The new director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, Geoff Prince, has written an open letter to the Vice Chancellor and President of Victoria University, Elizabeth Harman, regarding the proposed severe cuts in the mathematics and statistics departments (from 8.5 FTE to 4.5 FTE) through targeted. (We posted about these cuts in a previous post.)
Concerted pressure of this type by the mathematical community can make a difference; strong protests over similar actions by the University of Southern Queensland resulted in a significant reduction in the staff cuts, and USQ afterwards hired several maths and stats faculty (including one who had they made redundant!) after they realised that the cuts that they did enact left them unable to fulfill their mathematical teaching obligations.
The letter is provided in full below the fold. (Reproduced with permission.)
Dear Professor Harman,
I am writing to you to express the deep concern of the Australian
Mathematical Sciences Institute at the planned reduction in your university’s
commitment to the mathematical sciences.
While strategic resourcing is a university matter, on this occasion the proposed
cuts in continuing mathematics positions appear to be unwarranted in their
severity, and the plans for mathematics and statistics teaching that accompany
them threaten the provision of tertiary mathematics education and the training
of secondary mathematics teachers in the western suburbs of Melbourne. These
changes effect the broader community, and AMSI feels compelled to respond.
Students at Victoria University deserve the dedication and encouragement of
continuing academic staff committed to improving mathematical outcomes for
students in the west. Undue reliance on casual staff will weaken the quality of the
university’s mathematical program. Academics also need the opportunity for
research. Without it your university will not be able to participate in any of the
exciting new developments that are occurring in the modern mathematical
sciences and its multidisciplinary applications, or to attract the best staff in
future. The decision to abandon support for the university’s Research Group in
Mathematical Inequalities and Applications particularly undermines
opportunities for research in these areas.
Of course your students, including those entering the teaching profession, need
exposure to these developments and that won’t happen unless Victoria
University commits to adequate continuing positions and research opportunities.
Victoria University is an inaugural member of AMSI and has benefited
AMSI’s involvement was key to the recent upward revision of the cluster funding
rate for mathematics and statistics by the Commonwealth Government and in
the significant reduction in HECS fees for mathematics and science students and
for those pursuing teacher training in these areas. AMSI provided Victoria
University with $70,000 for the installation of its Access Grid Room, a facility
which hardwires your university into the national mathematical sciences
teaching and research scene. AMSI has recently received funding from DEEWR
for a major schools project which has the potential to deliver more students
interested in mathematics to Victoria University.
The mathematical sciences in Australia are facing unprecedented challenges
which are widely recognized as being of national strategic importance. I have
attached a copy of “A National Strategy for Mathematical Sciences in Australia”
prepared by Prof. Hyam Rubinstein, Chair of the Australian Academy of Science’s
Committee for the Mathematical Sciences, in consultation with the Australian
Council of Heads of Mathematical Sciences. I hope that this document will help
convince you that Victoria University has a leadership role to play in the
provision of mathematical sciences courses to students in the western suburbs.
I urge you to re-‐engage with the university’s mathematicians to guarantee the
integrity of this fundamental discipline at Victoria University.
Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute
Commissioner Dianne Foggo
Associate Professor Michelle Towstoless
Professor Richard Thorn
The Hon Nicola Roxon MP
The Hon Marsha Thomson MP
The Hon Julia Gillard MP