Michelle Manes

Stand with Piper

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Michelle Manes
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Dr. Piper Harron is a mathematician studying topics in number theory, including equidistribution of the shapes of rings of integers in number fields. She did her undergraduate work at New York University, received her Ph.D. from Princeton University, and now works as a Temporary Assistant Professor (a postdoc) in the Mathematics Department at the University of Hawaii. She is a valued researcher, educator, mentor, committee member, and colleague in our department.

Since the publication of her remarkable thesis, Dr. Harron has also become a public figure and a major contributor to the dialog about under represented groups in academic mathematics. She blogs for the American Mathematical Society and maintains a personal blog as well. In these public forums, she speaks out against oppression, speaks truth to power, and asks each of us to examine our privilege. She writes beautiful and challenging pieces that reach a wide audience.

One of Piper's recent blog posts speaks about the systemic racism, sexism, and biases that have led to the under representation of women, people of color, and trans people in academic mathematics. Piper challenges those of us in positions of power (tenured faculty, on hiring committees, etc.) to work to improve the situation or, in her words, to "get out the way." In the piece, she says what she wants, what she wishes, what she would like. She does not (as has been reported) "demand" anything.

She is now being targeted by right wing groups like Campus Reform, a website built to strong-arm institutions into punishing faculty with whom they disagree. Campus Reform often targets academics at transition points in their careers (as Dr. Harron is, during her postdoctoral years). These are not haphazard attacks. Campus Reform is a spinoff from an organization started decades ago to grow the right-wing PR machine. They are funded by groups such as the Koch brothers. The parent organization for Campus Reform brought us Karl Rove and Grover Norquist, amongst others.

Because of the attention from Campus Reform and similar groups, Piper has received hateful and even threatening comments, both in the blog's comments sections and in her personal email. Because she expressed a wish, which was reported as a demand, there are calls for her to be fired. As Piper's colleagues, we cannot stand by without comment while this happens to her.

We believe in and support Dr. Harron's work on the American Mathematical Society inclusion / exclusion blog. We value her voice and her ability to comment on matters relating to politics and procedures in our department, at our University, in the broader mathematical community, and in academia more generally. We are grateful for her participation in these difficult conversations, which we regard as an important service to the community. We find Piper's words challenging and thought-provoking, not hateful or bigoted. Like Piper, we believe her that there is systematic oppression that has led to the under representation of people who look like Piper and the over representation of cis white men in our profession. We encourage everyone to read and think about Piper's words, rather than forming knee-jerk responses based on inflammatory headlines.

We stand with Piper.

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