Petition: Save Geometry from the threat at VU Amsterdam

Please read the following message from Rob de Jeu, and sign the petition via the link below. The text of the petition is reproduced beneath the link. — Burt Totaro

My university (VU University Amsterdam) has put forward a plan to close the Geometry Section of the department of mathematics. This means that 4 mathematicians (Dietrich Notbohm, Tilman Bauer, Jan Dijkstra and me) will lose their jobs, creating a department with only stochastics and analysis. You can help us by signing the petition below by clicking on the link and follow the necessary steps.

Feel free to forward this message. We need your help now. Only if many mathematicians will protest, this may have an effect.

Best wishes, Rob.

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.


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