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Flash Update from the Rochester Task Force of the AMS

March 28, 1996

The mathematics graduate program has been restored at Rochester!

We congratulate President Jackson and the mathematics department. We also now need to get the story out to the mathematics community, to university administrators, and to the public in a constructive way.

We applaud the Rochester plan to upgrade mathematics at Rochester at all levels.

Arthur Jaffe
Chair of the Rochester Task Force

I append the following Press Release from the University of Rochester:


ROCHESTER ENHANCING MATH PROGRAMS

The University of Rochester's mathematics department will implement a comprehensive proposal jointly developed by the administration and key faculty in the department, with input from leaders in other departments as well.

The mathematics faculty has agreed to a sweeping review of the courses it offers to undergraduates not majoring in mathematics, and of the department's linkages with the research specialties of faculty in other departments.

The department also will develop a new Ph.D. program in mathematics. Last November, the program was suspended and the projected faculty size was slated for a significant reduction.

The new proposal is enabled in part by resources provided by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, which will contribute through future joint appointments with mathematics.

President Thomas H. Jackson said that the new arrangement, crafted in discussions among key faculty in the math department, other departments (notably Physics and Astronomy), and the administration, meets both the financial and instructional quality goals outlined in the "Renaissance Plan" for the College, announced last November.

The five-year plan strengthens and refocuses core programs in arts, sciences, and engineering. With the entire array of undergraduate programs retained, the plan calls for a smaller, more selective student body, new investments in campus facilities and residential life, and a renewed dedication to the core principles of the goals of the College, as exemplified in the College's new curriculum.

"I am happy to say that the Renaissance Plan led to a series of unprecedented conversations between math faculty and the administration, and between math faculty and their colleagues in other departments," Jackson said. "That, in turn, led to the Department of Physics and Astronomy's offer to promote linkages by joint appointments, and a new dedication on the part of the mathematics faculty to strengthen undergraduate instruction and their ties to other departments, in concert with all of our other efforts."

"The mathematics department fully supports this plan," said Joseph Neisendorfer, department chair. "It provides both an opportunity and a challenge to the mathematics department. We are enthusiastic about the prospect of introducing some significant innovations which promise to diversify and enhance the undergraduate experience in mathematics. I am grateful that the administration has provided us with the opportunity to do this within the context of a graduate program of high quality."

"This is an important development for the University," added mathematics professor Douglas Ravenel. "I am glad to see it is renewing its commitment to mathematics, a subject lying at the heart of modern science. Excellence in math at all levels is a vital asset for any research university."

The new proposal includes the following key developments:

*Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy have agreed to two future joint appointments with the Department of Mathematics. This effectively provides funding for one additional position to the mathematics department, as well as promoting tangible linkages between these fields.

*Mathematics faculty have offered to develop a plan for a smaller, high quality Ph.D. program, which they could operate with a reduced number of faculty. (The Renaissance Plan had called for the number of tenure-track mathematics faculty to decline from 21 to 10, with the ultimate addition of four to five non-tenure track faculty to teach undergraduate mathematics courses for non-math majors. Under the new proposal, the mathematics departmental size would be set at an ultimate target of 15 tenure-track faculty members and there would be no hiring of non-tenure track faculty for instructional purposes.) The new Ph.D. program is to be planned out during the next six months and would be available to doctoral students in the fall of 1997.

*Mathematics faculty have agreed to form a committee to work with other departments on improving the teaching of undergraduate mathematics, especially calculus, for non-math majors.

*The mathematics department has elected a new chair, Douglas Ravenel, who is charged with implementing the instructional program and the renewed linkages with other departments.

"This is a solution that fully meets the goals of the Renaissance Plan -- the bottom line, as before, is that we will increase the quality of our programs within our overall budget targets -- and, obviously, it is a happier solution for the mathematics faculty," Jackson said. "It will add luster to our undergraduate program and work to enhance intellectual cooperation across disciplines while implementing a Ph.D. program of distinction. I am pleased that their active cooperation --and that of the Physics and Astronomy Department -- now enables us to move forward in this direction."

He said that Charles E. Phelps, University provost, and Richard N. Aslin, vice provost and dean of the College, have also endorsed the new proposal, as has the Executive Committee of the University's Board.


BackGround Information

In mid-November, 1995, the University of Rochester announced it would terminate its graduate program in mathematics and reduce the size of its mathematics faculty from 21 to 10. These actions were part of a plan to restructure the university in order to address its serious financial problems. Three other graduate programs at Rochester were suspended, and overall the faculty will be cut by 10%. Calculus is to be taught largely by nontenured adjuncts and by faculty from other departments.

In December, the AMS sent a fact-finding committee to Rochester to talk to members of the mathematics department, faculty in other departments, and administrators. What follows is the report of the committee, which includes an appendix containing a report by the Rochester mathematics department.

Dozens of mathematicians and prominent researchers in other areas of science have written to the university administration urging them to reconsider their plans for the mathematics department. A number of mathematics departments in other institutions have passed resolutions protesting Rochester's decision. President Cathleen Morawetz has appointed a high-level Task Force to study the situation and recommend further AMS actions.

(Managing Editor's Note: Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 were made available by scanning paper originals, and in some cases this introduced minor typographical errors. However, those errors do not compromise the accuracy of this reproduction of these documents and should not impair readers' ability to understand them.)


The University of Rochester Department of Mathematics Page.


Table of Contents


President Morawetz's Letters To Rochester Administration

November 27, 1995

Dr. Thomas Jackson, President
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627

Dear Dr. Jackson:

I write as President of the American Mathematical Society to let you know that the mathematics community has been alarmed by the precipitous change of direction with regard to the mathematics programs at your institution.

I have, therefore, formed an ad hoc committee of the Society consisting of Professor Ronald Douglas of SUNY-Stony Brook and Professor Salah Baouendi of the University of California-San Diego. Professor Douglas (rdouglas@sunysb.edu) is Chair of our Policy Committee on Education, and Professor Baouendi (sbaouendi@ucsd.edu) is Chair of our Policy Committee on the Profession.

It is my hope that they will be able to visit your mathematics department and make contact with your administration, in particular, with the Provost and the Dean of the college.

I hope that such a visit can reassure the mathematics community that extraordinary conditions have made it necessary for your university to take such drastic measures as were outlined in Dr. Aslinís report.

I am sure that the American Mathematical Society can provide help in this unusual situation.

Yours sincerely,

Cathleen Synge Morawetz

 CSM:sjr cc: Dr. Richard Aslin, Vice Provost and Dean     Professor M. Salah Baouendi     Professor Ronald Douglas     Professor Robert M. Fossum, AMS Secretary     Professor Joseph Neisendorfer, Chair-Dept. of Math.     Dr. Charles Phelps, Provost 

December 4, 1995

Dr. Thomas Jackson, President
University of Rochester
Administration 240
Rochester, NY 14627

Dear President Jackson:

I am very happy to hear that an ad hoc committee of the American Mathematical Society will, on December 6, be visiting the Provost and Dean as well as the Department of Mathematics at your University in connection with recent measures taken with your mathematics program.

We hope that this committee will also meet with you. I have added Morton Lowengrub to the AMS ad hoc committee. Mort is the former Chair of Mathematics at Indiana University and is presently Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and is also Chair of the AMS Task Force on Excellence in Mathematics Scholarship.

We would like in every way to be of assistance to the University of Rochester, which has such an excellent tradition and reputation, and to help it in its plans for the future.

Yours sincerely,

Cathleen Synge Morawetz

 CSM:sjr cc: Dr. Richard Aslin, Vice Provost and Dean   Professor M. Salah Baouendi   Professor Ronald Douglas   Professor Robert M. Fossum, AMS Secretary   Dean Morton Lowengrub   Professor Joseph Neisendorfer, Chair-Dept. of Math.   Dr. Charles Phelps, Provost 

Report of the Rochester Fact Finding Ad Hoc Committee Submitted to AMS President Cathleen Morawetz

December 11, 1995

The committee visited the University of Rochester (UR) on December 6, 1995. The committee met with Dr. Richard N. Aslin, Vice Provost and Dean of the College, for more than two hours. A second meeting took place with Dr. Thomas H. Jackson, President, and Dr. Charles E. Phelps, Provost. The committee also met with the Chair of the Mathematics Department, Professor Joseph A. Neisendorfer, as well as with a substantial number of the Mathematics faculty at UR. Finally, the committee met briefly with four other faculty members selected by the Mathematics Department: Professors Martin Feinberg (Chemical Engineering), Lionel Mckenzie (Economics), Sarada Rajeev (Physics), and Robert Waag (Electrical Engineering).

The committee was informed by the Administration that, in the face of severe financial problems, the University had decided to downsize its programs, and to focus more on undergraduate rather than on graduate education. UR hopes to reduce its deficit and, at the same time, increase the quality of its undergraduate students. UR will reduce its undergraduate student body by about 20%, to a total of 3,600. It will cut the size of its faculty by about 10% from its present total of 343 faculty members.

The committee was informed that, in deciding what graduate programs to downsize or suspend, the Administration did not rely on any external review. The Administration conducted an internal evaluation of the Ph.D. programs, and relied on the NRC poll and the U.S. News and World Report survey. The decision also was based on the appeal of UR research programs to undergraduate students and their parents. The Administration said that the faculty had been told about the financial situation for several years. It is the committee's understanding that the faculty were told at the start of the internal review process, at least a year ago, that the review would result in the suspension of some graduate programs and the downsizing of others.

Between June and August 1995, the Provost and the Dean met individually with 75 faculty members, three from each department. Each department was represented by its chair, a faculty member chosen by the chair, and another member elected by the faculty of that department. The representatives of the Mathematics Department were asked some questions about the strength of their programs and how to evaluate them. In particular, the Chair reported to us that he was asked about the process that should be used to assess the quality of the Mathematics Department. The Chair's response was that an outside review would be the only effective way to conduct such an evaluation. The Mathematics Department representatives also were asked questions about "linkages" between their programs and other departments at UR, and about the employment opportunities available to their graduate students. Our committee was told that during these meetings there was no indication that the graduate program in Mathematics might be eliminated. At the Administration's request, the Chair filled out a planning and self-evaluation questionnaire. The topics covered in this questionnaire were student satisfaction, research strength, staffing needs, etc. The Chair also was asked about the need for new faculty and the benefit that such new faculty would have on the Mathematics program. The Administration informed the committee that the decision to suspend the Mathematics graduate program was based on the internal evaluation, the NRC rankings, the teaching effectiveness of the Department, and the relevance of the Mathematics graduate program to other programs in the University.

The Administration met with all the department chairs on November 16, 1995 and announced the specifics of the suspension of four graduate programs and the downsizing of others. A 15-page document (Appendix 1: Rationale for the restructuring plan) signed by the Dean was given to the chairs at the meeting. The Chair of the Mathematics Department was informed of the suspension of his department's graduate program in a telephone call from the Dean, less than an hour before the meeting.

The committee was given a document (Appendix 3) prepared by the Mathematics Department dated December 5, 1995, with relevant departmental data, as well as a rebuttal of the Administration's criticism of the Department.

Quality of the Research of the Mathematics Department

UR officials do not believe that the Mathematics Department at UR is a very strong one (although they acknowledge some strength in algebraic topology). The committee has failed to convince the President and his administration that the UR Mathematics Department is indeed very strong in several areas. It seems that the Administration's opinion is solely based on the NRC survey. (The Department is ranked 58 1/2 in the NRC rankings, which is somewhat lower than most of the other UR science departments.) In reference to the perceived low ranking in the NRC report, the President noted that "600 mathematicians had disagreed" with the committee conclusions regarding the quality of the department. The committee pointed out to the Administration that the federal support in grants received by the Mathematics faculty is very respectable, indeed, comparable to much more highly ranked mathematics departments. (Sixty percent of the Mathematics faculty are supported by external grants.) Although the Administration representatives acknowledged that the support is good for a mathematics department, they indicated that the total dollar amount is small.

Teaching

Profile provided to the committee by the Mathematics Department:

  • 21 tenured faculty, 1 nontenure-track member.
  • Enrollment: Spring '95, 3,920 credit hours (976 students); Fall '95, 4,936 credit hours (1,271 students).
  • Undergraduate Mathematics degrees: Average over the past five years, 32 degrees per year. Graduate students: 31 students this year, down from 40 students six years ago. 37 Ph.D. degrees granted from 1989 to 1995.

The committee found a serious difference of opinions between the Administration and the Department in the area of teaching effectiveness. The Administration believes that the Department has not been doing a satisfactory job in teaching, particularly in the calculus and service courses. The Administration reported to the committee serious complaints from both students and other departments. They believe the Department has been aware of these repeated complaints and has been insensitive to them. They also mentioned that the Department has been insensitive to the issue of non-native speakers. The Department, however, contends that the Administration has rarely communicated to it any student complaints. In fact, the current Chair says he has not heard any such complaint during his tenure--now about 18 months. (He received one complaint from a parent and dealt with it immediately). In 1993, a Mathematics Task Force (MTF) was formed to revise the teaching of calculus. The MTF has been chaired by the undergraduate dean, with representatives from the Mathematics and the Physics departments, as well as some Engineering departments. The Administration reported to the committee that the Mathematics Department was uncooperative during these meetings. The Department reported that Mechanical Engineering faculty were concerned about their declining enrollments and decided to teach some calculus courses themselves, despite the objection of the mathematicians. The Mathematics Department contends that their student teaching evaluations are comparable to the average (and sometimes above the average) of other science departments (see Appendix 3). Moreover, student evaluations of classes taught by Mathematics graduate students have been substantially above average. It also was noted that one of the Department's international graduate students recently received a University teaching award.

Linkages with Other Departments

The Administration believes that the linkage of the Mathematics research and graduate program to the rest of the University is very limited. The President noted that, for instance, algebraic topology (one of the areas of strength in the Mathematics Department) has no connections to the other disciplines at UR. The Administration told us that there was no strong objection to the suspension of the Mathematics graduate program from other departments. The Provost mentioned that other departments were dissatisfied with the teaching of calculus and other mathematics service courses. He said that after the decision to suspend the Mathematics graduate program was announced, a chair of another department told him: "Great, you fixed the math problem." The Provost also reported to the committee that the Administration "tapped into student e-mail" and found out that "students were cheering" the Administration's decision to suspend the Mathematics graduate program and reorganize (improve, from the Administration's perspective) the teaching of calculus.

The Mathematics Department contends that there have been several collaborations with faculty in other UR departments resulting in joint papers or successful grant applications. For instance the fruitful collaboration between Professor Adrian Nachman (Mathematics) and Professor Robert Waag (Electrical Engineering) on ultrasonic imaging of the breast has had an impact on researchers in the UR medical school. This is not an isolated collaboration; there have been others involving mathematicians with engineers, physicists, and economists. There have been many instances of consultations of Mathematics faculty resulting in acknowledgments in published papers by faculty from other departments. The committee was told that it is not unusual for graduate students and faculty from other departments (e.g. Economics, Physics, CS, Statistics, Mechanical Engineering) to attend graduate Mathematics courses.

It should be mentioned that the Administration called for faculty support for the UR "Renaissance Plan." The following statement can be found in Appendix 2: "We wish to make clear that in the new College environment resources will flow more generously to those departments which succeed best in supporting the overall goal of the Renaissance plan..." The committee believes that such a statement makes it difficult for a faculty member from another department to criticize the Administration's decision with regard to Mathematics. It should also be noted that the four non-Mathematics faculty members with whom we met expressed strong support for the graduate and research programs in Mathematics; they also expressed their frustration and unhappiness with the suspension of the Mathematics graduate program.

The Administration's Future Plan

The committee was told that the Administration is planning to reduce the Mathematics faculty from 21 to 10, and wants to keep a strong undergraduate mathematics major. About half of the calculus teaching will be done by full-time non-tenure-track teaching instructors. The Dean indicated to the committee that the Administration would expect a total of 40 courses per year taught by the 10 remaining faculty. He said that 20 of these would be at the upper undergraduate level, 10 at the first-year graduate level, and 10 involving the teaching of calculus. The Administration acknowledges the likelihood that the best Mathematics faculty will leave. The Administration is planning to offer an inducement for early retirement in the near future.

During our conversation with the Engineering faculty, it emerged that certain members of the Mechanical Engineering department suggested the formation of an applied mathematics group. However, it was indicated that the Mathematics Department was to be excluded from the discussion.

Concluding Remarks

We were not successful in convincing the University officials of the benefit to UR of retaining the graduate program in Mathematics, and of the harm to undergraduate education that would result by replacing full-time tenured faculty with adjunct instructors. With regard to the graduate program in English, which has been retained, the Dean states (See Appendix 1): "The NRC ranking [English] is not as high as some other departments (rank 46 and 36th percentile), but we believe it is essential to maintain a strong presence in English as a central discipline in the humanities." We pointed out to the Administration that the University does not seem to regard Mathematics as "a central discipline" in the sciences and technology.

We did not object to the process of selective cuts in the face of severe financial difficulties, but rather to the fact that Mathematics, a core subject, was chosen without proper consultation of either the Department, or mathematicians external to UR, to help assess the Department's quality and overall contributions. We emphasized that no other research university with strength in the sciences is without a graduate program in mathematics. The dangers of relying solely on the NRC and the U.S. News ratings are many, especially for small programs such as the ones at UR.

We raised the issue of the current changes taking place in undergraduate mathematics education related to calculus, the use of technology, and the role of mathematics in science and engineering. We mentioned that an eviscerated department, absent the most creative and energetic members, would be unable to respond to these challenges, putting UR behind and unable to participate.

We also raised the issue of the important unifying role of mathematics in science and engineering, including the social sciences, and what will be lost at UR if all mathematical activity takes place at the periphery in the disciplines and there is no active, vibrant core. We suggested that if UR believed that sufficient linkage did not exist between Mathematics and other units, then the proper reaction would be to foster or facilitate such connections, not to cut out the core.

We indicated our belief that UR would find it impossible to have a strong undergraduate Mathematics program either in the major or service area under the plan proposed by the Administration.

We see the termination of the Mathematics graduate program at UR as a tragedy for American mathematics. While there may be some doctoral programs that should be eliminated, UR's is clearly not one of them.

The Administration heard our arguments but "agreed to disagree."

Respectfully submitted,

Salah Baouendi (Chair), Ronald Douglas, Morton Lowengrub


News Release: University of Rochester versus Mathematics

The American Mathematical Society has appointed a task force in response to a plan by the University of Rochester to reduce drastically the size and functions of its mathematics department.

Rochester is endeavoring to resolve its severe fiscal problems, but mathematics has been singled out for the most extreme measures. "What Rochester plans to do downgrades mathematics not only as a major science but in its key role underpinning all of the physical sciences," says AMS President Cathleen S. Morawetz, former Professor of Mathematics at the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences at New York University. "Rochester aims to be a very good research university with particular strength in science and economics. This aim simply is not viable without a good mathematics department."

The University of Rochester has eliminated its graduate program in mathematics and will reduce its mathematics faculty by more than half over five years. In addition, responsibility for lower-level courses such as calculus will be shifted mainly to temporary adjuncts and faculty from other departments.

There will be other changes at Rochester as part of its major restructuring effort. Three graduate programs besides mathematics will be closed (chemical engineering, comparative literature, and linguistics), and the University faculty will be cut by 10%. The University's plans also call for reducing undergraduate enrollments in order to raise student quality in the hope that the University can increase tuition revenue.

Dozens of scientists from a range of disciplines---including 6 Nobel Laureates and a large number of members of the National Academy of Sciences---have written to the Rochester administration urging them to reverse their decision on the mathematics department. At the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Orlando, Florida yesterday, the Council of the AMS passed a resolution condemning the University's actions.

In late November the AMS appointed a three-member fact-finding committee chaired by Salah Baouendi of the University of California at San Diego, chair of the Committee on the Profession of the AMS. The fact-finding committee visited the Rochester campus on December 6, 1995. A week later, President Morawetz sent their report to University of Rochester President Thomas Jackson. She also offered the assistance of the Society in finding a way to preserve the integrity of the mathematics program consistent with the overall goals of the University.

In the absence of any change in the Rochester administration's position, President Morawetz is appointing a task force to monitor the situation, to facilitate help for Rochester, and to solicit support. The chair will be Arthur Jaffe of Harvard University, who is President-elect of the AMS. The task force will be composed of prominent scientists as well as mathematicians.

"The overwhelming outcry from scientists and others outside the mathematics community demonstrates that the proposed plan for the Rochester mathematics department is not only bad for mathematics, but it is also bad for the University of Rochester, it is bad for science in general, and it is bad for America," says Jaffe. "We are extremely concerned and hope that we can help to turn this around."

Further information is posted on the AMS World Wide Web site, at the URL http:///committee/profession/rochester/rochester.html.

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, the 30,000 member AMS fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and everyday life.

Attachment: Resolution of the Council


Resolution Passed by the Council of the American Mathematical Society, January 9, 1996

The Council of the American Mathematical Society is deeply concerned over the University of Rochester's announced intention to severely downgrade its strong mathematics program by eliminating Ph.D studies, shrinking the mathematics faculty "over time" by more than one half, and assigning the teaching of calculus to faculty in other departments and to nontenured adjuncts.

This plan displays a lack of understanding of the nature of mathematics, its role as a core discipline among the sciences, and its place in a well-rounded education.

The entire Rochester academic community is ill-served by such a strategy. Calculus students will be taught by instructors much less likely to have either the wideranging overview of mathematics or the involvement with the subject necessary for truly effective teaching. Nor will these instructors be likely to stay abreast of current evolution in the pedagogy and content of calculus.

The hiring of low-paid adjuncts with no long-term commitment to or from the institution will undermine educational quality. It could lead to an egregious violation of principles of non-exploitation enunciated in the January 1994 resolution adopted by the Council in the name of the Society, on "Supportive Practices and Ethics in the Employment of Young Mathematicians."

Advanced undergraduates in mathematics and graduate students in other scientific disciplines will be deprived of the support that a mathematics graduate program provides to their studies. Faculty in quantitative disciplines will miss opportunities to consult and collaborate with their colleagues in mathematics. In the absence of excellence in mathematics, the attractiveness of Rochester as a first-rate research center in physical science, engineering, and economics will diminish.

On intellectual, educational and practical grounds, Rochester's intended treatment of mathematics is incompatible with its aspirations to national distinction as a research university emphasizing quality undergraduate education.

The Council strongly urges the University of Rochester's administration to reconsider its proposed course of action with regard to mathematics.