A Message From the CS Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Dear UMD CS Community,
We, the CS diversity and inclusion committee, are reaching out in response to recent events. For centuries, Black people in the United States have carried a weighty burden, subjected to implicit and explicit messages that they are inferior and are somehow not fully part of “We the people.” Tragically, these messages have too often been accompanied by violence, even government-condoned violence.
All of this is antithetical to our values and our laws, and this has to stop.
We want to state clearly that such racism has no place in our department and in our university. All of us faculty members, staff, and students are here because we earned our positions through talent and hard work.
Although we as a committee have no power to end racism in the United States, we do have the power to make sure racist words and actions have no place within this academic community. We publicly commit ourselves to this.
Guided by the concerns of the student organization Code Black and of our faculty and staff as well as by the recommendations of Black in Computing, we commit the Computer Science department to the following actions, some of which are in-progress (and for which we have taken this opportunity to add an explicitly anti-racist perspective) and some of which are new and longer term:
By the end of Summer 2020, we commit to the following tasks:
- Launching the Undergraduate Research Connection, a mechanism for connecting URM students with funded faculty research projects, and ensuring that Black student voices are included and that funding is available specifically for Black scholars. This includes developing a best-practices guideline for faculty engaging in mentoring for undergraduate research.
- Launching a Class Concern website and incident reporting structure to ensure we are addressing issues that computer science students face, particularly around bias and racism on campus.
- Creating a new Diversity & Inclusion tab on the main UMD CS webpage that is populated with specific race and gender statistics, diversity reports, and inclusive and identity-based resources
- Recruiting and securing funds for 5 faculty and 10 staff to participate in diversity-focused conferences annually, such as AfroTech, Grace Hopper, Tapia, oSTEM et al.
- And continuing to support undergraduate and graduate students to attend these conferences through the Diversity Conference Scholarship Application in collaboration with the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing.
By the end of Fall 2020, we commit to the following tasks:
- Encouraging all UMD CS faculty, staff, and students to sign on as community members or allies to the Black in Computing Open letter and Call to Action at https://blackincomputing.org/. Our goal is to have at least 50 allies from our community signed on before the start of Fall semester. By signing there, you agree to:
- Create unbiased and welcoming learning and work environments that allow Black people to be their authentic selves and learn and work without experiencing racism and bias.
- Commit to address the systemic and institutional racism that has led Black people in computing to be pushed out of the field or exit the field to pursue alternative careers.
- Address issues related to institutional or organizational culture and climate to create welcoming and comfortable spaces for Black people and prioritize the health and well being of all students in computing.
- Collecting data from faculty, staff, and students regarding their experiences and perceptions of the CS department, community, and overall climate in terms of being inclusive and supportive of members of URM groups:
- Administering the entry level survey to all first year students in CMSC 131, CMSC 132, & CMSC 133.
- Administering a student experience in the major survey at least every 2 years, tracking progress specifically along the lines of inclusion metrics and with emphasis on underrepresented minority students.
- Administering a departmental wide climate survey at least every 3 years, tracking progress specifically along the lines of inclusion metrics.
- Creating an admitted undergraduate student program for Black and LatinX students similar to the admitted women program through I4C
- Developing a department-wide code of conduct and implementation process
- Working with the department to allocate up to 50% of the annual Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair fund on activities related to broadening participation, including but not limited to: research and travel support for URM students, faculty, and staff; symposia and social events that foster a more welcoming and inclusive climate; distinguished lecturer series and webinars featuring more diverse speakers; etc.
We are committed to improving the following aspects of our department’s culture and structure in the longer term:
- Improving the department climate by educating faculty, staff, and students on what microaggressions and racist acts look like in both physical and digital spaces, clarifying how these behaviors contribute to and perpetuate a mentally abusive culture, establishing a no-tolerance policy for these behaviors, and providing resources and procedures for reporting and addressing these behaviors if they arise
- Creating spaces for collaboration and conversation around research, and conversations about the role of diversity and inclusion in research, including discussion of intersectionality and the roles of power and privilege in our organizations.
- Committing to leading, supporting, incentivizing, and offering annual diversity, inclusion & belonging training for all faculty, students, staff, and leadership, including modules for the Bits & Bytes course, TA Training, and student organization leaders
- Incorporating more instruction and support for both students and faculty participating in CMSC499 & 498A, to ensure proper mentoring and follow-through of support in research (supported by the data collection point mentioned above), and to help students grow as researchers by focusing on evaluation of research skills (have a rubric similar to that used for grad school letter of recommendation) and providing constructive feedback on how to improve these skills.
- Establishing department policies to better support and protect Black students from being accosted by faculty, fellow students, and external visitors while accessing campus spaces that fall under our purview, as well as establishing new channels of communication to facilitate feedback on and improvement of these policies over time.
- Publishing concrete best practices and guidelines for making the hiring, promotion, and tenure processes more inclusive and supportive of URM candidates, and working directly with other department committees to develop evaluation strategies that include concrete metrics supporting diversity and inclusion
- Creating a task force within the Education Committee for a full review of the computer science curriculum to ensure that classes are structured such that students starting out with less computing background can succeed, as well as reorienting the department teaching culture towards a growth mindset
Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect on our message. We would love to engage with you and all members of our community regarding these important efforts. We welcome all questions, comments, and suggestions through this anonymous feedback survey.
We also hope that you will consider supporting these efforts by volunteering your time to support them, as well as by taking action as an ally to URM groups, for example by calling out and reporting acts of racism and discrimination when you hear about or encounter them, and by mentoring and supporting the educational and professional development of our students, staff, and faculty. Together, we can do better.
The UMD CS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and
Ming Lin, Professor and Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science
Leilani Battle, Assistant Professor and Committee Chair
Kate Atchison, Assistant Director, Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing
Regis Cornett, Research Coordinator
Hal Daumé III, Professor
Roger Eastman, Professor of the Practice
Tom Hurst, Assistant Director for Graduate Education
Maria Johnson, Director of Corporate Partnership Development
Jan Plane, Director for Iribe Initiative for Inclusion in Computing
Dianne O’Leary, Professor Emerita
David Mount, Professor and Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies
Apitchaya Pimpawathin, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies
Mihai Pop, Professor, UMIACS Director
The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections. Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.