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Two CMU Computer Science Professors Resign, Citing “sexist management” (post-gazette.com)
140 points by crsv on Aug 14, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments




And their Wikipedia entries don't begin to convey what super nice people Manuel and Lenore are


They are the two "Blums" in "Blum Blum Shub."


This is far more damning than any puff piece I have seen in years.


I care a lot about these issues. I tend to give people speaking out the benefit of the doubt -- not everyone is as brilliant in documenting their cases lock-tight as Susan Fowler.

After reading this article, I have to reserve judgement. There aren't specifics yet, just people who I am interested in listening to and wish to hear more from. We may come to know eventually, but we don't know yet.


Yep. Combined with the earlier news that they removed demonstrated interest as an admissions criteria (too far in the other direction IMO), CMU is starting to look like a warzone.


What was removed??


Edit2: See nv-vn's comment below.

They won't consider how much you "demonstrated interest" in CS to get into the program. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17446996 [Edit: this isn't only for the CS program, and it's not only about women, but you can fill in the blanks I guess]

I think it makes sense if you think women (IIRC this was about the gender gap in CS) tend not to be directed toward CS as much as men are in middle/high school, or if you think their accomplishments might have been downplayed or not played up as much due to someone else's sexism. After all when you're recruiting for college you don't care so much about a person's past accomplishments so much as future potential.


I don't know why that article is written in the way that it is, but generally "demonstrated interest" in college admissions is a way of evaluating a student's preference for the school. Most top schools don't use this, but a lot of other schools try to look for students who are more interested in their school in order to increase yield for admitted students. Generally this would take the form of visiting a school, going to information sessions, etc. Here's an article about it [1]. In this context, it doesn't have much to do with the major you're applying for or your interest in that specific major. While removing demonstrated interest increases diversity in terms of economic backgrounds, it shouldn't have much effect on gender ratios.

[1] https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2018...


Thanks, that probably caused a lot of confusion.


How can you possibly judge future potential without looking at past accomplishments?


"Demonstrated interest" in college admissions means that they attended an information session or visited the campus or something else like that. Maybe a reasonable thing to consider in admissions decisions, but hardly what I would call an "accomplishment".


more damning? We don't even know what was stated in the email. Other pieces will give examples of what happened and sometimes even evidence.


Manual Blum is the B of the BFPRT algorithm ("median of medians"). He got a turning award for contributions to complexity theory.


Many rock stars in theoretical computer science, including theoretical cryptography, are linked to Blum either directly (advised by him) or indirectly (advised by his students).

He left Berkeley to CMU to stay close to his son, Avrim Blum then at CMU, and grand kids. Avrim moved to Toyota Technological Inst, Chicago for greener pastures last year.

It is kind of expected of Prof Blum couple to leave CMU to Chicago to stay close with his son. Wish they had given more substance to their claims of 'sexist management'.


" Wish they had given more substance to their claims of 'sexist management'."

Just because they didn't share the substance with you, doesn't mean they didn't share it with CMU administrators.


What's the point of a very public resignation if you're just going to silently pass off the issues to the people you claim are doing nothing about said issues?


lots of rock stars also linked to Professor Lenore Blum too! [I am sure you know this I just wanted to make note of it for the general public]



I was thinking more co-authorship but I guess the parent used 'linked' more properly as 'advised'


She was very engaged with women@scs when I was at CMU ... I wonder how things got so bad that they are resigning rather than retiring


In a setting like that, retiring would be giving up. Resigning doesn't directly change things but is a far more active response than retiring.


Reading article still no idea what happened. Two scientists resigned at age 75 and 80 after year sabbatical. No specific reasons or issues named.


> “So we are resigning. We are not retiring, we are resigning,” she wrote. “No parties please.”

I don't know how academia works, but what is the implication of "resigning" vs "retiring"? Does that change what happens with pensions or is it just a semantic difference used for emphasis?


Retiring = I don't want to work anymore

Resigning = I don't want to work here anymore

They are trying to emphasize that they are leaving because of dissatisfaction with the school, not just because they are old and are ready to stop working.


think 'quitting' vs 'retiring'. no idea about pensions etc. I would be surprised if CMU offers pensions and not a normal 401k.


... 403b.


so 401k for tax-sheltered institutions? nifty!


I always thought CMU was immune to this type of stuff. It is very disheartening, but I hope it gets better.

Is there any news out there with info on whether this is a long-term or widespread issue at CMU or is it more of a localized problem?


glad they are still listed as instructors for a complexity theory course next semester


Still no idea what happened.


This all falls on Dave Mawhinney. He’s a sexist power hungry joke. Acts like a big deal saying he sold a company to LinkedIn. LinkedIn acqui-hired one guy and Dave pretends he had something to do with it. Treats women and anyone beneath him like garbage behind their back and plays Bro with everyone else. He’s a cancer at cmu. They need to toss him out.


Isn't this sort of culture poisoning to be expected when a flourishing university CS department invites the creation of a center for entrepreneurship? Have you seen this sort of arrangement work out before when you invite 'VC' personalities into academia? Maybe it is rare to find non-asshole VCs.

It's incongruent to see these two figures share the same podium. (See it while you can: https://www.cmu.edu/swartz-center-for-entrepreneurship/about... )


This sort of drive-by personal attack isn't a good fit for this site, even in the best-case scenario where what you're posting is basically right. And there are a whole lot of worse-case scenarios in the internet smear genre.


I've worked with Dave while in student government & as a startup founder; I've come to know him as among the most caring, supportive, and kind people I've met at CMU.


Is there something I can install to block ad blocker blockers? In this case it looks like Admiral is the culprit.


You mean an ad blocker blocker blocker? It's blockers all the way down.



I cant read this at all and i've disabled everything and tried in safari where I have no extensions.


https://archive.fo/4hEWX

^-- this archive link seems to work fine.


Thanks! for some reason im getting no cipher overlap :/


uBlock Origin. It's by far the best ad blocker and works fine on this page.


Nano Defender An anti-adblock defuser for Nano Adblocker and uBlock Origin


use incognito mode for that link


I think the ad is just taking too long to load. So the web site assumes you are using an ad blocker, and doesn't let you see the article. Just keep trying again and again, and eventually, the slow ad will load.


Tried that - I get a blank page.


Manuel Blum is my academic great grandfather, i.e my advisor's advisor's advisor. He is a legend. Very sad to see this happen.


Copy-paste of article because this website is pure utter shit and requires you to disable adblocker.

Lenore and Manuel Blum — both longtime professors of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University — have submitted their resignations.

In a Monday morning email blast to staffers in the School of Computer Science, Ms. Blum, founder of the university’s Project Olympus business incubator, made accusations about “professional harassment” and “sexist management” on the school’s Oakland campus over the last three years.

In the email obtained by the Post-Gazette, she pointed specifically to changes made in recent years under a “new entrepreneurial management structure on campus.”

Monday evening, Ms. Blum confirmed the resignations, noting they will take effect Aug. 31, 2019, as the couple have been on sabbatical for the past year.

“Carnegie Mellon University is saddened by Lenore and Manuel Blum’s decision to resign from the university. We recognize their lasting contributions to the university, the City of Pittsburgh, and to the field of computer science,” CMU spokesperson Abby Simmons said in an emailed statement.

“Lenore and Manuel raised some important issues in the email announcing their resignation,” she continued. “Please know that we are committed to examining them, and acting accordingly on our findings.”

The Blums have compiled impressive resumes.

Ms. Blum, 75, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968, has been a professor of computer science at CMU since 1999.

She is the founder and faculty adviser for the university group “Women@SCS,” which has a mission to empower women's academic, social and professional opportunities in the computer sciences.

In 2007, she founded CMU’s Project Olympus startup incubator, which has supported a number of successful companies on campus. For example, portfolio company Safaba was acquired by Amazon in September 2015 for its automated text translation software and Facebook bought Faciometrics in November 2016 to boost its facial recognition algorithms.

Manuel Blum, 80, who also holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT, has been a professor of computer science at CMU since 2001.

In 1995, he received the Turing Award — the highest honor in the computer science field, often likened to the Nobel Prize — for his contributions to the foundations of computational complexity theory.

Ms. Blum, in her email, did not detail specifics as to what drove the decision to resign beyond describing an atmosphere that she felt put up roadblocks and kept her out of major decisions, including refusals to answer her emails. On numerous occasions, she wrote, she tried to resolve troublesome situations, but they have not been resolved.

“So we are resigning. We are not retiring, we are resigning,” she wrote. “No parties please.”


Thanks. It's managed to freeze a VM I tried to use to read it.


They have been at the university for nearly 20 years and are 75 and 80 years old respectively. At first I was impressed that some professors were making huge sacrifices standing up for what they believe. But at age 75 and 80, they aren't really risking any sort of career or financial stability. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it is hard not to feel like maybe they just saw a convenient moment to try to make a statement when they were about to retire anyway?


In the letter, they do address that the problems leading to their resignation are recent.


I saw that - but in their position I would be much more likely to do seemingly drastic things to send a message that I otherwise would not be willing to do if I had more to lose.

To me, what they have done by resigning is not more significant than someone young in their career simply speaking out. It is commendable that they spoke out, but I don't see the resignations as adding much punch.


idk man they are hugely famous in computer science and are also both renowned for being very kind and well known in the community. they aren't randos getting in a fight with their department. they are academic royalty so their actions are by default assigned a lot of credibility.

as a someone in graduate school for computer science [not cmu] I find this shocking and am INTENSELY curious about the details. hard to imagine a more effective resignation.

imagine if steve jobs resigned from apple because the boards was being sexist or something-I think that resignation would get a LOT of attention. that might be sorta similar to this situation.


I personally choose to place more emphasis on the sacrifices of individuals than on their position of prominence when determining how important an issue is. I would personally find an average-joe resignation more interesting than one from anyone who had much less to lose in terms of livelihood.


I was sorta thinking about like raw empirical impact ya know? like normative vs descriptive.


I'm more after looking for ways to get a qualitative feel for how big a deal the issues are that caused them to resign rather than how big an impact their resignation is. But I guess it seems the HN community has pigeon-holed me here and prevented me from getting much discussion about things. Maybe another day :-/


I think the reason you're taking fire is that your posts have questioned the sincerity and commitment of the Blums. Many people on HN would rather assume good intent, for two reasons.

First, because of their gravitas as prestigious researchers. (I'm actually a bit uncomfortable about that -- most people who experience gender discrimination haven't won Turing Awards, but we should still listen to them.)

Second, because sticking your neck out about gender issues guarantees a ferocious response and will make your life hell, so nobody does it whimsically. So what if they're not 35? Doing this at 75/80 is still incredibly unpleasant.

Like I said in my other post, I think we as members of the public do not have enough information to pass judgment. But if the Blums choose to say more, I hope we will all give them a fair hearing.


1. I am also uncomfortable about this


Why would this be the most likely scenario? What would motivate someone to end their career in this way?


They have principles and wanted to make a statement. But like I said in a different reply - my default interpretation of this given the circumstances would be not considering this as more significant than someone earlier in their career simply speaking out. Would they have resigned if they were only 35? maybe - and that would (to me) be stronger evidence of how bad the things were that they were protesting. And maybe not (this would be my guess, but I could certainly be wrong).


We get it. You're saying the same thing over and over. You do presumably realize that, being 70, they have no way of pushing a button and suddenly being 35 to pass your apparently magical test of significance to their actions. Given that as smart as they are they can't invent an age reducing time machine but they did encounter what they consider to be serious issues at the institution where they worked in their 70's and did not encounter similar serious issues where they worked in their 30's, what exactly would you have them do that passes your personal threshold of significance test for their actions?


I would also consider that they want to cancel out any sense of their late-career presence being an endorsement of a place or practices they find unacceptable.

One might almost hear a tinge of regret that they aren't retiring now with a nice party at UC Berkeley....




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