Tilman Bauer writes:
I would like to ask you for your support in a difficult political situation at the VU University Amsterdam. They intend to close down pure mathematics and fire everybody in that section, i.e. Dietrich Notbohm, the algebraic K-theorist Rob de Jeu, the general/geometric topologist Jan Dijkstra and myself (a couple of other mathematicians will retire and their positions will disappear as well). That’s four tenured positions. We are trying to rally for support against this plan, as we think that only strong opposition from the mathematical community has any chance of averting this disaster. We have set up an online petition at
and if you support our cause, it would be a great help if you joined it. Here’s the text of the petition, which has some more details about the plan. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want more information about what’s going on.
As with most universities in the Netherlands, the VU University Amsterdam suffers from financial underfunding. All faculties and all departments at the VU are asked to take measures to deal with this problem. For the Department of Mathematics a committee of applied mathematicians has put forward a proposal to close the Geometry Section, which consists of six tenured positions and focuses on algebraic K theory, algebraic topology, and general/geometric topology. At the same time, some of the funds freed up by the abolition of the Geometry Section are to be used for the creation of two additional positions in the Analysis Section. This proposal has received the endorsement of the Dean of the Faculty of Sciences and of the Executive Board of the university. Two members of the Geometry Section will retire in the next two years and closure of the section will allow for termination of the other four tenured positions. Thus, the proposal’s drastic measures will merely cut the total
number of positions by two.
Of the four positions slated for termination, one is in general/geometric topology and has been held since 2001 by Jan Dijkstra. The other three people were appointed less than four years ago: Dietrich Notbohm, Rob de Jeu, and Tilman Bauer. This introduced algebraic K-theory and algebraic topology as new research subjects at the VU. In 2010, a research evaluation of all Dutch mathematics departments by an international committee took place. The committee welcomed these changes very much, stating that strong young people provided new impetus to the group in mainstream mathematics and offered promise for the future.
What are the consequences of the closure of the Geometry Section for the university? Algebra, algebraic topology, and general/geometric topology will vanish. Algebraic K-theory and general/geometric topology will cease to exist in the Netherlands, and only Utrecht will be left with research in algebraic topology. No pure mathematicians will be on the staff anymore. The university will give up central areas of mathematics and adopt a narrow research profile. The education of students offered at the VU will also become much narrower, which may lead to a drop in the yearly intake of students, and will certainly compromise the academic chances for VU graduates.
This petition asks for a reconsideration of this plan. By signing it you will help to save the Geometry Section at the Department of Mathematics at the VU!
I appeal to the Department of Mathematics, the Faculty of Sciences, and the Executive Board of the VU University Amsterdam to repeal the plan to close the Geometry Section. Proceeding with the proposal as it stands would severely damage the quality of research and teaching in mathematics at the VU. Laying off capable tenured faculty and hiring new faculty at the same time is intolerable.
I’m generally pretty skeptical of the value of petitions, but I’ll say, I signed this one.