In support of Black Lives Matter

Dear CS Community,

In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we recommit to eradicating racism wherever it is found, including in ourselves and our institutions. We are outraged by the brutal murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, David McAtee, and countless other black Americans who have lost their lives as a consequence of police brutality and racism. Words can't adequately convey the emotions of the moment. Anger. Frustration. Despair. The challenge that we face reminds us that the last few months, and last few weeks, have impacted all of us in this department in some way, and some of us profoundly. Know that there are teachers, staff, and students who stand with you.

As a department we strive to uphold the Fundamental Standard of respect and dignity for all members of the Stanford community. Today, we ask you to join us in exploring the ways in which our field, computer science, reinforces systemic injustice. We commit ourselves and our department to questioning the comfortable status quo and closing the digital divide to seek equality and face injustice.

#ShutDownSTEM Day, June 10
Tomorrow is #ShutDownSTEM day. We invite and support all faculty, staff, and students in our department to set aside some of our regular tasks and take time for education, action, and healing, including reflecting on how this statement applies to us:

“Academia and STEM are global endeavors that sustain a racist system, where Black people are murdered. No matter where you physically live, you impact and are impacted by this moment in history. This is not exclusive to the United States. We must all work against anti-Black racism.” [#ShutDownSTEM About ( ]

We acknowledge that students may have remaining academic obligations; those who cannot set aside time tomorrow for any reason are asked to devote time and attention this week and on a continuing basis.

Our Department Community
The Stanford CS department lacks diversity and must work to support Black excellence. We recognize that Black and other marginalized people, including Indigenous, Latinx and Hispanic, and first-generation/low-income scholars are underrepresented among our faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate majors. The University, School of Engineering, and our department have ongoing efforts to redress this, but we have to do more.

We acknowledge a long duration of wrongs–from the founding of Stanford University on ancestral Ohlone lands to anti-Black housing discrimination that creates a persistent wealth and educational access gap between Palo Alto and neighboring cities, and even to the present when our response to the murders and protests was slower and less emphatic than it ought to have been.

Computer Science, Technology, and Racism

Modern digital technology, the product of academic research and entrepreneurial leaders in this department, and others like it, is now a pervasive force in the world today. Even without coronavirus, a massive portion of human interaction is mediated by digital technology and social media, all the more so during the current pandemic affecting us all. Algorithms, data collection, networking, information services replacing thoughtful journalism, automatic decision making at a huge scale based on sensitive personal data, and more, shape modern thought, identity, and action in subtle, extensive, and often corrosive ways. The impact extends far beyond what any of its creators could imagine. Yet as those responsible for its continued design, creation, and development, we bear responsibility for reckoning with the consequences of modern digital technology in furthering privilege, racism, inequity, policing, and oppression. We acknowledge the work of scholars, many of whom are black women, who have been studying and warning about these issues for many years.

Departmental Action to Support Black Members of Our Community
We will be taking additional measures to put these commitments into action. These include:

  • A commitment to honest and active communication
  • Inclusive graduate admissions, student recruitment, mentoring, and support of black and marginalized people
  • Improved recruitment and hiring processes at all levels, drawing on current research and best practices to prevent bias.
  • Commitment to continued support for campus and departmental organizations such as Black in CS and SBSE that serve essential functions, including funding student participation in workshops and conferences
  • Courses applying the tools of academic inquiry to understanding the role our field too often plays in furthering privilege, racism, inequity, policing, and oppression
  • Academic commitment to the continuous advancement of responsible computing and to addressing different forms of harm due to computing technologies
  • Heightened scrutiny of academic-industry relationships with corporations whose work furthers or profits from racism, inequity, policing, and oppression
  • Commitment to the continued support of outreach and education programs for young scientists, particularly those from underrepresented communities
  • A departmental Town Hall to listen to and support community members, and assemble the basis for further action

We ask you to share your ideas and feedback on how to move toward greater justice. We cannot do it alone; we can only do it together. Feel free to send your ideas and feedback to the CS Diversity Committee Chair, Moses Charikar (, or leave anonymous feedback ( .

Speaking personally, we want to be sure that all members of our community hear these words from each of us signing this message: Black Lives Matter. They matter to me.

In solidarity,

John Mitchell, Moses Charikar, Debby Inenaga, James Landay, Cynthia Lee, Chris Piech, Omer Reingold, Mehran Sahami, Erika Strandberg, Christina Wodtke

On behalf of the CS Department