CSE Diversity & Climate Community Gathering — April 5, 2021

On April 5th, 2021, the Computer Science and Engineering Division hosted a Community Gathering to discuss concerns and feedback from the community. (Notes on related events are available.)

All were welcome. The Community Gathering focused on issues related to Anti-Asian Racism. The primary goal of the Town Hall was to hear community concerns and suggestions.

The Community Gathering was conducted via online teleconferencing, lasted for 60 minutes, and involved 25 participants.

This report chronicles my personal recollection of the events and should not be considered the official department position. Questions, responses and discussions are paraphrased and any mentions of specific individuals, beyond the panelists, have been elided.


On March 30th, 2021, a collection of student groups and individual faculty sent a message to the CSE community entitled Anti-Asian Racism: Context, Gathering, and Hope. The message expressed outrage at recent instances of violence and anti-Asian racism, introduced this Community Gathering, provided historical context, and ended with an expression of hope an solidarity.

A copy of the message is available.

Discussion Points

The majority of the Community Gathering involved hearing and discussing points raised by community members. Discussion points included those referenced in the original message, those posed or voted on via an anonymous question-and-answer application, and those raised directly during the discussion. In general, participants were prompted to consider "How can CSE help?" and "What are you experiencing?".

The discussion points below are presented in rough descending order of votes in the anonymous application, but the discussion was fairly free-form.

Near-Term Suggestions

The heart of the Community Gathering was the discussion summarized above. Some suggestions, such as cultural event hosting, may depend on COVID, but others can be pursued in the near term:

  1. CSE Public Declaration of Sentiment for the Fall Semester. CSE should make a public commitment of sentiment, support and potential accommodation for students who cannot be here in the Fall, even if the situation is still evolving. Students understand that policies may change, but hearing that CSE cares about this issue would help. Even possibilities (e.g., CSE may strongly encourage professors to offer remote support in grad and undergrad courses but acknowledges that it is up to individual professors; CSE may provide information or guidance to students who need to file for exceptions but acknowledges that exception rules are unknown; CSE leadership are meeting with College- or UM-level leadership to make the concerns of our students known and get information to us as quickly as possible; etc.) would significantly add reassurance and communicate care.

  2. CSE Joint Event with the International Center. While students can always ask the International Center directly, many concerns are shared in common and much fear and uncertainty remain. A joint virtual question-and-answer meeting with staff from the International Center, CSE Undergraduate Advising, and CSE Graduate Advising, in which (anonymous) questions about policies are considered would help quite a bit. We acknowledge that many of these questions might officially be answered somewhere on a webpage, and that many answers may be "we do not know yet", but given the amount of fear and rumor, this would help clearly communicate current policies and available support and reassure students. Similarly, certain questions (such as the Visa revocation issues mentioned above) may not be answerable now, but seeing significant student interest in them may help International or Advising Office staff prioritize gathering information about them for the future.

  3. CSE Faculty Discussion on the Use of "Country" or "Political" Examples. CSE should formally discuss the use of particular countries, cultures, or groups in classroom examples. The mechanism (e.g., an agenda item at a CSE faculty meeting, a faculty mailing list discussion, a faculty retreat agenda item, etc.) would be left to the CSE Chair's discretion. There may be pedagogical merit in certain examples, and we acknowledge that the ultimate decision rests with the faculty, but we encourage the faculty to discuss what our shared values are in such situations and how to achieve learning goals without making particular groups or political views feel unwelcome.

Next Steps

The CSE DEI Chair will discuss these meeting notes in general — and the suggestions above in particular — with CSE leadership.