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Committee on Naming and Recognition

July 22, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: July 22, 2020
Re: Committee on Naming and Recognition

I am delighted to announce that the following members of the Caltech community have agreed to serve on the task force to explore naming and recognition policies at Caltech: Benjamin Rosen (Chair), trustee; France Córdova, trustee; Shirley Malcom, trustee; Deborah McWhinney, trustee; Ron Olson, trustee; Prof. David Baltimore, BBE, president emeritus; Prof. Azita Emami, EAS, deputy division chair; Prof. Nicolás Wey Gómez, HSS; Prof. Mark Wise, PMA; Chris Bryant, former president, Caltech Alumni Association; Ralph Amos, assistant vice president of alumni relations and executive director, Caltech Alumni Association; Diana Jergovic (co-Chair), vice president, strategy implementation; Stewart Mallory, CCE, AGEP California Alliance postdoctoral scholar; Sarah Sam, BBE graduate student, president, Black Scientists & Engineers of Caltech; and Paulina Ridland, undergraduate student, president, Ruddock House. Hillary Downs, administrative affairs manager in the strategy implementation group, will staff the committee.

The question of naming buildings on university campuses has engendered debate across the country. The most intense concerns at Caltech center on Robert A. Millikan, given his involvement with eugenics through the Human Betterment Foundation, although Watson, Chandler, and Ruddock also have garnered attention. This task force is charged to consider and make recommendations for general policies related to space naming and other forms of recognition, as well as consideration of specific building names on campus.

The task force members have pertinent expertise across history, biological ethics, psychology, physics, law, alumni relations, diversity and inclusion, and corporate governance, among other subjects. Its considerations will run the gamut from historical evaluation and the role, if any, of changing ethical standards over time to reputational risk, Caltech's ability to be a destination of choice for a diverse community of exceptional scholars, and contractual obligations. Its charge involves both a delineation of general principles and recommendations for specific actions. Prof. Daniel Kevles, an historian of science and an expert on the eugenics movement, formerly of Caltech and now at Yale, has agreed to serve as a resource to this group.

The task force will provide a report with recommendations to me by the end of calendar year 2020, which will then be brought to the Caltech Board of Trustees. The deliberations of the task force, and the input they will seek from the many constituencies that make up the Caltech community, are an important step in reconciling the Institute's past with our vision for the future. I will keep you informed of developments as they unfold.