Comms

An archive of campus-wide communications related to our efforts

Caltech for Black Lives logo

We are dedicated to directly supporting the advocacy work of the Black Scientists and Engineers of Caltech. This archive exists as a reference point for ongoing communications throughout the community. If you think we have missed something important, or if you find any links that have been broken/changed by the source, let us know.

2015 2019 2020 2021


September 2015

Caltech’s Naming Policies, contained within the institute’s Gift Policies

“Naming opportunities exist to recognize the dedication, accomplishments, and/or generosity of extraordinary individuals and organizations whose support is valuable to the mission of Caltech”

September 3, 2019

Open letter from Andrew J. Dorfeuille to President Tom Rosenbaum

Andrew J. Dorfeuille, a 2019 Caltech Amgen Scholar: “I feel very strongly about the need for institute-wide efforts to increase racial diversity across graduate options.” … “I have a sincere desire to attend Caltech for graduate school, but the lack of diversity, support, and initiatives to address these problems is dissuading me from continuing my professional development at Caltech.”

June 4, 2020

Email from Cindy Weinstein to The Caltech Community: “Statement in Support of Our Black Community”

Cindy Weinstein, Chief Diversity Officer at Caltech: “We can and do acknowledge the harmful effects of racism on our black community. We can and do acknowledge that there is much work to be done to create the diverse and inclusive environment we all desire. We can and do acknowledge that diversity and inclusion are essential to the scientific enterprise.”

June 5&6, 2020

Emails from Dawna Bagherian, Shreyas Vissapragada, & Anima Anandkumar to Tom Rosenbaum and Cindy Weinstein: “The symbolism of our building names”

Students Dawna Bagherian and Shreyas Vissapragada, respond to the community-wide email from June 4, urging President Tom Rosenbaum and Chief Diversity Officer Cindy Weinstein to change the names of many Caltech buildings. “What does it mean to recruit a diverse coalition of students and faculty if the buildings in which they study, in which they eat, in which they live, are perpetual reminders of a time when they were unwelcome at the Institute? There is a solution: re-name the buildings.” Professor Anima Anandkumar replies with support: “I believe that we can leapfrog and create sweeping social changes by doing seemingly minor things like changing names. I hope we can use this opportunity to create a new beginning and rid us of our shameful past”. These emails received no replies.

June 25, 2020

BSEC’s Petition

“In the wake of this overwhelming support for reformation of racially prejudiced systems, members and allies of the Black Scientists and Engineers of Caltech (BSEC) are calling for the California Institute of Technology (CIT) to use this time to listen to, acknowledge, and reform the long-standing causes of racial bias which have disproportionately hurt racially minoritized members of the Caltech community.”

June 28, 2020

Professor Michael Chwe’s Petition

“As members and friends of the Caltech community, we believe that Caltech cannot honor individuals who actively supported and encouraged crimes against humanity. “

July 6, 2020

Email from Caltech Academic Leadership to The Caltech Community: “A More Inclusive Caltech

Caltech administration announces a list of efforts to address BSEC’s June 26th petition, through a campus-wide email: “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.”

July 7, 2020

LA Times: “Caltech faces reckoning over its links to eugenics and sterilization movement”

“To the ever lengthening list of institutions facing a reckoning with their racist pasts, add the California Institute of Technology.”

July 22, 2020

Email from President Tom Rosenbaum to The Caltech Community: “Committee on Naming and Recognition”

President Rosenbaum announces the Naming Task Force (NTF): “I am delighted to announce that the following members of the Caltech community have agreed to serve on the task force to explore naming and recognition policies at Caltech”

September 28, 2020

Letter from Sarah Sam to Ben Rosen

Sarah Sam–President of BSEC and only Black student on the task force– resigns from the NTF in a letter to Ben Rosen, the Chair of the NTF: “Because of the unwillingness to condemn irrefutable evidence of overt racism, I have lost faith that this committee will be able to complete its charges in a responsible way.”

September 28, 2020

Email from Caltech for Black Lives to Caltech Graduate Students: “BSEC president Sarah Sam resigning from renaming committee

“We hope that you will stand with us in holding the Institute to account and demanding that it do better. If you stand with Sarah and with Caltech for Black Lives, please join us in refusing to recognize the validity and authority of a committee whose proceedings to date have been baldly racist.” A similar letter was sent by the organization to the >1000 signatories of the BSEC petition.

September 29, 2020

Email from Professor Michael Chwe to signatories of his petition: ‘BSEC President Sarah Sam resigns from renaming task force, citing “gross failure”‘

“Many of us had hoped that this renaming committee would initiate a process of learning and reconciliation, in which the community could better understand Caltech’s past and move forward.  Instead, we have, in Ms. Sam’s words, a gross failure.”

September 29, 2020

Email from Caltech Committee on Naming and Recognition to The Caltech Community: “Community Input Solicited: Naming and Recognition Task Force”

Without comment on Sarah Sam’s resignation, the NTF solicits comments. “As part of its work, the task force would like to provide an opportunity for the Caltech community to contribute perspectives to committee deliberations.” No information was provided on how the committee would consider this input.

October 1, 2020

Email from President Tom Rosenbaum to The Caltech Community: “Task Force on Naming and Recognition”

President Rosenbaum provides a non-response to community uproar over Sarah Sam’s experience on the NTF: “A number of members of our community have expressed impatience with the process of canvassing disparate opinions and debating their merit.” … “I encourage each of you to participate in this important moment by sharing your thoughts with the task force through the Community Input Form.”

October 6, 2020

Email from Ben Rosen to The Caltech Community: “Reckoning with the Past”

Ben Rosen, the Chair of the NTF, responds to Sarah Sam’s resignation: “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 are but two months into the process. One cannot infer any conclusions at this point.”

October 7, 2020

LA Times: “Caltech’s effort to confront its racist past hits a snag”

“Rosenbaum’s statement glossed over Sam’s point that the committee members had been ignoring the perspective of the victims of forced sterilization in which Caltech was complicit.”

October 8, 2020

Letter from The GSC Board of Directors to President Rosenbaum and Dr. Jergovic, shared by email with Caltech Graduate Students: “GSC BoD Letter of Support for Sarah Sam, BSEC, and all anti-racist activism on campus”

“We call on Caltech to convene a new committee, one that consists of people with legitimate expertise in the history of eugenics and racism, who better represent the actual makeup of the Caltech community, unlike the current NTF where trustees are heavily overrepresented and students are heavily underrepresented.”

October 30, 2020

Email from Congregants of the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church to President Tom Rosenbaum, shared by email with Sarah Sam: “The community supports Caltech, and renaming”

“We wanted to reach out to you because we are also presently in the process of renaming church spaces that were named for Dr. Robert A. Millikan.” … “we’d like to give one bit of advice–hire professionals to help you deal with these issues–people who have degrees and experience in anti-racism work. These kinds of cultural moments are beyond what a human resource department can deal with, and certainly not something solved by putting a couple of Black, Indigenous, People of Color faculty or students on a renaming committee. When doing this, you are asking the individuals who are the most marginalized to essentially solve the problems of institutional racism, which is unfair because that is not what they are at Caltech to do.”

December 1, 2020

Email from President Tom Rosenbaum to The Caltech Community: “Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”

“The task force aims to deliver a report and recommendations to me by the end of this month. I will add my recommendations and forward to the full Board of Trustees for their consideration. Public release of the report is scheduled to follow the deliberations of the Board.”

December 17, 2020

The report delivered to the Caltech Board of Trustees by the Naming Task Force, referring to themselves as the Committee of Naming and Recognition (CNR), released publicly on January 15th, 2021

“The Committee was charged to delineate general principles for current and future naming and to recommend specific actions, with a mandate to support Caltech’s desire to be a destination of choice for a diverse community of exceptional scholars.”

The NTF delineated aspects of the Institute’s New naming policy: ”The CNR proceeded on the principles that removing names should be undertaken (1) only in exceptional circumstances, (2) when there is significant breach of Caltech’s core commitments, (3) when there is a threat to Caltech’s future, and (4) in a manner that recognizes the full complexity of Caltech’s past.” 

“The CNR unanimously recommends that Caltech remove the names of the individuals of concern [Millikan, Chandler, Gosney, Munro, Robinson, and Ruddock] from all assets and honors, except for Watson [Thomas J. Watson Sr].”

January 3, 2021

Letter from President Tom Rosenbaum to the Board Of Trustees, released publicly on January 15th, 2021

President Tom Rosenbaum addresses the Board of Trustees before their January board meeting. He fully endorses the recommendations of NTF (which he refers to as the CNR), and reiterates his support for the process that occurred, without acknowledging the harm that caused the only Black graduate student on the committee to resign from the process: “It is my firm belief that only through the open exchange of ideas, by challenging one another’s premises, by listening with respect and empathy, and by being open to  the possibility of changing one’s mind, are we able to discover the best path forward. This value system cuts to the core of what a university is, and what we as trustees are now challenged to represent. Committee members started with very different views, but … came to unanimous conclusions.” 

When acknowledging the legal/practical difficulties of renaming building, he suggests that it is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees to “decide on the principles we wish to apply”, and relegates to management the responsibility to “confront the practicalities associated with implementing those principles”

January 11, 2021

Letter from Tom Rosenbaum to The Caltech Community

President Tom Rosenbaum announces the creation of a new role in Caltech’s administration to implement DEI strategies, and the appointment of Dr. Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux to that role: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux to the newly created position of assistant vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and assessment in the office of the vice president for strategy implementation, effective February 1. Lindsey will guide a strategic, research-informed approach to enhance, expand, and coordinate the Institute’s overall diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”

January 15, 2021

Letter from Tom Rosenbaum to The Caltech Community

President Rosenbaum announces the results of a January 13th Board meeting: to remove the names of Millikan, Chandler, Gosney, Munro, Robinson, and Ruddock. “The renamings will help position the Institute to retain and attract the most talented and innovative researchers from every background, so that we may remain a leader in science and technology.” He again endorses the process carried out by the NTF (which he refers to as the CNR), without mention of the harm caused to the only Black graduate student participant of that task force: “There is extraordinary power in this process, which serves as a guide to reconcile actions with principles.” 

January 15, 2021

Caltech website on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This website was updated to include materials reflecting the processes that occurred in 2020 and the recommended updates to the naming policy. “If removing a name is deemed to help Caltech’s future substantially, and not removing a name is deemed to endanger Caltech’s future substantially, the name should be removed.”


Jump to top