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Caltech Launches Initiative to Foster More Inclusive Community

Published on Monday, July 6, 2020 | 11:15 am
 

Caltech launched a new initiative Monday designed to promote further socioeconomic inclusiveness within the renowned institution.

The policies were announced in a letter from the office of Caltech President Thomas Felix Rosenbaum and was a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and recent nationwide demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

“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,” according to the letter. “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.”

The university gathered input on the policy before drafting it, officials said.

“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,” the letter said. “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.”

“New generations of students, postdocs, faculty, and staff find themselves confronting the same obstacles faced by earlier generations,” the letter stated. “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.”

A set of immediate action was outlined, including increasing fellowship opportunities for students of color; the establishment and funding of a Graduate Summer Research Institute, to help newly admitted graduate students acclimate to Caltech prior to the start of their studies; adding funding for participating in minority-serving conferences; creating a new fund to experiment with outreach regarding minority-serving initiatives; and a redoubling of efforts “to make the case for philanthropic support for these and other diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

“We intend to expand the scope of interventions as success is demonstrated,” the letter said.

Additional goals related to transparency were also announced by Caltech leadership.

They included examining and publishing disaggregated data regarding diversity on campus; conducting a campus survey; providing unconscious bias training for all committees, revamping of the college’s Title IX and Equity Office web pages to make clear procedures for reporting racist behavior; establishing a dedicated web page to provide information on diversity and inclusion at Caltech; improving news coverage of diversity, equity and inclusion; new emphasis on the need for diverse speakers to provide diverse viewpoints to the Caltech community.

An advisory committee made up of both facility and students to explore best practices and make recommendations about admissions at the undergraduate level was be set up by Sept. 1, according to Caltech.

“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,” the letter said. “Lessons will be applied to faculty recruitment where applicable.”

A task force made of of trustees, alumni, faculty, students and postdoctoral scholars was also being set up to advise on policy for naming buildings.

“These steps range from immediate responses to programs and plans that will unfold over time,” the letter said. “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.”

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