Letter from Professor Ming C. Lin and Dean Amitabh Varshney

To Our CS Community:

Many of you may have seen on social media over the last few days a TA handbook linked to our department. This document was deeply troubling and made generalizations about our female students, in particular, which were offensive and unacceptable.

As the chair of the CS department and the dean of the college, we want to make clear that this document is counter to the values of our department, college and university. This document is not an official department statement and we were not aware it existed on our website. Upon learning of the document, it was immediately removed from our website. We responded to the student who helpfully flagged it to make it clear this is not acceptable language or behavior.

We are researching the origin of the handbook to understand how it ended up on our website and why it was not removed before yesterday. Regardless, it should not have been posted, or promoted in any way.

We recognize that gender stereotypes and barriers exist for women in our fields. We are committed to building upon important initiatives that promote gender equality.

In 2013, we launched the Maryland Center for Women in Computing, which is committed to making computer science inclusive for people of all backgrounds. We support student organizations whose work has helped break down barriers, sponsor the nation’s largest women’s hackathon, and offer early computer science programs for K-12 students of underrepresented groups in computing.

As a department, we have made great strides in recent years to address the gender gap that science fields face across the country. Over the past five years, our number of female computer science undergraduate majors has tripled.

But we can do more, and we are looking to tackle the overall culture in our field. There is a learning opportunity here to examine gender and inclusion across the department and to educate members of the department on these issues. Can this help encourage dialogue about the type of learning environment we want to foster? We believe it must.

A teaching assistant handbook that accurately reflects the values of this college is being created and we are speaking with the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion to look into training sessions and community dialogues that will promote a more equitable environment.

Please help us spread the word that the handbook referenced in the tweet has been rejected, wholeheartedly, by the university’s leadership. And please reach out to us if you have questions, concerns or suggestions on how to improve our culture.

Sincerely,

Ming Lin
Chair, Department of Computer Science

Amitabh Varshney
Dean, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [at] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.