anon[997] • Disclaimer says:

    His department’s disinclination to nominate him to the committee that controls hiring?

    This shows that the math department has learned from the humanities and social sciences: Do not let them take over hiring, or within a generation social justice will be the only criteria. The department will be full of freaks and cognitively mediocre knuckleheads. First step: diversity and inclusion statements required from applicants.

  37. Gannet says:
    @Jenner Ickham Errican

    Despite his relative lack of publications, this professor is (a bit surprisingly) reasonably competent, as others have pointed out. He deserves criticism more for his shortsighted crusade to get more blacks in math academia than for his abilities as a mathematician.

    …Not that I didn’t appreciate the wordplay.

  38. @Jus' Sayin'...

    Nice to hear that you think he’s “pretty good” but that does not get you anywhere close to getting tenure at a top 30 math department if you’re huwhite. I’m sure Prof. Goins is smart enough to realize this painful fact on some level, which must be embarrassing. Mr. Sailer’s could spare thousands of smart but obvious “diversity” hires from this distress.

    I’ve been increasingly shocked these past few years at the lengths my department has been willing to go in order to get offers to completely mediocre non-White faculty candidates (explicitly incentivized/coerced by the university, of course). Faculty meetings switch quickly to a very Emporers New Clothes environment when discussing these candidates.

  39. megabar says:

    When people are a minority, and are not completely secure in themselves (which is the normal case), they are more defensive. This is a natural human reaction, and not an individual failing. If you’re the only white kid on the basketball team, you will feel inadequate. If you are the only Asian kid in acting class, you will feel different. If you are the obese person in a group of athletes, you’ll watch what you eat lest you hear some giggles.

    When people feel defensive, they assume malice when none is intended. This is the genesis of microaggressions — the practice of taking offense where none is intended.

    An integrated multiracial society is one where the distribution of people must be carefully managed to be even.

    • Agree: TTSSYF
  40. GB says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    “Pretty good” might be overstating it a bit. As far as I can tell, he has published 16 papers in 20 years. And some of those are just uploaded to the preprint server, not accepted for publication in journals.

    I’m not qualified to judge the quality of his work, but the quantity of peer-reviewed publications is pretty slim.

  41. All they have to do is introduce a new field of Mathematics.

    Call it ‘bean counting.’

    Amy Harmon should get the first honorary doctorate, though.

  42. Anonymous[910] • Disclaimer says:
    @RationalExpressions

    unhappiness in his choice of occupation

    Which is wrong, too, since the guy obviously isn’t into the hedge fund quant kind of math.

    Hiring committees that reflect the mostly white and Asian makeup of most math departments say they are compelled to “choose the ‘best,’” said Ryan Hynd, a black mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania, “even though there’s no guideline about what ‘best’ is.”

    I mean, math is just a socially constructed exercise of power and interpersonal dominance with no objective underlying reality.

    What makes a person’s math work — and the field it’s in — important and notable is subjective and separate from its truth, i.e. it is quite likely somewhat “socially constructed.”

  43. Anonymous[910] • Disclaimer says:

  44. dvorak says:
    @Oddsbodkins

    I thought CalTech was staunchly against affirmative action in admissions. Does anyone know otherwise?

    They boost women applicants, like MIT. But it may be for ‘student life’ (dating) reasons, not AA.

  45. Jack D says:
    @Oddsbodkins

    They claim not to do it, but based on truly colorblind admissions, CalTech would be maybe 1 or 1.5% black and in reality it’s more like 2 or 3%. But this is nothing compared to say Harvard where blacks are 15% 0r 10x their number based on color blind admissions. CalTech has its thumb on the scale, but just a little. Harvard is leaning in with all of their weight and really putting their shoulders to it.

    • Replies: @Ed
    , @Triumph104
  46. ic1000 says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    > after checking out Professor Goins creds on the Internet, I’ve decided he’s a pretty good mathematician, even by academic standards. Algebraic geometry and number theory are not easy branch of mathematics to master.

    You raise a good point.

    NYT reporter Amy Harmon raises equally good points, albeit inadvertently.

    Harmon: “…in a move almost unheard-of in the academic ecosystem, he traded his full professor post at Purdue… for a full professorship at Pomona, a liberal arts college outside Los Angeles that prioritizes undergraduate teaching.”

    Sailer: “That’s kind of like a popular but not intensely talented golf pro giving up the struggle to win on the PGA Tour to become the teaching pro at Riviera.”

    Sailer’s analogy doesn’t hold up. Full Professor is a tenured position at Pomona (Purdue too). The job is Dr. Goins’ for as long as he wants it, barring exceptional circumstances. What’s the work load? At Pomona, not crushing unless Goins wants it to be. Compensation is hard to estimate, but an NYT blog ranked Pomona as the 4th best paying liberal arts college for full professors, at $135,000. That was in 2010, and the math department could well pay above average. So maybe $170,000, plus good benefits, and probably with a defined-benefit pension. Beats flipping burgers.

    Doing original research in a hard science is hard. And it’s high pressure; if you’re not performing at the top of your field then you aren’t performing at all. Maybe Goins was productive at Purdue, but characterizing your department as having to “overlook a sparse research portfolio” doesn’t have a good ring to it. And from Harmon’s writing, Goins wasn’t having much fun.

    No, Amy, this isn’t an “almost unheard-of” desperate move that only a victim of anti-black racism could be driven to. Other research profs have also altered their trajectories to find more suitable roles in undergrad education. Good for Goins, I hope he’s both productive and happy in his new position.

  47. Anon[997] • Disclaimer says:

    This article from three weeks ago in the Times is another example of an end-of-the-line, “affirimative action stops here,” rubber-meets-the-road job classification: New York white shoe corporate law firm partners. These are the owners of the firm, who divide up the profits after paying the overhead, which includes the salaries of associates (employees who get about $175,000 right out of law school):

    Elite Law Firm’s All-White Partner Class Stirs Debate on Diversity
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/27/us/paul-weiss-partner-diversity-law-firm.html

    These firms hire Ivy League black law graduates for two or three years, and then they leave. The young black lawyers are unqualified for the job relative to their white and Jewish classmates, but client corporations have inclusion clauses that require a certain percent of billable hours to be from minorities. They are given paralegal-level busywork and trotted out at client meetings, although they are never entrusted with meeting with clients unsupervised.

    Law at this level is brutally difficult, requires mastery of a lot of complex material, benefits from creativity (vd. Apple’s “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich” tax strategy”), and can gain or lose clients enormous amounts of money. There is no faking it. A law firm that pads out with too many black lawyers will go under.

    Now, says the Times, client corporations not only want billable hours, but minority representation among partners. I think at some point law firms will send clients packing. But they will probably accept a few more black partners, and those partners will experience exactly what math professor Goins experienced. They will not be accepted as peers, because they aren’t, and they will be given jobs like gladhanding, diversity committeess, external conference speeches and so on, and kept away from the legal stuff.

    The Times article mentions that the recent controversy about white white-shoe partners was set off by the release of a photo of 12 new partners, all white, one a women. There is one tactic used by the other side that the firms need to master: data obfuscation. You cannot get data on race performance in law schools any more. The race of criminal suspects is not announced. If the data doesn’t help you, hide it. Firms need to no longer announce publicly their partners. Do not show faces on websites. Don’t make it easy for the other side. Make them work for the data. The result will be laws requiring diversity reports, but cross that bridge when you get to it, perhaps by creative use of 23 & Me results.

    Only a tiny fraction of associates who join Paul, Weiss and other large firms make partner, and associates of all stripes who believe they have no shot typically leave long before they would become eligible.

    The female and minority associates who do stick around face a final daunting obstacle: the actual partner-selection process, in which current partners must decide, among other things, whether a young lawyer will bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

    Mr. Wells said many black lawyers had wondered whether all but the most formidable minority candidates — so-called unicorns — could make partner at big law firms.

    “The question is, what happens to the young black lawyer who’s not a unicorn but a superb lawyer?” Mr. Wells said in an interview. “Does he get through the same way the superb white lawyer does?” He added, however, that Paul, Weiss strived to ensure that highly qualified black associates, and not just superstars, were promoted.

    The soft bigotry of low expectations: “Blacks might not be unicorns, but maybe we could squint and see them as superb.”

    • Replies: @Hypnotoad666
  48. @Reg Cæsar

    Noir Ed’s gay; Negro daisy.

    Are so dying/in dog years.

    In days, gore.

  49. jb says:

    For me the key paragraph was this one:

    Dr. Goins’s colleagues at Purdue said his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio in light of his extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students.

    It sounds like Dr. Goins got better treatment than a marginal white or Asian math Ph.D. would have gotten. (A lot of people don’t realize that most people with doctorates are pretty marginal, in the sense that they were smart enough to pass the necessary courses and do a little bit of original work, but not smart enough to actually move the field forward. If that’s you, then a tenured position at a place like Pomona is a pretty good deal. I’m sure that most of Dr. Goins’s new colleagues — who will be mostly white or Asian, and who will have doctorates of their own — would agree).

  50. ic1000 says:
    @Jack D

    Best I can tell, the problem isn’t with Dr. Goins and his former employer, Perdue. He gave it his best, found it wasn’t a good fit, then made a lateral move to undergraduate education.

    No, the problem is with Ms. Harmon and her current employer, the NYT. Like the proverbial carpenter with a hammer, an unhappy black professor can only be seen as a victim of white racism. What else could hammers be for, other than to pound nails?

    Of course, a nail doesn’t generally look around and decide that all the other nails must be carefree and happy, by virtue of their unearned privilege. So there is that.

  51. res says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    I had a similar reaction after finding out he made it through Caltech. Good chance he is the real deal, even if not at the absolute upper echelons.

    But then I read this:

    The presumption of competence and authority that seems to be automatically accorded other mathematicians, for instance, is often not applied to them, several black mathematicians said.

    Yes, that would suck, but what do you expect when aggressive affirmative action makes it a completely rational response?

    Information about the Caltech prizes he won from https://caltechcampuspubs.library.caltech.edu/2480/1/June_10%2C_1994.pdf

    DEANS’ CUP AND DIRECTOR OF RESIDENCE LIFE AND MASTER’S AWARD
    Two awards, selected by the Deans, the Director of Residence Life, and the
    Master of Student Houses, presented to undergraduates whose concern for their
    fellow students has been demonstrated by persistent efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate life and by effective communication with members of the
    faculty and administration.
    1993 Edray Herber Goins, Deans Clip
    1994 Jennifer Ellen TrittscllUh, Director of Residence Life and Master’s Award

    THE MORGAN WARD PRIZE
    Awarded for the best problems and solutions in mathematics submitted by a
    freshman or sophomore.
    1991 Edray Herber Goins
    1992 Edray Herber Goins
    Troy James Bassett

    The Morgan Ward prize looks like a real thing and not some kind of “plaques for blacks” award.
    http://pma.divisions.caltech.edu/research-and-academics/mathematics/prizes-and-awards-in-mathematics/morgan-ward-prize-winners

    Here is a 2004 article about Dr. Goins: https://diverseeducation.com/article/3456/

    • Replies: @utu
  52. utu says:

    Purdue Math Dept. Faculty Count

    33 China
    27 American (White)
    6 Germany
    3 American (Jewish)
    3 South Asia
    3 Romania
    3 S. America/Spain
    2 American (Black)
    2 Hungary
    2 Italy
    1 France
    1 Poland
    1 Bulgaria
    1 Armenia
    1 Iran
    1 Korea
    1 Japan

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @Hail
  53. @Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

    One iSteve commenter was a fellow astrophysics grad student/TA with Neil Degrasse Tyson and says he was a good lecturer.

  54. utu says:
    @res

    Good chance he is the real deal

    No, he is not.

    His h-index is 6 meaning that his 7th highest cited publication has less than 6 citations (it actually has 4). This is followed with 5 papers with 3 citations and 2 papers with 2 citations and the several with 1 citation.

    His most cited paper (27 citations) is in International Algorithmic Number Theory which ranks 23rd in Journal Rankings on Algebra and Number Theory – SCImago.

    This guys never did any serious math work. He is a lecturer who dabbled in maths, mostly crumbs and minutiae left by 19 century mathematicians.

  55. mikeja says:

    He’s quitting maths to try to be a sort of Bill Belichick except for black mathematicians instead of white running backs. To be fair it isn’t the most ridiculous idea. It’s quite plausible that people who don’t fit a stereotype have harder time breaking through than those that do.

    Also haven’t most mathematicians done their best work by 40?

    • Replies: @Unladen Swallow
  56. Anonymous[375] • Disclaimer says:
    @ic1000

    Pomona has a beautiful campus. I can see why Goins would want to get out of Indiana.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  57. @Honesthughgrant

    The classic example of a branch of pure mathematics that turned out to have real-world applications after all is number theory, which is used in modern cryptography. No e-commerce without cryptography.

  58. @ic1000

    Well said. And when you figure also that he probably didn’t attract the best grad students (if he’s not an aggressive researcher why would ambitious students flock to him?) it would inhibit his ability to perform publishable research even more. Math is a young man’s game, so chasing grants and publications becomes even less fun if you’re already not into it. Nothing wrong with wanting to be a tenured teaching professor. But if this is all true he should just admit that instead of hinting at racism.

  59. Anon[126] • Disclaimer says:

    For the representation of African-Americans in math departments to reach parity with their 13-percent share of the country’s adult population, their ranks would have to increase more than tenfold

    .

    Hold on. We’re allowed to notice disparities with AA representation now? How can you tell if it’s okay like school statistics or not okay like crime statistics?

  60. @Jus' Sayin'...

    I agree. At the very least, I take exception to the presumption that he made a “bad career choice”. Which is the better life: snorting coke at the Hamptons, or introducing young mathematicians to the absolute Galois group? Some people really would prefer the latter, all things considered.

    • Replies: @Massimo Heitor
  61. I question, ‘Did it really happen that way, or am I blowing it out of proportion

    You are blowing it out of proportion.

  62. Mr. Blank says:
    @RationalExpressions

    Yup. I can remember my STEM grad friends sneering at me years ago about how they’d never have to put up with this politically correct B.S. in their line of work.

    I said, “just you wait. If they can hand out English degrees — even Ph.Ds! — to people who’ve never read a word of Shakespeare, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to figure out a way to hand out science degrees to people who can’t master calculus or have never heard of photosynthesis.” In fact, since capital-S Scientists now function as our de facto national priesthood, I figured the pressure would quickly become insurmountable. The powerful will always find a way to corrupt the priesthood.

    I am sad to say it looks like I am being proven right.

  63. @Anon

    They will not be accepted as peers, because they aren’t, and they will be given jobs like gladhanding, diversity committeess, external conference speeches and so on, and kept away from the legal stuff.

    Yes, the Vernon Jordan position. This is what ex-politicians and regulators are good for.

    Btw, where did Eric Holder land?

  64. @Steve Sailer

    Indeed.

    Being “a good lecturer” is probably an underrated ability when selecting for tenured professors at research universities. Also inspiring & charismatic are worthwhile too…

  65. Anonymous[209] • Disclaimer says:

    I looked up his papers. I’m qualified to comment: he’s unqualified to be admitted as a graduate student at Purdue, much less tenured. In his new teaching role, he’ll probably be a fine inspiration to the undergraduates he doesn’t otherwise alienate.

  66. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @Gannet

    He is right. Essentially, affirmative action is Peter Principle Force Multiplication.
    People who would have been genuinely good at something become not good at a position not one, but two to four levels over their head.

    Many blacks could be good tradesmen but are sent to college: some blacks who would have been successful at state schools and had decent careers in the more mundane levels of professional life get put in high positions and are incompetent. This destroys their self-image and makes them know they are where they have not earned the privilege they access.

    • Replies: @bomag
    , @James Braxton
  67. One thing I haven’t read in the comments yet has to do with the personalities of mathematics professors and students – all the ones I’ve met, at least: These people are the definition of geeky. They walk around with their heads in the clouds trying to picture sets, game theory, and 4th-order tensors and shit. Most will not say “hey” to you without your waving your arm right in front of their faces.

    They care about this stuff deeply (which is admirable, to me). They usually don’t care about whether their shoelaces are tied, whether they have their shirts on backwards, or forgot to shave for a week and a half. They especially don’t care, and don’t want to care, about the politics going on around them, such as this guy seems to. Can he be a real, serious mathematician if he worried about what people think of him?

    Real math people aren’t people people and don’t want to be people people.

    I dunno, maybe it’s different now.

    • Replies: @utu
  68. @Oddsbodkins

    I thought CalTech was staunchly against affirmative action in admissions. Does anyone know otherwise?

    In the 90s California passed a ballot initiative – Prop 209 – that bars any consideration of race in public university admissions.

    All the schools cheat a little around the edges. But whether they are actually against it or not, they can’t get away with doing AA openly.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  69. @Anonymous

    There’s not much smog anymore, so Claremont (where Pomona college is) has very nice weather all during the school year. It’s a little hot in summer (but low humidity and few mosquitos). Mt. Baldy is right above the campus and it’s covered with snow now.

    The architecture on the Claremont Colleges campus reflects different eras. Pomona is the oldest college, so it has the oldest and thus best architecture. Harvey Mudd, in contrast, from the postwar era looks like a nice motel.

  70. ““Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man,” ”

    The Sailer abides.

  71. Anonymous[209] • Disclaimer says:
    @Honesthughgrant

    Like all other grant-dependent researchers, mathematicians chase grant money. They try (and succeed to varying degrees) to align the paper chase with research interests. There’s fun, and there’s fundable.

    For example, applied math is fundable. Almost nobody likes applied math. People tend to devote themselves to applied math because it’s (relatively) easy and lucrative.

    Pure math is fun. Pure math researchers do what they do for masturbatory reasons. There’s aesthetic pleasure in it. Sometimes the products happen to have applications – those are accidents. Good insights are rare, but when you see one, it’s a breathtaking experience. A rush. It beats the hell out of a good film or symphony.

    • Replies: @bomag
  72. Consider various fields in which success is heavily dependent on talent, e.g., athletic ability, horsemanship, go-playing or chess, artistic painting, mathematics. Of these, it strikes me that mathematics is the field in which it would be hardest to assess one’s own ability. I think John Derbyshire has written about the self-assessment of his own mathematical ability (compared to fellow advanced students). Can anybody find a link?

  73. Jack D says:
    @utu

    #1 American Jews are white Americans too.

    #2 There are more than 3 Jews in the Purdue math dept.

    • Replies: @utu
  74. Polymath says:
    @j mct

    Yes. In pure math departments there is an awful lot of “proving theorems no one had ever wondered about before”. This can be really important, if it sparks more work and connections with other areas, but it adds a lot of subjectivity to the hiring and tenure process.

    I never had an academic job (though I teach high school math classes on the side), consulting and software development were much more reliable for paying a mortgage and raising a family. But I’ve published papers (Erdos number = 2) and followed developments closely, and I’ve collected enough results for a couple of dozen more nice papers when I get around to writing them. I think this prof may have a good case that he is not sufficiently appreciated, but what needs to be stressed is that, unlike almost every other technical field, he doesn’t need grants and a lab and collaboration to do good work, he can continue to prove theorems and submit papers just as well from Pomona as from Purdue. My impression is that he isn’t as disgruntled as the article tries to make him look.

  75. Jack D says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    Cal Tech is not public and they could do all the AA that they want. But they only want to do a little.

  76. inertial says:
    @Jack D

    What is this “intersection” crap?

    It’s a math term. Oddly enough, Harmon is using it correctly.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersection_(set_theory)

  77. @Inquiring Mind

    “Could we encourage one of Professor Goins faculty colleagues to offer their “side of the story.” Here. Posting under their legal name?”

    No, we could not. That would be professional suicide, and could also entail violent repercussions.

  78. utu says:
    @Jack D

    “American Jews are white Americans too.” – Not when Whites are being maligned.

    “There are more than 3 Jews in the Purdue math dept.” – Possible. Perhaps I missed 1 or 2 among white Americans.

  79. My guess is, he used his crazy mad math Skillz to calculate the differential availability of hot student white wimminz at Purdue and Pomona respectively — and further calculated that you get more White tail playing Shaft-in-the-classroom than you do as a research nerd.

    Plus, getting a Ph.D in advanced mathematics, and then using it to write papers about It’s Tough Being Black instead of about, y’know, mathematics is so what-I’d-expect, I’m really rather shocked that the Cliche Compliance Dept. of the NAACP hasn’t urged him to run for president. Didn’t Herman Cain dabble in math, too? He must be one of the smart ones!

  80. Hail says: • Website
    @TGGP

    One of the newly emerged quirks in Unz Review commenting since the upgrade is embedded links ending in a slash do not appear.

    Take off the slash and it works.

  81. @Honesthughgrant

    Usefulness (or utility) is just not a very productive way of assessing mathematics. Aesthetics and beauty are more helpful measures. In that, it is like art.

    The usefulness of mathematics tends to be an occasional byproduct of mathematical insight, albeit usually tremendously powerful in its utility.

    • Agree: bomag
  82. Hail says: • Website
    @Jack D

    her daughter was kind of holding her up

    She was born in 1933 but looks there like she was born in 1923.

  83. @utu

    Usefulness (or utility) is just not a very productive way of assessing mathematics. Aesthetics and beauty are more helpful measures. In that, it is like art.

    The usefulness of mathematics tends to be an occasional byproduct of mathematical insight, albeit usually tremendously powerful in its utility.

  84. Hail says: • Website
    @Reg Cæsar

    A nerd’s yogi

    He died in 2008.

    But judge not by their hairstyles; they were assuredly not nerds.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  85. Anon7 says:

    The mass entry of Chinese mathematicians (note the Purdue Math Dept. Faculty Count) is the big story here. They have a national average IQ of 106 and 1.35 billion people. They are the smartest students at every math department in the country. They’re killing it. A generation ago, American kids had a chance to be students in the best math programs, grad and undergrad, in the country. Now, not so much. Not just black kids.

    • Replies: @stillCARealist
  86. Anon[210] • Disclaimer says:
    @Gannet

    Mismatch theory is Richard Sander’s creation. He a law professor at UCLA with a statistical background from his days as a fair housing advocate and researcher. Sander’s empirical evidence is the data that he has shaken loose in a series of lawsuits. He is currently suing his employer, the University of California, again, for more data on the test scores, grades, graduation rates, post-graduation employment, and more for black and other URMs in the UC system.

    Sowell, who is at Stanford, read Sander’s Stanford Law Review article and liked what he saw. Sander expanded it into a book. Some parts of the theory have fallen apart, particularly Sander’s observations on graduation rates. Today elite law schools “see to it” that black students graduate. Professors are made to understand that their black students will graduate. There are various disincentives directed at professors to discourage their failing of black students. The bar exam is the last barrier left, and it’s now under attack.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  87. Hail says: • Website
    @utu

    Only 3/91 [3.3%] Hispanic?

    (Unclear from post how many, if any, are Mestizo-Amerind types.)

    3.3%

    If the Amerind component thereof is 1/5th, it would leave us with 0.7% Latin-American Amerind in the Purdue Math Dept. The U.S. resident population may be 11-12% Amerind in genetic aggregate today.

    Which leads me to ask,

    Didn’t these Purdue people see Stand and Deliver? Geez. Leaving a lot of Mestizo math talent on the table. Get with it, Purdue.

  88. Anon7 says:

    I’d think that the math department is the last place that affirmative action would be applied. Math departments are notoriously full of the smartest people on campus, and the most objective. There’s no fooling around with making people feel good, as far as the top students are concerned.

    When you’re taking a graduate level math course, and there are 20 students, and on a 100 point test, the average score is 35, and the best score was 96, there’s no doubt who the best students are. It’s embarrassing. There’s just no room for self-deception.

    Sure, they offer special programs to attract women to become math majors, so they can pad their numbers. But the best students? Please. There’s no place for merely 99.9 percentile students to hide.

  89. @Gannet

    I’m puzzled by Steve’s non-acceptance of Mismatch Theory. I’d have thought that it would be right in his wheelhouse. People get accepted to universities, and hired to jobs which require considerably more intelligence than they have, a gap which can be expressed in SAT, GRE, or IQ points. They’re mismatched.

    Sowell doesn’t like to talk about IQ, so he, like many other academics, speaks euphemistically of “academic preparation.” (In a previous life, Sowell was a Marxist, and he has not shed certain residues of that life, like Lewontin’s Fallacy.) It’s not about academic preparation. If you ain’t got the gray matter, all the “preparation” in the world won’t get you there.

    If you’re a mathematician, you do math. If you’re a black impostor, you do ‘The Problems Facing African-American Mathematicians.’

  90. @mikeja

    The way I read that comment was that if you hadn’t done important work by that age you weren’t going to suddenly get better or more innovative. If you did do important work in your twenties and thirties then you could still be doing it after 40 though. I’ve heard the same sentiment regarding theoretical physicists as well.

  91. This man is outrageously successful, he is a tenured professor at the very top rungs of status and prestige and privilege in society. Yet he still nurses petty grudges and grievances towards his colleagues and feels like he deserves more.

    Normally, that story would earn eye rolling or a quick reality check that if you are so successful, you really can’t complain like that. And normally people do snap out of it.

    What earns this story coverage in prestige media is that it fits the political narrative of racism that the author Amy Harmon wants to tell.

    If you removed the racial component from this story, it would be just a super successful guy who is not satisfied with the outrageous success that he’s had but instead nurses these unreasonable petty grudges towards his peers. That happens all the time, but it wouldn’t be newsworthy.

    • Agree: ic1000
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  92. gregor says:
    @Anon

    Here is Sowell discussing the idea in 1987. And he uses the term “mismatch.” I believe it’s also in his 1990 book Preferential Policies.

  93. @Anon

    No, Sowell pointed it out in Op-Ed in the NYT back in early 1970’s, because already it was happening at elite universities like Cornell where he had taught. I posted on this previously and some other poster dug up the reference to the editorial in a post a couple years ago on this blog.

    • Replies: @res
  94. His h-index is 6 meaning that his 7th highest cited publication has less than 6 citations (it actually has 4). This is followed with 5 papers with 3 citations and 2 papers with 2 citations and the several with 1 citation.

    His most cited paper (27 citations) is in International Algorithmic Number Theory which ranks 23rd in Journal Rankings on Algebra and Number Theory – SCImago.

    Paper citations mean little in pure mathematics, unlike, say, in social sciences, where the name of the game is to cite (to bolster the seeming importance of your own paper) and be cited (to get to be a Big Name).

    There actually has to be someone doing follow-on work quite soon for Goins’s citation score to be higher. That is often not the case with pure math research. I don’t know for sure, but that most cited paper is likely a survey paper, or it is truly of exceptional quality.

    PiltdownUncle1 was a mathematician who published extensively in algebraic geometry and topology in the 1920s and 1930s. He was well regarded by his department peers, but to other mathematicians, he was merely an everyday academic mathematician (lofty heights though those are, for the rest of us to achieve.)

    His papers suddenly started seeing an uptick in citations in the 1990s, according to PiltdownCousin1, who was casually looking up his dad’s scores one day. Were he alive today (at age 115!), he’d likely be held in far greater esteem in his field.

    My guess is that Goins is simply a decent journeyman academic mathematician, but nothing special. Judging by his interests and age, his most productive years have been over for a while, which is usually the case for mathematicians past their early 30s. So he’s diverting himself with other activities.

    • Replies: @utu
  95. @Massimo Heitor

    There was a change in American culture in the 1970s that made workplace kvetching more public. Donald Trump is a product of that change. The Los Angeles Dodgers had strict rules about keeping hidden locker room resentments, but George Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees complained endlessly in the tabloids about each other. It was a social revolution.

    Around that time you started hearing radio comedian disc jockeys like Steve Dahl do long monologues about how he hates management.

  96. @Hail

    He died in 2008.

    In Vlorp, of all places. Which means he ended life as a Limburger.

    Which smells worse, the cheese, or the Ganges?

  97. One thing I haven’t read in the comments yet has to do with the personalities of mathematics professors and students – all the ones I’ve met, at least: These people are the definition of geeky. They walk around with their heads in the clouds trying to picture sets, game theory, and 4th-order tensors and shit. Most will not say “hey” to you without your waving your arm right in front of their faces.

    They care about this stuff deeply (which is admirable, to me). They usually don’t care about whether their shoelaces are tied, whether they have their shirts on backwards, or forgot to shave for a week and a half. They especially don’t care, and don’t want to care, about the politics going on around them, such as this guy seems to. Can he be a real, serious mathematician if he worried about what people think of him?

    I won’t get too specific for fear of doxxing him, but I once knew a black guy who was a tenured professor at a high-ranked mathematics department.

    He was kind of skinny and grizzled, and paid little attention to his hair and clothing. He would say that he was sometimes stopped by the cops when he’d walk home after 1 am, lost in thought, to his apartment from his department office. He did his work best after dinner.

    He was detained in the precinct house a couple of times when his answers were not satisfactory, but my friend was gentle and genial, and didn’t seem to mind at all. One one of those two occasions, he said, he had a conceptual breakthrough in his cell, in the wee hours of the morning, on a paper he had been working on for months.

  98. @Anon

    Sowell has been talking about mismatch since the 1980s if not 1970s (or maybe even the late 1960s).

  99. utu says:
    @PiltdownMan

    I know that in math h-index is lower than in social sciences or medicine but h-index=6 is is low anywhere including mathematics. I checked h-index of four of his former colleagues at Purdue Math Dept, and it was over 20. One of the Black professors there had it around 14 while the other one I could not locate via the google scholar.

    • Replies: @PiltdownMan
  100. @Oddsbodkins

    Caltech practices gender affirmative action in favor of females and ethnic affirmative action for Hispanics, but there is no indication that Caltech has practiced racial affirmative action for blacks since the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, which bans affirmative action in public California universities. Yes, Caltech is private, but it would have glaring for Caltech to have a higher percentage of black students coupled with a lower graduation rate than say UCLA or UC Berkeley, which would have happened if Caltech continued to practice affirmative action. (The black enrollment at UCLA and UC Berkeley is 2-3%.)

    Caltech is 1% black and has been for years. The latest 6-year graduation rates by race:

    American Indian/Alaska Native 100%
    Black 100%
    Asian 93%
    White 93%
    Two or more races 86%
    Non-resident alien/International 82%
    Hispanic 77%

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=caltech&s=all&id=110404#retgrad

  101. utu says:
    @Achmed E. Newman

    Real math people aren’t people people and don’t want to be people people.

    Not true. Perhaps there is more with schizoid personality or personality disorder like Paul Erdős but many are fun loving like John von Neumann or Richard Feynman. This behavior is mosty cultural. In old times respectable professor at university could not afford to appear as a wacko particularly at universities of Europe. It was unbecoming for a Herr Professor. The absentmindedness and strange behaviors often is a self-indulgent pose like that of poets. Feynman pranks and antics were carefully prepared and engineered. Murray Gell-Mann saw though and had enough of it. Check the correspondence of the allegedly absentminded ones when they were negotiating lecture contracts.

    • Replies: @Peter Johnson
  102. @Jack D

    Caltech is 1% black and Harvard does not claim to have color-blind admissions.

    Caltech practiced affirmative action for blacks in the 1970s and 1980s and to the best of my knowledge, this came to an end after the passage of Prop 209 in 1996, which banned affirmative action in public California universities. As a private university, Caltech is free to employ affirmative action, which it still does with women and Hispanics, but it does not with blacks. Blacks are 1% of Caltech’s undergraduate enrollment and Caltech blacks have a 100% graduation rate.

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=caltech&s=all&id=110404#retgrad

    The SSP (Student Support Program) was created to tutor incoming underrepresented minorities. In the 1970s, students who attended SSP had a 58% graduation rate, those who did not had a 17% graduation rate.

    As there were no Native American students and only a handful of Hispanic, there were almost ten new black students enrolling every year during the early half of the 1970’s.

    At Caltech during the 1970’s, there was a general “agreement” on behalf of the institute to recruit
    minority students based on academic promise, rather that SAT scores. There were several students from inner city Los Angeles public high schools, such as Crenshaw, Jefferson, and Washington. … However, during Thornton’s final years at Caltech, he saw a definite change to recruit blacks from private high schools and secondary schools where there were few black students.

    http://www.math.purdue.edu/~egoins/notes/caltechs_minorities.pdf

    The 10 black students in his incoming class were the largest group Caltech had ever enrolled, he learned when he wrote a paper on the little-known history of being black at Caltech for a summer research project. Only three of the others graduated with him four years later.

    No. In February 2018, Edray Goins had an American Mathematical Society article published where he stated that the Caltech’s freshmen class of 1989-1990 had 14 blacks out of nearly 180 students. Goins entered Caltech in the fall of 1990. Although he only graduated with three other blacks Spring 1994, some of the other blacks may have graduated within six years of entering Caltech in Fall 1994 or 1995 or 1996 — they did not all necessarily drop out.

    I graduated from a predominantly African American high school in Los Angeles in 1990. Yet fifteen miles away in Pasadena there were only 14 Black students in Caltech’s freshman class of nearly 180 students.

    http://www.ams.org/journals/notices/201802/rnoti-p144.pdf

  103. @utu

    I checked h-index of four of his former colleagues at Purdue Math Dept, and it was over 20. One of the Black professors there had it around 14…

    Thanks for digging deeper. That’s useful to know.

  104. The comments by Steve are rather braying and tin-eared. Was Goins complaining somewhere that he was underpaid and could get a lot more on Wall Street? Believe it or not, plenty of able people have no desire to work the harsh hours or endure the brutal work environment of places like Goldman Sachs. They like imparting knowledge and working on problems which interest them and having the autonomy to structure their working week as they see fit i.e. having a professional life in academia. In elite universities, undergrads are usually seen as an unwelcome distraction from research and helping them is work palmed off to TAs while the professors work on their next paper or jet off to their next conference. If his real passion was motivating more talented black students to see academia as something they could pursue, good for him and it is good to see him in a college that fits him better. The tone of Steve’s response is bizarre given how he often expresses he wishes Jews would show more noblesse oblige and not just chase money/promote Israel.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  105. utu says:

    From the original Hirsh’s paper on h-index:

    https://www.pnas.org/content/102/46/16569

    “h ≈ 12 might be a typical value for advancement to tenure (associate professor)” and “h ≈ 18 might be a typical value for advancement to full professor.”

    I do not think in mathematics it would be significantly different, so the tenure and full professorship with h=6 for Edray Goins is inexplicable.

  106. This article will make it convenient for future historians to learn about both the failure of affirmative action and America’s insane media environment with only one reading. The absolute refusal to consider the obvious is beyond parody.

    Surprisingly few Jews at Purdue. Maybe the top Jewish mathematicians are concentrated in a few departments?

    I just hope our future Chinese overlords run this country better than the current Jewish ones have

  107. The most important paragraph, in the standard narrative styling of the (new) New York Times, is hidden near the end:

    “Dr. Goins’s colleagues at Purdue said his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio in light of his extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students.”

    Stated more clearly, he was an affirmative-action hire and promotion candidate who did not deserve either. I do not know the field and cannot judge it myself, but the article hints that his dissertation was an unpublished failed attempt (which is not uncommon) and he did not publish sufficiently influential and important work to get a job at Purdue or be promoted on merit.

    “sparse research portfolio” = clearly would not have been hired or promoted except for being black.

    I am not claiming that I can judge these publications myself, but that is the cryptic message near the end of the article.

  108. @utu

    Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann were physicists, not mathematicians. The stereotypical physicist is quite different from the stereotypical mathematician.

    I grant you John von Neumann as an exception; he was a mathematician with quite a people-oriented personality. But John von Neumann was not typical of the type of person who becomes a noted research mathematician IMHO. Of course there are all types in the field so the stereotypes are not completely valid.

    • Replies: @utu
  109. El Dato says:
    @Honesthughgrant

    You are sitting in front of a machine that is based on Higher Level Math, both at the physical/implementation level (from “how do transistors work” to “how do we route the connections on the motherboard” to “how do I best encode information on the radio channel”) to lots of very clever algorithms in the software (both the software to create software to create software and the one running just now in front of you).

    Regularly read Quanta Magazine to get a good idea of what math is about.

    Or grab any of the math-oriented blogs. I would love to have had those back in high school.

    Or start here at the American Mathematical Society:

    https://www.ams.org/profession/career-info/math-work/math-work

    My take is that mathematicians are studying “machines” that do not and often cannot physically exist (they just exist in the mind) with often unexpected applications and fertilizations of other fields. It’s magic!

    Here is an example of Very Abstract Math that used to be dismissed by mathematicians unrelated to the field as “abstract nonsense” (infighting and rank nastiness in mathematics is not an unheard phenomenon) which eventually turned out be be a powerful thought-organizing principle in many areas: Category Theory.

    https://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/1808/lecture-2-what-is-applied-category-theory#Head

  110. El Dato says:

    I would love to get the story from someone other than the Amy Harmon / NYT dual-headed diversity attack zombie.

    It was not an overt incident of racism that prompted Edray Goins, an African-American mathematician in the prime of his career, to abandon his tenured position on the faculty of a major research university last year.

    The hostilities he perceived were subtle, the signs of disrespect unspoken.

    “A cosmic horror story by H.P. Lovecraft.”

    Seriously, this is shit.

  111. bomag says:
    @Anonymous

    LOL

    I tend towards a more serious view of math. I believe Gromov once answered, “math explains the universe.”

  112. El Dato says:

    OT:

    There is some kind of movie/reality-TV project called “DAU”

    https://www.dau.com/about

    where people recreated a Soviet Research Institute for a few years in Kharkov:

    Starting in 2009, several hundred people abandoned their normal lives for three years – travelling back in time to the Soviet Union to live and work at the Institute and subject themselves to its demands. They came from many backgrounds – street-cleaners, global artists, philosophers, bar-workers, Nobel Prize winners, state agents, scientific, spiritual and political figures cut themselves off from their societies and lived and worked together. They created a new and self-contained world that worked to its own strict rules, and it became their daily reality.

    and recorded:

    DAU has been built on that foundation – from the 700 hours of film, 2.5 million images, 40000 items of clothing, 8000 hours of sound and 4000 documents that is the Institute’s legacy. DAU has been assembled from that raw material – a cycle of feature films, with more still to be released, a TV series, as well as a physical and spiritual space for re-creating the experience of the Institute and its stories in another purpose built large-scale environment.

    Guest appearances:

    https://www.dau.com/participants

    This is apparently named after Lev Landau

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Landau

    It piques my interest.

  113. bomag says:
    @Jack D

    Given the importance of SCOTUS, I’m thinking that the public should expect some level of vigor from those in the office.

    Recall Donald Sterling, roughly the same age as Ginsberg, called into court to defend his mental and physical capability to own a basketball team after uttering some politically incorrect remarks in private. If we are to demand certain health requirements to own a professional sports team, I would think the same would apply to important public positions.

  114. @Honesthughgrant

    Honesthughgrant wrote:

    Can someone explain what mathematicians do? I understand physics, chemistry, and biology. But like 99% of Americans I’ve never seen a single instance where “Higher level math” has been useful for anything.

    I’m a Ph.D. physicist turned engineer: I have actually used “higher-level math” for various practical purposes: improving integrated circuits used to digitize video (my and my colleagues’ work earned us a “Technical Emmy” from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences), producing systems to protect digital data on hard-drives and satellite-communication systems, etc. The “higher math” I used included Galois-field theory, Schwarz-Christoffel transformations, etc.

    That’s the good news. The bad news is that the “pure math” I used is basically nineteenth-century math (I’ve used some twentieth-century “applied math,” such as “conjugate-gradient” techniques).

    This is not because I am too dumb or outdated to know twentieth-century math. There is a huge problem in twentieth-century math going back to the 1940s: a flight into extreme abstraction and generality that even a lot of mathematicians agree to have been counter-productive.

    Miles Reid, a well-known British mathematician, has summed up the situation in his own specialty of algebraic geometry (see pp. 122-123)

    [MORE]

    [M]any people who had devoted a large part of their lives to mastering Weil foundations suffered rejection and humiliation, and to my knowledge only one or two have adapted to the new language; a whole generation of students (mainly French) got themselves brainwashed into the foolish belief that a problem that can’t be dressed up in high powered abstract formalism is unworthy of study, and were thus excluded from the mathematician’s natural development of starting with a small problem he or she can handle and exploring outwards from there. (I actually know of a thesis on the arithmetic of cubic surfaces that was initially not considered because ‘the natural context for the construction is over a general locally Noetherian ringed topos’. This is not a joke.)….

    The fashion has since swung the other way. At a recent conference in France I commented on the change in attitude, and got back the sarcastic answer ‘but the twisted cubic is a very good example of a prorepresentable functor’. I understand that some of the mathematicians now involved in administering French research money are individuals who suffered during this period of intellectual terrorism…

    The point of the jargon in this quote from Reid is not that he is trying to intimidate all of you who are non-mathematicians: Reid’s point is rather that the jargon is completely unnecessary in this context and that the jargon is too often being used to intimidate those (including other mathematicians) who do not know this specific jargon.

    I blame a number of Emmy Noether’s students who took too seriously her program of giving a solid axiomatic foundation to turn-of-the-twentieth-century mathematics: they insisted on teaching as introductory material what Noether viewed as highly advanced, upper-level material. A fellow physicist with whom I’ve discussed the issue claims the blame goes to the famous French “Bourbaki” group.

    In any case, the result has been pedagogically disastrous, making “high-level math” as it is now conceived nearly unteachable. Even straightforward eighteenth and nineteenth-century math (e.g.,, Bezout’s theorem, the “primitive-element” theorem, or Hilbert’s Nullstellensatz) is now presented in a manner that is much more difficult than the older expositions.

    Frankly, I think a good chunk of the work in twentieth-century math will simply disappear, as younger mathematicians return to thinking about math in a way that humans can actually understand.

    Alas, in the last several decades, physics has started moving in the same direction (but without the rigor of the mathematicians) in areas such as superstring theory, the “landscape,” etc.

    All is not well in the pure STEM subjects. The one ray of hope is that the young people are getting very restless.

    • Agree: utu
    • Replies: @PiltdownMan
    , @Jack D
    , @utu
  115. tyrone says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    disrespected ?…but got full professorship….don’t add up……I guess nobody told the 27 WTs it was their job to kiss his black ass.

  116. @PhysicistDave

    A fellow physicist with whom I’ve discussed the issue claims the blame goes to the famous French “Bourbaki” group.

    Bingo.

    Textbooks by “Bourbaki” were beginning to catch on when I was a math major in the mid to late 1970s, as a kind of gold standard.

    Today, formalism and an insistence on axiomatic approaches, even in pedagogy, have made mathematical instruction unappealing to many undergraduates who might otherwise take to it. The problem is worse for those who are not math majors, but students who require huge helpings of math in their chosen disciplines. In physics, engineering and latter-day undergraduate economics.

    I’m not closely in touch, except through my children and those of my siblings in college, but the way calculus is taught these days, a symbol and proof ridden mish-mash of real analysis and standalone applied problems, is designed to defeat a natural understanding of the subject from the viewpoint of applications and facility with the applied math.

    No physics or engineering major, nor a student studying economics really needs to approach calculus through the formalism of analysis or spend much time on grasping notions and strange constructs such as Weirstrass functions that are everywhere continuous but nowhere differentiable. They do, however, need to pick up quick facility with things like Bessel functions or Fourier transforms or second order differential equations.

    I have in my bookshelf a college level calculus textbook from the 1960s, and another on loan from my niece, from about 5 years ago. The new textbooks has pages and pages of arcane, meandering proofs and topics. The old one can be used as a working reference book by any engineer or physics student who wants to brush up or look up a method or a concept, regardless of whether or not it is available in some canned fashion in an application.

    • Replies: @International Jew
  117. anonymous[205] • Disclaimer says:
    @Honesthughgrant

    ‘I’ve never seen a single instance where “Higher level math” has been useful for anything’

    calculus?

    or does that not count?

  118. bomag says:
    @Anonymous

    Accurate assessment, but I’ve never known too many AA recipients to fret over having too high a station; they just chalk up their shortcomings to racism and happily let others suffer/fix the problems.

  119. “Dr. Goins’s colleagues at Purdue said his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio”

    Publish or perish. He didn’t publish, he perished.

    • Replies: @Criticas
  120. Ganderson says:

    I’ve read through this whole thread- not one “12 Monkeys” reference?

  121. @Anonymous

    I haven’t noticed that professional blacks suffer from diminished self image in the slightest.

  122. @Jack D

    > The woman may not be in the greatest of health, but she ain’t dead.

    Death watch of one of, effectively, one of our sovereigns. Just a reminder of how far removed we are from our republican origins.

    In a republic she would–if appointed–have been promoted to do a short term on the high court and then gone back to whereever. And no one would have–or should have–cared, because the court would be deciding nothing of great consequence just ruling on the law as written. Perhaps occasionally in so doing pointing out area Congress would want to address\clarify.

    Also shows the stultification of our political system. Inability to address an obviously broken system with some simple reforms. In fact, for reform to even be on the anyone’s agenda.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @Art Deco
  123. There seems to be a new push by the media to make sure that everybody knows that it was black women mathematicians who invented GPS, the computer, and got us to the Moon.

  124. @Mitchell Porter

    At the very least, I take exception to the presumption that he made a “bad career choice”.

    You could say he made a fantastic career choice, given how outrageously successful he is. He’s a tenured professor at a prestigious school!! What else can he possibly want?

    Or, you could say he made a bad career choice given how bitter, angry, and resentful he is according to this NYT write up.

  125. Jack D says:
    @AnotherDad

    Supreme Court justices were appointed for life (and served in some cases well into old age) from the first days of the Republic, so nothing has changed there. And from the very beginning, the Supreme Court was one of the three main pillars of our constitutional system, so that hasn’t changed either.

    So I don’t know what republic you are talking about, because in the American Republic it has always been that way.

    The problem with “reforms” is that the impetus for them tends to be situational – people look only at what is going on at the moment and propose “reforms” that would help their side out in the short run. Would you feel the same about age limits on the court if we were talking about Clarence Thomas?

    • Replies: @bomag
  126. Jack D says:
    @Ali Choudhury

    If all that was going on was a desire of a professor (perhaps one who realized that he was never going to make a big theoretical contribution to math anyway) to devote himself to teaching, this would have been a non-story.

    But in Goins’s view (perhaps hyped up even further by the Times reporter), Goins was the victim of white racism, of subtle microaggressions. Goins had good reason to doubt his own bona fides – his big attempt to prove an important conjecture had ended in failure. His promotion to full professor was more a result of his “extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students” than with his lackluster research. He seems to spend a lot of his time now writing about black in math rather than DOING math. Let’s be honest – if he was white or Asian, he wouldn’t have gotten the job. As praiseworthy as undergrad teaching is, it’s not the path to tenure at a research university. But, when the time came to look in the mirror and assess blame, it turned out that it was the white people’s fault and not the result of his own shortcomings as a mathematician. This is a natural human tendency , noted as far back as Jesus’s time (look not for the mote in your neighbor’s eye but for the beam in your own). But Steve was right to call him out on his unwarranted claims of racism. All objective evidence points to the opposite – Goins has not been the victim of racism, not even subtle microracism. In fact quite the opposite – people would LOVE for a black man to succeed at the highest level of mathematics. But his cognitive dissonance causes him to see himself as a victim.

  127. Dutch Boy says:

    Pomona College = beautiful campus, smart kids, ultra PC

  128. Anonymous[201] • Disclaimer says:

    “That’s kind of like a popular but not intensely talented golf pro giving up the struggle to win on the PGA Tour to become the teaching pro at Riviera.”

    I had the same reaction– guy “gave up” his cushy tenured gig at Purdue for a cushy gig at Pomona College? OH THE HUMANITY.

    Goins is privileged AF. On top of that, he understands rarified academic subjects. Yet I’m supposed to feel sorry for him? I notice this sympathy-for-the-overdog ploy a lot from the NY Times. Another blog I read had a Chesterton quotation today, (paraphrase) “The advanced people are always talking about things as problems but they have hardly any notion of what a real problem is.”

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  129. @Anon7

    Where’s the NYT articles about that? suspiciously absent. In fact, the Asian invasion of all STEM fields over the last 45 years goes all but unmentioned in editorials about equality and racism. I’d guess that most of the rude comments that the black math professor heard in his career were made by Asian dudes who aren’t up to speed on how to keep one’s mouth shut.

  130. Anonymous[201] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous

    P.S.
    Whatever % of Times readers would be impressed by Goins’s so-called tragic career sacrifice, the status-obsessed Harmon herself surely knows it has a more felicitous interpretation–another tell for an inveterately dishonest journalist.

  131. Jack D says:
    @PhysicistDave

    It’s a natural human tendency in any intellectual field to substitute arcane jargon for clearheaded thinking, to get caught up in intellectual fads and fashions and to go off on increasingly rococo and self-referential tangents that lead nowhere. In the social “sciences” the problem is even worse (and in the applied sciences the need to produce real world results acts as a brake), with “pure” math being somewhere in the middle. This phenomenon is seen (and has been seen) in all intellectual fields in all cultures for so long as humans have engaged in intellectual pursuits. I assume that it is due to some flaw in our “software”. Human programming is full of such flaws – it’s just a bunch of spaghetti code with bugs galore and insufficient error checking. Ideally we are aware of these flaws and actively resist them and try to work around them, but it’s very easy to slip back into our natural tendencies and resistance requires hard work every day.

    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
    , @res
  132. utu says:
    @PhysicistDave

    “in the last several decades, physics has started moving in the same direction (but without the rigor of the mathematicians) in areas such as superstring theory, the “landscape,” etc.”

    One could argue that if they had rigor and formalism of Bourbaki school behind them they could recognize sooner when they are running in circles. Unfortunately some fields like Clifford algebras are dominated by physicists so the physicists are left without supervision of mathematicians.

    • Replies: @PhysicistDave
  133. @Jack D

    It’s a natural human tendency in any intellectual field to substitute arcane jargon for clearheaded thinking…

    The worst jargon is in government where 3 words replace a suitable one word description. The local nimrods have a program where you can rent electric “shared mobility devices”, er, I mean scooters.

  134. res says:
    @Unladen Swallow

    Here is a good comment on this: http://www.unz.com/isteve/the-price-of-mismatch/#comment-2247133

    Link to a 1974 Sowell article: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20024211?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    Libgen has it with DOI 10.2307/20024211

    From the first page:

    The problem is not one of absolute ability level, but rather of widespread mismatching of individuals with institutions.

  135. res says:
    @Jack D

    I think this phenomenon typically occurs when real progress has stagnated. And becomes most apparent when there is no objective measure of progress.

  136. bomag says:
    @Jack D

    The general complaint here is that the courts have morphed into a political entity; we expect our political leaders to stand for election on occasion. The lifetime appointment has made the court a de facto monarchy.

    But maybe that’s okay.

  137. @Jus’ Sayin’…

    > after checking out Professor Goins creds on the Internet, I’ve decided he’s a pretty good mathematician, even by academic standards. Algebraic geometry and number theory are not easy branch of mathematics to master.

    Whats your point, that type of subject matter could be found in the curricula of any undergraduate math major, and any math professor anywhere could list a couple of impressive sounding fields of mathematics as their focus, they are not going to list “basic addition and subtraction”. So your point says nothing other than that he was a mathematician, meaning he has studied/mastered complex mathematical subject matter with impressive sounding names, which anyone with a BA or PhD in math does, or any scientific field for that matter.

  138. @PiltdownMan

    I really don’t know what you’re talking about. At UC Berkeley, the math sequence that the best engineering freshmen take (Math 53&54) is pretty cookbook-recipe style. The first exposure to a serious proof-oriented course is Math 104, which is mostly math majors in their junior year.

    You’d have to go up from Berkeley to the highest tier — Harvard, MIT, Princeton — to find more than a handful of freshmen taking the kind of course you’ve described. (For example Harvard’s Math 25 or 50.)

    Go down a tier from Berkeley and you’re in places where there’s not a single undergraduate math course like that.

  139. JackOH says:

    Thanks to all, especially the Ph. Ds and profs who’ve commented here. I’m a non-academic.

    I’m an observer of my local less selective state university, which has been dubbed an “urban research university” by our bullshit board of regents, but is in reality a blue-collar teaching university.

    From what I’ve gathered, the up side of the academician’s life is genuine, confirmable “discover-ship” at the furthest end of one’s academic specialty. Plus, there’s mentorship of the brighter students.

    The down side of the academician’s life is, again, as I see it, is a catty, bitchy work environment that’s exasperating. Plus, there’s “anti-discover-ship”, implicit or explicit directives to cease lines of inquiry for one reason or another. Plus, some institutions act as cover for patronage and kickback hiring in non-academic departments, weakening institutional credibility.

    Somebody correct me if my judgment is mistaken.

    • Agree: Nicholas Stix
  140. seems about accurate. my rule of thumb is less than 1% african for this stuff. numbers right on the money according to this estimate. 12 guys out of 2000. how many directly from africa? probably most of them.

    again i ask the question – how much less intelligent were the africans who made the journey across the atlantic, versus the africans who avoided becoming property? i posit at minimum a 5 performance point difference on intelligence tests.

  141. @utu

    utu wrote to me:

    One could argue that if [physicists] had rigor and formalism of Bourbaki school behind them they could recognize sooner when they are running in circles.

    Well, traditionally, what “kept us honest” in physics was new experimental data.

    Part of the problem is that the accepted theory in fundamental physics (the so-called “Standard Model”) works so well that we really do not have any experimental data at all that is inconsistent with existing theory. So, when we attempt to look beyond our current theory, we have no real guidance from experiment.

    I don’t think Bourbakist levels of rigor are really necessary, but, yes, I have indeed seen cases where physicists’ disdain for math reaches the level of simply being wrong.

    By the way, I am not arguing against rigor and generality in math. On the other hand, when introducing students to a subject, I agree with Miles Reid that one should focus on examples that students can actually grasp without immediately diving in to the most general, abstract characterization of the field. We have, after all, always taught how to differentiate polynomials and the elementary transcendental functions before we teach about continuous but nowhere differentiable functions!

    Yet, it can be hard nowadays to find an elementary yet rigorous proof of the theorems I mentioned earlier: the Nullstellensatz, Bezout’s theorem, or the primitive element theorem. These theorems can be stated in elementary terms, and rigorous proofs can be formulated in elementary terms, yet modern texts tend to sacrifice such elementary proofs in favor of a level of abstraction and generality that is just incomprehensible for students.. The idea is that the highly abstract and general approach will eventually pay off in later studies, but if the beginning student is simply unable to grasp what is going on at all, it becomes rather pointless.

    (For anyone familiar with the relevant math, I am talking about the kinds of arguments that refer to the “local ring” or chains of ideals or chains of intermediate fields, instead of just focusing on actual calculations that can be done with polynomials and linear algebra — e.g., by using the resultant. There are constructive and rigorous proofs of all three of these theorems that can be visualized by anyone with decent mathematical intuition, but it is hard to find these elementary proofs in introductory textbooks on the subjects. I’m thinking about writing up these proofs myself and posting them on the Web, for the “good of mankind,” so to speak. But this is really what mathematicians are paid to do.)

    • Agree: utu
    • Replies: @utu
  142. Not sure I’ve seen it mentioned before on this blog, but the link is a promotional film for the Claremont Colleges narrated by Ronald Reagan and contrasting the benefits of education with European street rioting. If the area is nice now it must have been amazing in the early 1960s.

  143. Art Deco says:
    @Jack D

    A surgeon I correspond with in fora like this said that he had never in his career encountered the simultaneous appearance of two tumors in a case of primary lung cancer. Instances of multiple tumors in the lung are “99% metastatic”. IOW, she’s on borrowed time.

    Recall that Wm. Rehnquist was in October 2004 diagnosed with an unusual subtype of thyroid cancer which is invariably fatal and usually so within a matter of months. (Ordinary thyroid cancer is seldom fatal). He died in office 11 months later, never publicly acknowledging his condition

    • Replies: @Jack D
  144. Art Deco says:

    The guy’s real problem is that he’s an anxious creature with the soul of Madame deFarge, and there is nothing anyone can do about that. He doesn’t get honest feedback about that and (one might wager) couldn’t make constructive use of the feedback he did get.

    People indubitably publish at a slower clip at Pomona, and that may be and agreeable reduction in the menu of items which make him feel inadequate. Or not. Pomona may discover that they’ve hired a malignancy they won’t get rid of for 20 years.

  145. Jack D says:
    @Art Deco

    He hasn’t examined her, he hasn’t seen her chart or x-rays, all he has to go by is publicly available information. Maybe he’s right but I really wouldn’t bet on it.

    • Replies: @Art Deco
    , @res
  146. utu says:
    @PhysicistDave

    I agree with your comment. However the following

    These theorems can be stated in elementary terms, and rigorous proofs can be formulated in elementary terms, yet modern texts tend to sacrifice such elementary proofs in favor of a level of abstraction and generality that is just incomprehensible for students.

    is not always the case. There are cases when theorems are easier to prove in non-elementary terms. For example the fundamental theorem of algebra by elementary methods is extremely hard and messy to prove. Even Gauss’s proof is incomplete But in the complex analysis using the property of holomorphic functions from Liouville’s theorem the proof is trivial.

    • Replies: @PhysicistDave
  147. utu says:
    @Peter Johnson

    Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann were physicists, not mathematicians. The stereotypical physicist is quite different from the stereotypical mathematician.

    Yes, they were physicists but not stereotypical.

  148. @utu

    utu wrote to me:

    There are cases when theorems are easier to prove in non-elementary terms. For example the fundamental theorem of algebra by elementary methods is extremely hard and messy to prove. Even Gauss’s proof is incomplete But in the complex analysis using the property of holomorphic functions from Liouville’s theorem the proof is trivial.

    I’ve actually gone through in detail Gauss’s proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra where he converts it to a polynomial of odd order over the reals that must have a root by continuity (that assumption is, I think, pretty innocuous). As Samuel Johnson said in a different context, it was “like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

    Gauss made no mistakes, at least as far as I can tell, but, yes, it was a (rather ingenious) nightmare. Indeed, the right way to prove the fundamental theorem of algebra is complex analysis (hence the quip that the “fundamental theorem of algebra” is not a theorem of algebra).

    Furthermore, in support of your point, there are also many times when converting a problem into a vector-space context is the best way to understand it, e.g., in dealing with field extensions.

    But, both vector spaces and the elements of complex analysis have been for many decades standard subjects for hard STEM majors (physics, electrical engineering, etc.). I think it’s when you get into math beyond that taught to general STEM majors that math professors too often have thought that they have a captive audience of math majors only and can therefore go hog-wild with the abstraction and unneeded generality.

    That may be changing though as some of the younger professors rebel against their own experiences as students.

    I will say also that both my own experience decades ago and my kids’ current experience is that too many math courses, even at the lower university level that STEM majors in general have to take (calculus, diff equs, etc.), is taught in a manner that is unnecessarily detached from any intuition. I remember, for example, that when we covered determinants, we were given a list of properties that determinants ought to have, and then it was proved that a function satisfying theses properties existed and was unique. I see why that seemed cool to the professor, but it would have been better for us students to have been given the explicit statement of how to calculate the determinant and then presented with the proofs of the properties that the determinant does indeed have.

  149. Art Deco says:
    @Jack D

    Maybe he’s right but I really wouldn’t bet on it.

    You wouldn’t and you’d lose.

  150. Art Deco says:
    @Thirdtwin

    I don’t know what they’d do if there was no Doctorate in Education…oh, wait…

    About 17% of the doctorates awarded blacks are Ed.D degrees. The distribution among fields of study is as follows:

    35% Health professions (predominantly professional; MD, DO, DPT, PharmD, &c)
    23% Law (entirely professional)
    17% Education (some professional, some research, after a fashion)
    5% Business (research, I believe).
    4.6% Psychology (some professional, some research)
    2.6% Theology (ditto)
    2% Biological sciences
    1.5% Engineering (research)
    1.5% Public administration and social services (guessing these are research degrees offered by social work faculties)
    1.1% Social sciences
    0.9% Physical sciences
    0.7% Computer and information sciences
    0.5% Multi-disciplinary
    0.5% Visual and performing arts (guessing research degrees & DMA)
    0.4% History
    0.4% English
    0.4% Family and consumer studies (guessing research degrees in nutrition)
    0.3% Agriculture and natural resources
    0.3% Ethnic studies / Area studies
    0.3% Mathematics
    0.3% Philosophy
    0.3% Security studies (guessing research degrees in public policy)
    0.2% Communications

    Blacks are most common among doctoral candidates in business schools (20% of the total), teacher’s colleges (19%), divinity schools and seminaries (19%), social services faculties (19%), security services faculties (19%), nutrition &c faculties (14%), areal and ethnic studies (14%), psychology (9.5%), and law schools (8.5%).

    • Replies: @res
  151. res says:
    @Art Deco

    Do you have similar numbers for whites (or other races)? I think the comparison would tell us a lot.

    I went looking and found this page: https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf19301/data
    The most relevant table appears to be
    22 Doctorate recipients, by subfield of study, citizenship status, ethnicity, and race: 2017
    https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf19301/assets/data/tables/sed17-sr-tab022.pdf

    Using the Excel version of Table 22 for US citizens and permanent residents I looked at the % of black and white doctorates by field relative to racial totals (what percentage of black doctorates are in field X, like Art Deco’s data)
    and % of black and white doctorates by field within race (what percentage of doctorates in field X went to blacks and whites).

    Overall, whites accounted for 69.5% of (citizen!) doctorates (about population proportion) with blacks at 6.7% (about half population proportion). The population proportions are probably a bit different if you correct for age.

    The racial balance of doctorates within each field and subfield was more balanced overall than I expected. Some of the outliers, in format: field or subfield, % of black doctorates, % of white doctorates, log base 2 of their ratio (a good easily interpretable measure of the discrepancy, it makes ratios symmetrical around 0 with each whole number a power of 2, so Ecology’s -4 = 1/16)

    Ecology 0.08% 1.30% -3.97
    Evolutionary biology 0.04% 0.56% -3.76
    Health sciences 9.92% 4.80% 1.05 (fairly large difference for an entire field, 2x)
    Health and behavior 0.75% 0.12% 2.58
    Public health 4.07% 0.76% 2.42
    Physical sciences and earth sciences 3.90% 11.35% -1.54 (again, an entire field)
    Mathematics and statistics 0.71% 2.68% -1.92
    Engineering 7.02% 11.33% -0.69 (entire field)
    Education 24.70% 10.68% 1.21 (entire field)
    Humanities and arts 6.14% 13.48% -1.13 (entire field)
    Other 10.21% 4.92% 1.05
    An interesting outlier in the other group (only negative sign):
    Architecture and environmental design 0.04% 0.18% -2.16

    Translating those numbers into the other metric I used is interesting, but harder to summarize. For a flavor, the numbers above translate to 1.7% of architecture doctorates going to blacks with 78% going to whites. I wonder how all of these numbers compare to the equivalent numbers for earlier stages in the pipeline?

    That’s just a selective overview. The analysis is very simple to reproduce for anyone able to create columns using a formula in Excel (or equivalent).

    P.S. It would be interesting to try to combine this with data for average M/V/S performance in each field and see how much is explained by average racial cognitive profiles.

  152. res says:
    @Jack D

    Maybe he’s right but I really wouldn’t bet on it.

    Jack, when you say that do you mean it literally, “I would not make an even money bet on it” or is it more along the lines of “you can’t be sure”? I tend to think Art Deco is correct in the former sense, but we will see.

    I like using betting terminology because money tends to focus people’s thoughts and odds allow a fairly nuanced look at perceived probabilities.

    Regarding “He hasn’t examined her” etc., see
    https://www.medpagetoday.com/publichealthpolicy/healthpolicy/77090

    “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent a pulmonary lobectomy today at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City,” the court said in a press release. “Two nodules in the lower lobe of her left lung were discovered incidentally during tests performed at George Washington University Hospital to diagnose and treat rib fractures sustained in a fall on November 7.”

    “According to the thoracic surgeon, Valerie Rusch, MD, both nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant on initial pathology evaluation,” the release continued. “Post-surgery, there was no evidence of any remaining disease. Scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. Currently, no further treatment is planned. Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days.”

    This is the 85-year-old Ginsburg’s third cancer diagnosis and her second “incidentaloma.”

    I think that is enough for a cancer doctor to make a better than even money assessment. Even if it is somewhat irresponsible in an ethical sense, as it also is in law, which I assume is why you reacted as you did.

  153. Gringo says:

    Frin the article:
    The ‘leaky pipeline’
    Black Americans receive about 7 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded each year across all disciplines, but they have received just 1 percent of those granted over the last decade in mathematics. Like many who see in that disparity a large pool of untapped talent, Dr. Goins has long been preoccupied with fixing what is known as the “leaky pipeline.”

    The 1% figure is actually above what one would predict from SAT data. It’s a pretty good bet that most of those going on to get Ph.Ds. in Math scored at least 750 on the Math SAT. Journal of Blacks in Higher Educastion: The Widening Racial Scoring Gap on the SAT College Admissions Test.

    If we raise the top-scoring threshold to students scoring 750 or above on both the math and verbal SAT — a level equal to the mean score of students entering the nation’s most selective colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, and CalTech — we find that in the entire country 244 blacks scored 750 or above on the math SAT and 363 black students scored 750 or above on the verbal portion of the test. Nationwide, 33,841 students scored at least 750 on the math test and 30,479 scored at least 750 on the verbal SAT. Therefore, black students made up 0.7 percent of the test takers who scored 750 or above on the math test and 1.2 percent of all test takers who scored 750 or above on the verbal section.

    As black students comprised 0.7% of those who scored 750 or above on the Math SAT, but 1% of those who got Ph.Ds. in Math, the pipeline is not leaky at all.

    A further point is that blacks who score above 750 on the Math SAT- or above 700 on the Math SAT- can readily find jobs that pay better than what a Math Ph.D. would get- and get that job a lot sooner, without spending 5-10 years as a grad student slave.

  154. fmg says:
    @Honesthughgrant

    What mathematicians do is figure stuff out, sometimes things that are very difficult to figure out. Once you start figuring things out, you come across more and more questions. In the best case, the questions and answers start to fit together into a coherent theory. As for usefulness, well someday you may need to make use of medical imaging, MRI or CAT scan; the image reconstruction in these devices is based on abstract mathematical theories. Or you may make use of an ATM; the communications with your bank are encrypted and the encryption scheme used is based on number theory, which is Professor Goin’s area of expertise.

  155. fmg says:

    This seems to be an ignorant commentary, perhaps intentionally so. Dr. Goin’s completion of a PhD in number theory, in particular in Galois representations, at Stanford is already a substantial accomplishment (which marks him as a better mathematician and perhaps a smarter and tougher person than anyone you know). He went on to have a slightly better than median career in research, among math PhD’s from elite universities. (Among my math PhD advisor’s 24 students at Berkeley, only 8 ever published more than 15 papers.) But he is not a leader in research. There is nothing alarming or shameful that he now finds teaching at an excellent small liberal arts college a better career choice and a better choice for a happy life. And there is nothing in his trajectory which suggests that other young people of any ethnicity should not follow a career in mathematics, which offers many rich possibilities other than being a professor at a top 50 research university.

    • Agree: Triumph104
  156. MEH 0910 says:

    Amy Harmon has written a follow-up piece:

  157. Criticas says:
    @AnonymousTwit

    Actually, he didn’t perish. There’s a pretty good career to be made in STEM if you’re a woman or the right (non-NAM) race. You don’t research hard science, you “mentor” or have a highly visible Director position.

    Purdue salaries are a matter of public record. FWIW, in 2017 Goins made $123K:

    Goins Edray WL – Mathematics Faculty $123,568.90. Not bad for a Math Professor who doesn’t math.

    his receipt of tenure and subsequent promotion to full professor signaled the university’s willingness to overlook a sparse research portfolio in light of his extraordinary work with undergraduates, as well as the summer programs he organized for minority students.

    Another example.

    Comparing the cost of living, Pomona/Riverside, CA is 30-40% more expensive than W. Lafayette, IN. Hope his offer included subsidized housing…

    • Replies: @fmg
    , @Triumph104
  158. fmg says:
    @Criticas

    “There’s a pretty good career to be made in STEM if you’re a woman or the right (non-NAM) race. You don’t research hard science, you “mentor” or have a highly visible Director position.”

    Feel free to evaluate women in mathematics after you have accomplished something like this:
    http://www.ams.org/journals/notices/201810/rnoti-p1221.pdf

    and about blacks in mathematics after you have accomplished something like this:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Blackwell

  159. @Criticas

    Comparing the cost of living, Pomona/Riverside, CA is 30-40% more expensive than W. Lafayette, IN. Hope his offer included subsidized housing…

    I am going by phone records and real estate listings, so I could be wrong, however, I think his housing was subsidized, just not by Pomona College. Goins was born and raised in Los Angeles. His mother sold her South Central Los Angeles home in the first part of 2018 and Goins purchased an inland home at the end of 2018 that is a 45 minute drive away from Pomona College. It seems that the two are living together. If the two of them pooled their money or his mother gave him the proceeds from the sale of her house in exchange for him taking care of her in her old age, Goins and his mother may be living in a mortgage-free home.

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