Update on Black Lives Matter Statement

In the summer of 2020, the Middlebury Computer Science Department set out the below goals and action items to work towards as we strive to build an environment at Middlebury College that is inclusive and supportive of the Black community.

 

Here, we provide a progress report on our efforts. We welcome feedback via this anonymous feedback form. Our original goals are in standard text, and our progress is in emphasized (italic) text.

 

  1. Education

    • Participate in regular anti-racism training and devote time during departmental meetings to discuss mechanisms to incorporate what we learn in our teaching and mentorship.

      • Our faculty and staff participated in many of the anti-racism workshops offered by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OIDEI), including training meant to foster equity in the hiring process.

      • Discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion were a regular part of our hiring meetings, and we worked to include best practices in our hiring process. 

      • Moving forward: We plan to incorporate more teaching/mentorship discussions into our departmental meetings through sharing current individual practices.

    • Provide anti-racism training for our student tutors.

      • All of our tutors now undergo anti-racism training with the OIDEI.

    • Update the learning goals of the computer science major to include an understanding of issues of inclusivity, equity, bias, and willful ignorance in computing, including examining (and removing) racist terminology, discussing implicit and explicit bias in algorithms and models, and questioning the lack of Black people in commonly used datasets.

      • Our department learning goals now include the following: 

        • Be able to recognize, identify, and make informed judgements about societal and ethical issues that arise from the uses and development of computing technology.

        • Responsible computing: an understanding of the societal context of computing, including bias within models and algorithms, the impact of a lack of diversity within datasets and development teams, and the overall role of algorithms in shaping daily life.

      • At least half of the CS faculty have incorporated responsible computing modules and learning goals into their courses and we have created a repository to share resources among faculty.

      • We are in the process of implementing a curricular change that would require all of our majors to take a class with a responsible computing component

      • Moving forward: As we share practices and ideas during departmental meetings, we anticipate more courses will incorporate responsible computing learning goals.

    • Offer a new course that interrogates the role of race in computing, and issues of ethics and identity in computing more broadly.

      • CSCI1012 “Bias, Belonging, and Power in Technology” was taught in Winter Term 2021, and we anticipate that it will be offered regularly.

    • Advertise socio-technology courses offered by other departments to all of our students. These courses provide context for the broad roles technology and technologists play in society.

      • We now advertise socio-technology courses in other departments before each registration. 

  2. Scholarship

    • Provide opportunities and funding for students to attend the TapiablackcomputeHER, and National Society of Blacks in Computing conferences, which bring together Black computer scientists.

      • Since writing these goals, we have provided funding for ~20 students to attend Tapia and blackcomputeHer both in 2020 and 2021.  We have also advertised the conferences and facilitated community building by holding panel discussions with students who previously attended. (NSBC has not held its conference since 2019.)

    • Support the College’s Freeman series by ensuring that Black computer scientists are invited.

      • Moving forward: we plan to ask our students, faculty, and staff for speaker suggestions.

  3. Advocacy

    • Actively oppose institutional efforts to invite speakers who are identified as white nationalists by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

      • This has not been an issue since writing these goals.

    • Actively encourage and advocate for our Black students to assume leadership roles in the department, such as grading and tutoring positions and participation in the Student Advisory Council. Advocate that our Black students attend conferences such as Tapia and Grace Hopper.

      • When opportunities arose, professors were sometimes encouraged to reach out individually to recruit students.

      • Moving forward: we will be more consistent about encouragement and plan to collect data about how successful this effort is.

    • Reach out to Black student groups to advertise our major to undeclared students by discussing their educational and long-term goals, and how computer science may fit into those goals.

      • Moving forward: We are rethinking this action item and how we can best do outreach.

  4. Assessment

    • Create an anonymous form for students to give us feedback at any time on our departmental culture and community.

      • Now available here

      • Moving forward: This form has not been utilized. We will discuss ways to encourage students to use and how to effectively respond to submissions.

    • Create surveys and track demographic information for our students to understand how we can better support and retain Black students in the discipline.

      • We have not created surveys, but we participate in the CERP Data Buddies yearly survey. 

      • Moving forward: We need to better incorporate survey feedback into actionable efforts to promote inclusion

    • Every summer, we will measure and re-evaluate our efforts, and publish updated goals on the department website.

      • This update shows our efforts. 

      • Moving forward: We will work to be more prompt in the future.

Black Lives Matter Statement

The Middlebury Computer Science Department affirms that BLACK LIVES MATTER. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks are only the most recent in a history of violence against Black people.  We acknowledge that Black individuals continue to be oppressed by systemic racism that is embedded in all aspects of our society including in the field and industry of Computer Science. We acknowledge that Computer Science is often created by white people to benefit white people. We believe that remaining silent in word and action only furthers this systemic racism.

We therefore pledge to use our roles as educators to build an environment at Middlebury College that is inclusive and supportive of the Black community.

Specifically, we pledge the following concrete actions with four main themes of Education, Scholarship, Advocacy, and Assessment.

  1. Education

    • Participate in regular anti-racism training and devote time during departmental meetings to discuss mechanisms to incorporate what we learn in our teaching and mentorship.
    • Provide anti-racism training for our student tutors.
    • Update the learning goals of the computer science major to include an understanding of issues of inclusivity, equity, bias, and willful ignorance in computing, including examining (and removing) racist terminology, discussing implicit and explicit bias in algorithms and models, and questioning the lack of Black people in commonly used datasets.
    • Offer a new course that interrogates the role of race in computing, and issues of ethics and identity in computing more broadly.
    • Advertise socio-technology courses offered by other departments to all of our students. These courses provide context for the broad roles technology and technologists play in society.
  2. Scholarship

  3. Advocacy

    • Actively oppose institutional efforts to invite speakers who are identified as white nationalists by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
    • Actively encourage and advocate for our Black students to assume leadership roles in the department, such as grading and tutoring positions and participation in the Student Advisory Council. Advocate that our Black students attend conferences such as Tapia and Grace Hopper.
    • Reach out to Black student groups to advertise our major to undeclared students by discussing their educational and long-term goals, and how computer science may fit into those goals.
  4. Assessment

    • Create an anonymous form for students to give us feedback at any time on our departmental culture and community.
    • Create surveys and track demographic information for our students to understand how we can better support and retain Black students in the discipline.
    • Every summer, we will measure and re-evaluate our efforts, and publish updated goals on the department website.

We feel that in this moment it is important to center our commitment to our Black students and community. However, we acknowledge that all oppression is interconnected and we plan to create a broader department initiative to address systemic issues affecting groups who have been historically excluded from the field of Computer Science.