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A More Inclusive Caltech

July 06, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
    Stephen L. Mayo, Division Chair, Biology and Biological Engineering
    Richard M. Murray, Incoming Division Chair, Biology and Biological Engineering
    Dennis A. Dougherty, Division Chair, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
    Guruswami Ravichandran, Division Chair, Engineering and Applied Science
    John P. Grotzinger, Division Chair, Geological and Planetary Sciences
    Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, Division Chair, Humanities and Social Sciences
    Fiona A. Harrison, Division Chair, Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
    David A. Tirrell, Provost
    Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
Date: July 6, 2020
Re: A More Inclusive Caltech

There are times of tragedy and tumult which demand change. We are at such a time now. Over the last few weeks, we have gathered as a community in conversation and joined in town halls that have provided valuable opportunities to learn from Black students, staff, and faculty about their personal and professional experiences. We have sought and received suggestions for interventions from faculty, from students, from staff, from alumni, from the President's Diversity Council, including Caltech's Chief Diversity Officer, and notably from the Black Scientists and Engineers of Caltech.

History has taught us that consistent and focused attention manifests change. History also demonstrates that when attention falters, so does progress. New generations of students, postdocs, faculty, and staff find themselves confronting the same obstacles faced by earlier generations. The lesson is clear: For there to be real change, the Institute as a whole must move forward with intention, and create a future that builds on the solid foundation of our collective efforts.

Today, as the academic leadership of Caltech, we provide an update on new steps the Institute will take to ensure that we continuously create and reaffirm a campus in which it is evident, in all that we do, that Black lives matter, that Black minds matter. We strive to become an example of how a diverse and inclusive community, committed to equity, permits individuals to thrive in fulfilling the Institute's mission of forefront research and education.

We describe below investments and actions that we can undertake immediately, as well as those that will require more intensive examination and consensus building among the many constituencies that make up Caltech. We intend to expand the scope of interventions as success is demonstrated.

The first set of immediate actions involves building the pipeline of students, postdocs, and faculty of color.

  • We will double the number of WAVE undergraduate diversity research fellowships. WAVE works in concert with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program to provide both a high-level introduction to research and as an overture to students from other colleges and universities to consider Caltech for their graduate studies. The Resnick Sustainability Institute, which cuts across all six divisions, has committed to providing 15 new WAVE fellowships in sustainability alone, and centers and institutes across campus will be creating new or additional undergraduate diversity research fellowships in bioengineering, microbiology, nanoscience, neuroscience, and quantum information and matter, among others.
  • We will create initially ten centrally-held Presidential Graduate Fellowships for the purposes of increasing diversity across the Institute.They will be supplemented by graduate fellowships in the divisions keyed to increasing diversity.
  • We will establish a Graduate Summer Research Institute, in conjunction with the Center for Inclusion & Diversity and modeled on the successful undergraduate Freshman Summer Research Institute, to help newly admitted graduate students acclimate to Caltech and build community prior to the start of their graduate programs.
  • We will underwrite the funding for the Freshman Summer Research Institute to avoid year-to-year fluctuations and uncertainty, while seeking to raise long-term endowment funds.
  • We will provide recruitment funds for participation in minority-serving conferences such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
  • We will build upon the success of the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program to ensure additional postdoctoral scholars of color across the divisions. Through the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows Program, Caltech provides stipends and mentoring, and helps develop community among the postdoctoral cohorts. These individuals will add to the ranks of faculty of color in colleges and universities across the United States, including Caltech.
  • We will establish a fund to experiment with new minority-serving initiatives in local outreach. The fund will be managed by the President's Diversity Council, in coordination with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach.
  • We will redouble our efforts to make the case for philanthropic support for these and other diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The second set of actions involve procedures and transparency.

  • We will examine and publish disaggregated data regarding diversity across faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students, consistent with the condition that the statistics are sufficient so that individuals cannot be identified.
  • We will conduct a campus climate survey to understand personal experiences of Caltech. The President's Diversity Council has already begun working on the survey.
  • We will provide unconscious bias training for search committees across campus.
  • We will revamp the website of the Institute's Title IX and Equity Office to make clear the procedures for reporting to that office any instances of racist behavior.
  • We will create a dedicated Institute webpage to articulate Caltech's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and record progress toward the goals for which we hold ourselves accountable.
  • We will improve news coverage of diversity, equity, and inclusion topics on campus, including the activities and accomplishments of Caltech's Black community, now and over the Institute's history.
  • We will emphasize the need for diverse speakers and diverse perspectives to inform the Caltech community, aiming to have Caltech invited events more truly reflect the diversity of the STEM population.

In addition to these actions, we will constitute by 1 September an advisory committee of faculty, students, and staff to explore best practices and make recommendations about admissions at the undergraduate and graduate student levels. This will include protocols for identifying applicants, reviewing cases, and the use of standardized tests (SAT, ACT, GRE), to make sure that we are identifying and attracting the best and brightest candidates from every background. Lessons will be applied to faculty recruitment where applicable. Finally, we will constitute a task force of trustees, alumni, faculty, students, postdoctoral scholars, and staff to advise on Caltech policy for naming buildings on campus: past, present, and future.

These steps range from immediate responses to programs and plans that will unfold over time. They all will move the Institute forward. There are possibilities in this moment that we must seize as individuals, as a campus, and as a community. We are committed to a Caltech that offers the access and support to ensure that every member of our community achieves their full academic and professional potential.