Caltech Women in Biology and Biological Engineering
WiBBE Statement on the Naming Task Force
In June, we endorsed the Petition for Diversity put forth by the Black Scientists and Engineers at Caltech (BSEC), which calls on Caltech to denounce racism and make concerted efforts to improve diversity and climate on campus. One action item the petition called for was removing the names of prominent eugenicists from buildings on campus. In response to this, President Rosenbaum put together the Naming Task Force (NTF).
This week, Sarah Sam, the president of BSEC and the only Black graduate student on the task force, resigned from the NTF. Her resignation letter, describes the devastating failure of the task force to not only move forward with renaming, but to even agree on the fact that eugenics itself is a horrific and racist institution.
In response to Sarah's letter, President Rosenbaum sent a message to the Caltech community in which he passes off her very valid concerns about members' of the NTF's basic understanding of racism as "impatience with the process of canvassing disparate opinions and debating their merit." The WiBBE Board feels strongly that this dismissal of Sarah's concerns about the NTF devalues the work and disproportionate effort often expected of BIPOC community members to educate the rest of the community about fundamental human rights, at personal cost. Additionally, the characterization of the community response as "impatient" does not acknowledge the long history of exclusionary policies and schools of thought on campus, or the serious far-reaching impacts these ideas have had on shaping both the current campus demographics and the erasure of human lives, and tens of thousands of potential legacies along with them.
WiBBE unequivocally denounces eugenics, an undeniably racist field, as well as racism in all of its forms, and we are extremely disappointed in both the NTF's and President Rosenbaum's failure to do the same. Racism should never be entertained as a two-sided issue. We call on President Rosenbaum to recognize this and show his support for our Black community by dissolving the NTF and removing the names of those who participated in the eugenics movement from the Caltech campus.
We encourage WiBBE and friends to submit your own perspectives on this important issue through the NTF comment portal, which can be found here. In addition, please stay tuned for more WiBBE programming on the issues of legacy and renaming coming up soon.
The Caltech Women in Biology and Biological Engineering group (WiBBE) is a supportive community of women within the division that seeks to connect members across all stages in career and walks of life with resources for personal and professional growth. We achieve this by promoting professional development, mentorship, gender-related issue advocacy, and networking.
We use an inclusive definition of "woman" and "female" and we welcome trans women, genderqueer women and non-binary people. We believe in supporting the many intersections of our members' identities, such as (but not limited to) race, sexual orientation, gender expression, socioeconomic class, and immigrant/indigenous status.
We also host regular social events, to which all members of the Caltech community are invited!
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