From: “Danny C. Calegari” <>
Date: April 7, 2008 9:19:15 AM PDT
Subject: proposal to cut staff at the Department of Mathematics and Computing
Dear Professor Lovegrove –
This brief note urges you to reconsider the recent proposal by
the University of Southern Queensland to cut staff at the Department
of Mathematics and Computing, to eliminate all non-service teaching
classes, and to eliminate majors in (amongst others) mathematics and
statistics. To the outside observer, this move seems foolhardy in the
extreme, and invites dire consequences down the road. Increasingly,
multinational corporations in the financial, pharmaceutical, information
sciences, and high-tech sectors rely on mathematics and statistics PhD’s
to compete, and pay a great deal of attention to the availability of
such human resources. Bluntly, there are no Silicon Valleys without
Stanfords and Berkeleys nearby. A university which turns its back on
basic research (with mathematics as an essential ingredient) has turned
its back on the future.
A vibrant and engaged mathematics department can be destroyed
in a couple of years (for example, the decline and fall of the Monash
department in the late 90’s) but can take decades (and many millions of
dollars) to rebuild. Australia’s mathematical talent will not wait around
for this to happen; the rest of the world will be more than happy to
gain from your loss. You must know that a University’s real value is in
its intellectual assets, and not in its buildings, or the number of
administrative staff. As an expatriate mathematician myself, I have
watched the position of the mathematical sciecnes in Australia deteriorate
over the past decade, resigning myself to the possibility that it will
never recover. The new money allocated in the last year by the Federal
government for national priority disciplines is, to put it charitably, a
stopgap measure. To divert this money into other areas is to willfully
hasten the utter collapse of the system. Very few people are in a position
to do anything about this particular case at this time, and you are one
of them. I hope you make the right choice.
Yours respectfully,
Danny Calegari
Richard Merkin Distinguished Professor of Mathematics
California Institute of Technology

Used with permission.