Via Terry Tao: the University of Southern Queensland has announced a plan to eliminate majors in mathematics, statistics, chemistry, and physics, and to reduce its math faculty from 14 professors to 6. Flinders University, which had 20 mathematicians on the faculty when Terry was an undergrad there, now has 3. In Terry’s view, the situation of academic mathematics is dire throughout the country; and this matches what I hear from other Australian expatriate mathematicians, of whom there are, understandably, many. Building an active and self-sustaining mathematical community is really, really hard; that Australia seems willing to dismantle the one it has is mind-boggling. Please sign the petition at Terry’s blog opposing the cuts.
Could it happen here? We’re nowhere close, at the moment. But it’s only 12 years since the University of Rochester proposed to shut down its Ph.D. program, fire most of the faculty, and hand off calculus to untenured (and cheap) adjuncts. If we don’t keep reminding the purse-string-holders about the importance of mathematics, that kind of thinking could easily return.