How dare UBC take diversity so seriously?

It has been a year since UBC announced its very first …“president of colour”. And as of yesterday, UBC-Vancouver has its very first woman provost. On the surface, these look like de-facto corollaries of a post-racial, post-sexist era, at a post-modern university whose student body looks futuristic in its amazing diversity. Don’t be fooled! Continue reading

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On the “clientèle-based” logic in redefining academic units

Are we just a service department?

I doubt that Princeton’s Mathematics department thinks it is, neither does any Chemistry department on this continent. Yet, a Vice-President of the Canadian Mathematical Society wants us “to come to the realization that in almost every university in the country, the department of mathematics is a service department.” My friend and colleague, François Bergeron, from the Université du Québec à Montréal begs to differ. He wrote: Continue reading

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UBC’s free fall in university rankings

University rankings may be questionable. Their evaluation criteria may be flawed or unrepresentative. They may be based on false or manipulated data provided by some institutions. They can even, occasionally, be bought. But the reality is that they do matter. Another reality is that UBC’s standing has lately been in a free fall. The 2015 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings placed UBC at #37, down from 33rd in 2014, 31st in 2013 and 25th in 2012. This is bad news for UBC’s new president, Arvind Gupta, who pledged in his installation speech last September to lift UBC up to the top 10 public institutions in the world. This recent setback is not the only reason why Gupta may be facing a bigger challenge than what he had bargained for. Continue reading

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To some a citation is worth $3 per year


US News and World Report: Even “less perfect” than the Maclean’s ranking.

Originally posted on Bits of DNA:

Earlier this week US News and World Report (USNWR) released, for the first time, a global ranking of universities including rankings by subject area. In mathematics, the top ten universities are:

1. Berkeley
2. Stanford
3. Princeton
5. University of Oxford
6. Harvard
7. King Abdulaziz University
8. Pierre and Marie Curie – Paris 6
9. University of Hong Kong
10. University of Cambridge

The past few days I’ve received a lot of email from colleagues and administrators about this ranking, and also the overall global ranking of USNWR in which Berkeley was #1. The emails generally say something to the effect of “of course rankings are not perfect, everybody knows… but look, we are amazing!”

BUT, one of the top math departments in the world, the math department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is ranked #11… they didn’t even make the top ten. Even more…

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Highlights from the installation speech of UBC’s 13th President, Arvind Gupta

Dr.-Arvind-Gupta-770Here are excerpts from the speech of Arvind Gupta at his official installation as UBC’s 13th president. Canada’s post-secondary system should take notice.

“We recognize UBC as a Place of Mind, but also as a place of shared cultures, traditions, and history. We come together as a community striving to excel in a spirit of integrity, diversity, inclusiveness and mutual respect. Continue reading

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The President of the University of Alberta asked us to think twice, and we have!

Back in 2009, a dozen faculty members from 10 different Canadian universities initiated an open letter to the Prime Minister imploring him to “not leave Canada behind.” The federal “stimulus” budget had just announced a substantial cut to the three federal granting councils, and more than 2800 senior researchers across the country had signed against it in protest, causing a major stir on Parliament hill. Two of the letter initiators were summoned by the presidents of their respective universities for “questioning” and for a piece of unsolicited “advice”. The idea of doing so never crossed the mind of the president of UBC, Stephen Toope, who happened to both understand and uphold the principles of academic freedom and free speech. The actions around the latest events at the University of Saskatchewan made me appreciate more than ever his principled stand. Continue reading

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A ton of career blood in the cause of clearly defining academic freedom

“This letter is also to advise you that the administration leave scheduled to begin on July 1, 2014 is hereby revoked…You are to receive your final pay on May 30, 2014, as per the normal payroll cycle. You are to leave campus immediately and are not to return to your office, the School of Public Health or the university. All benefits and pension cease as of today. Please contact … Human Resources … to make arrangements for the return of university equipment and your office keys, as well as to arrange a time that is appropriate to collect any remaining personal effects.” Continue reading

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