Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'NeilThe University of Delaware Faculty Commons Book Club will meet Thursday, February 15, at 12:30 p.m., to discuss Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. This session will be co-facilitated by Jenny Lambe, Associate Professor of Communication, and Kevin R. Guidry, Associate Director of the Center for Teaching & Assessment of Learning. Register.

Weapons of Math Destruction is a powerful description of the growing role that surveillance and decisions made using data, often collected invisibly and without our knowledge, play in our lives. From birth to death, including critical transitions such as applying to college and seeking jobs, the algorithms that make decisions about our lives are increasingly powerful and resistant to examination.

O’Neil’s book raises critical questions for college and university faculty and staff.  Are we complicit in deploying and using “weapons of math destruction” with our own complex, opaque systems of evaluation and judgment (e.g., admissions, financial aid, early warning indicators)?  How are we preparing our students to live in a world where invisible systems hold powerful sway over their lives but are often as unaccountable as they are complex?  What role do university researchers and scholars have in supporting, monitoring, and challenging these systems?

This book comes as a critical time in the development of UD’s General Education objectives, especially the “computational thinking” objective added by the Faculty Senate in 2014. Book club co-facilitators Lambe and Guidry are members of a larger team of UD faculty and administrators working to understand how this new objective can be fulfilled by all UD undergraduate students.

O’Neill holds a PhD in mathematics from Harvard University.  After teaching at Barnard College, she worked as a “quant” at a prominent hedge fund before moving on work as a data scientist at several start-ups.  She began the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia University and she blogs at https://mathbabe.org/.

The meeting for this book will be Thursday, February 15, at 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. in Faculty Commons, 116 Pearson Hall. Drinks and dessert will be provided.  A free book will be provided for some early registrants. RSVP requested.

The Faculty Commons is always looking for book club facilitators. Those who are interested in leading a discussion or sponsoring a session in the future can contact faculty-commons@udel.edu.

Weapons of Math Destruction was the Faculty Commons Staff Favorite for December 2017.

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