Caltech’s past is intertwined with eugenicists. Today, Caltech must do better. #CaltechEugenics
Eugenics, or human race “betterment” through selective breeding, is a crackpot science that should have been relegated to the dustbin of history. Instead, Caltech continues to memorialize white supremacists and advocates of compulsory sterilization including Millikan, Watson, Ruddock, and Chandler. On June 25th, the Black Scientists and Engineers of Caltech (BSEC) introduced a petition (
) with the specific request that the Institute rename these buildings to foster an inclusive campus climate. This petition was signed by 1,021 Caltech affiliates. Concurrently, a Caltech alum, Michael Chwe, submitted a separate petition (
) that also garnered more than 1,000 signatures, specifically demanding that Caltech rename Millikan Library.
In direct response to the BSEC petition, President Rosenbaum announced on July 22nd the creation of the "Naming and Recognition Task Force" (NTF), charged to “consider and make recommendations for general policies related to space naming and other forms of recognition”. On September 28th, BSEC President Sarah Sam announced her resignation from the NTF, citing the committee's "unwillingness to condemn irrefutable evidence of overt racism." In her resignation letter, Sarah described how some committee members did not even read the BSEC petition, equated their oppression as white individuals to the suffering of Black people, questioned Sarah's commitment to Caltech, and rationalized eugenic sterilization practices. There is no BSEC representation on the NTF since Sarah was the only Black student delegated to the committee. The NTF is therefore unfit to carry out its charge in the absence of Black student representation.
We demand that Caltech rectify these offenses by calling on the Institute to:
Rename all buildings, spaces, and programs named for eugenicists and white supremacists including: Millikan, Gosney, Chandler, Ruddock, Robinson, Munro and Watson.
Move all statues, paintings and other commemorations of these individuals to a room on campus dedicated as a permanent educational exhibit on the Human Betterment Foundation and Caltech's history with eugenics.
Publicly denounce Caltech's legacy of eugenics ideology and racism, and issue a formal apology to those it has harmed, including Sarah Sam and all Black and disabled members of our community.
We view these as extremely basic and largely symbolic steps that Caltech must take. Once this low hanging fruit has been plucked, we must then move onto the harder work of dismantling white supremacy and ableism in our culture and practices. But Caltech's reluctance to take even this low-effort step sends a very clear message: many high-ranking members of this institution care more for the legacy of deceased racists than for the present and future environment of young Black, brown, and disabled scientists on our campus.
Join us in demanding more for our community by taking the #CaltechEugenics pledge.
You can read the full text of the pledge, and view a list of signatories here:
"I pledge to honestly communicate with prospective students, postdocs and staff about Caltech's legacy of white supremacy, and its current failure to take Institute-wide anti-racist action by renaming buildings named for eugenicists."
“I pledge to withhold all donations to Caltech, and instead to redirect my funds to organizations in the #CaltechEugenics Donation Directory, until these demands are met.”
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