Posted by: Administrator | 16/10/2009

Kevin Buzzard: Thoughts on the election process

Let me express my frustration with the LMS election process.

I got my voting forms recently and saw that this year there seemed to be a genuine choice available to me. But there was also (in my mind) very little data sent to me by the LMS on which to base my opinions.

In my mind, questions like “what is your opinion on a future merger with the IMA?” and “what journals do you publish your papers in?” were both of utmost importance for *me* when deciding who to vote for. That sort of thing might not be relevant to everyone, but it’s the sort of thing I care about. More generally I was expecting to be able to see CVs and statements from the candidates (which would cover both what I care about and what many others care about). But I was sent nothing.

Google of course led me to some CVs, after a while. But not to personal opinions, and I did dabble with the idea of emailing some of the candidates with some questions! But this seemed a little cheeky. On the other hand it was manifestly clear that there were some underlying “things” going on. For example the front page of the newsletter informed us that after MacIntyre was accepted as the new president, Goldie resigned. Now I find that Goldie is applying for re-election, and I have to choose whether to vote for him or not. It is absolutely clear that there is some sort of story there, some sort of political “game” going on, with no doubt a very clear explanation attached to it, and no doubt Goldie could have explain it all perfectly clearly had he been given a voice. But the LMS seems not to have given him a voice. Now I want to vote, and I know that if I don’t vote “by return” then I will lose the papers on my desk and not vote at all.

I hence made some conjectures, formed my own conclusions, and sent off my forms, and I will note here that I was essentially “too scared” to vote for anyone whom I did not know, for fear that they were a nutter.

It was only afterwards that I was informed of the unofficial blog, by some sort of “subterfuge” (an unsolicited email from a googlemail account, leading me to the blog). Now of course at the blog I find many answers to the questions I had, and much more besides. **BUT I HAVE ALREADY VOTED!!**.

To top it all, today I got an email from the LMS distancing themselves from the informative and helpful blog.

My guess is that the LMS is sort-of annoyed that these blogs appear. My own opinion is that if the LMS had distributed the sort of information that voters would actually like to *know* before asking them to vote, then these unofficial blogs would *not* appear! In particular, if I am to believe some of the writings on the blog, the nominating committee *specifically made the decision* that candidates couldn’t pass on their opinions to the electorate via the LMS! Wake up! This is the 21st century! My 9-year-old son could have told you that they would just blog them instead! My girlfriend blogs on the train to work and my 4-year-old daughter dictates twitter messages to me because she can’t read or write yet but still wants to tell Mum what she did today before Mum is home from work. Do the LMS really not know that this is how people communicate today? I’m not saying they should make their own blog, but I am saying that they should have learnt that information cannot be suppressed in this day and age, and that any human being, even if they are 4, really can tell the world something.

Now look at the AMS (American Math Society). Whenever they have to make important decisions they clear many pages in their newsletter to give ample space for both sides to make their points. This did *not* happen with the merger, and goodness only knows why, and members were just fed propaganda from one side only in the official newsletter, hence the appearance of the blog, giving us the counter-propaganda. Now you would have thought the LMS (for whom the savelms blog clearly became a real headache) would learn from their experience? But no! Just the same has happened with these elections. We had a genuine choice! But no data on which to base the choice other than about one paragraph on each candidate, containing absolutely no data on the opinions of the candidates on important matters. **For all I knew**, some of the members who put themselves up for election could be running on a “let’s kick foreigners out of the LMS” ticket or something else hateful or ridiculous, or they could be lunatics, or goodness knows what. The LMS seemed just to be content to give us a random collection of facts-from-CVs of the candidates (and they were pretty random—as far as I could see it didn’t seem to mention that Donaldson had a Fields Medal). Again the LMS lets us down, so again a blog appears containing the answers to these questions and room for discussion, which is just what is needed.

I am almost sure that the LMS is getting mighty annoyed about the blogosphere. But I think it needs to look at itself if it wants to find out the answer as to why these “unofficial” blogs are appearing containing various facts which the LMS seem to be dismissing as “subterfuge”—I think it is because it has a perfectly good vehicle (the newsletter) in which it *could* distribute *THE FACTS THAT PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR BEFORE MAKING AN IMPORTANT DECISION* but it is not doing so. This is not an attack on any one individual person, I’m just saying that it seems to me that the LMS as a whole is not dealing competently with serious issues at this point in time.

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