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Reckoning with the Past

October 06, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: Ben Rosen, Chair, Naming Task Force 
Date: October 6, 2020
Re: Reckoning with the Past

We regret the resignation of Sarah Sam, a neurobiology PhD candidate and the president of the Black Scientists and Engineers at Caltech, from the Naming Task Force and are saddened to learn the process disillusioned her. We value Sarah's input and commitment to the Caltech community.

Eugenics is morally reprehensible. That is not up for debate. The Naming Task Force charge is multifaceted and complex. Our charge requires a broad assessment of the Institute's present naming and memorialization practices, informed by Caltech's history, a rigorous evaluation of the historical figures of concern, and the need to define naming principles and policies that both express Institute values and position Caltech to become a destination of choice for a diverse group of exceptional scholars.

We are but two months into the process. One cannot infer any conclusions at this point.

Task force members encompass a breadth of diverse backgrounds, many of them underrepresented in STEM fields. Each member brings lived experience to inform a collective perspective and is committed to ensuring that a morally honorable path forward emerges from the task force's work.

We have endeavored to engage all members of the Caltech community in this process. We want to understand the deeply held and widely varying perspectives that have emerged in response to multiple solicitations for input, structured discussions, campus conversations, and formal petitions. This moment presents an opportunity for every member of this community to grapple with the issue of memorialization and to reflect and reckon, collectively, collegially, and clearly with the Institute's past. From robust and inclusive deliberations, the task force will present recommendations that we believe will herald the Institute sustainably into the future.