Computer Architecture Today

Informing the broad computing community about current activities, advances and future directions in computer architecture.

What is CARES?

CARES (Committee to Aid REporting on discrimination and haraSsment policy violations) was formed in February, 2018 to serve as a resource and sounding board for people experiencing discrimination and harassment at SIGARCH/SIGMICRO meetings.  Initially sponsored by SIGARCH, it quickly (March, 2018) became a co-sponsored organization with SIGMICRO. In this blog, we take a moment to celebrate our first birthday belatedly and tell the community what we’ve been up to.

Since formation, we covered five conferences (ASPLOS 2018, ASPLOS 2019, ISCA 2018, ISCA 2019, MICRO 2019) and four PC meetings (ASPLOS 2019, ISCA 2019, MICRO 2018, MICRO 2019).  At each event, one or more CARES members have attended, introduced ourselves, explained CARES, and offered to be a sounding board for anyone with questions or concerns to chat about.  The 18 months since our formation have given us a range of experiences – some happy, some sad – but all very much reinforcing our belief that CARES offers value to the community and is having an impact. 

What do people talk about with CARES members? 

Several of us have had conversations with graduate students and others about uncomfortable dynamics in their home institution.  These are not (necessarily) reportable incidents of harassment, but rather uncomfortable power dynamics or patterns of disrespect.  

  • We tell people about best practices and strategies for discussing these environmental issues with their colleagues and adviser. We encourage further communication with us if they need more support or suggestions. In some cases, we are happy later to hear from the people that the suggestions helped.

In our roles within CARES, colleagues have implicitly or explicitly questioned CARES’ role and the need for a CARES committee with us.  Male CARES members have been asked if they are “working for women now.” Other CARES members have been asked if they are “policing” the community. On the plus side, we note happily that many community members, including all genders and various races, with a range of seniority, home country, from academia and industry,  have expressed to CARES members that they are very glad CARES exists.

  • CARES is for the community and it is about emphasizing the value – for all – of a positive conference environment, not a policing role. We are supporting people, not policing.

In our roles within CARES, we have been approached by people (often PC members) who felt targeted or harassed during the conference paper review process, or who had heard of others who were.   

  • We seek first to support the people in these unusual circumstances and give them strategies for coping with pressure. We encourage them to report incidents through ACM’s ethics processes.  Reporting is however challenging due to the fear these targets have of being deanonymized during the investigation and targeted for retaliation.  

In our roles within CARES, we have been approached in person at ISCA and emailed by graduate students and others upset by the ISCA’19 suicide incident and looking for help. 

  • In response, CARES issued a statement using twitter in the aftermath of the ISCA’19 events, encouraging students to find and make use of local mental health resources.  

Looking Forward: Where to go from here?

  • CARES Office Hours  Our conferences are large enough that we believe it can be difficult for people, particularly junior members of the community, to find us and have a private conversation if they experienced something they want to discuss.  To address this concern, we are planning to have a CARES table and some CARES office hours at conferences (but not PC meetings), so that people know where to go if they want to talk to us. We will also post the schedule and members who will attend each event on the CARES schedule.
  • CARES in other SIGs  We are thrilled to see that other ACM SIGs are using SIGARCH/SIGMICRO CARES as a template and forming their own CARES groups.  These include SIGCOMM, SIGGRAPH, SIGPLAN, and others.  
  • Mandate  CARES was originally formed to cover issues of discrimination and harassment, particularly those that pertain to the ACM Code-of-Conduct policy for meeting participation.  Over our first year, it has become clear that these discrimination and harassment issues often intertwine with other broader concerns, such as ethics violations and abusive power dynamics.  We have begun a conversation with ACM to consider how best to address the need for a sounding-board for these broader community concerns. 

For many of us, our service with CARES is the most meaningful service of our careers.  It allows us to put into concrete actions our beliefs that a research community is most effective when it is welcoming and fair-minded.  CARES bylaws state that our members will serve for a maximum of two 3-year terms, so please volunteer.  We will always need more people to join us in advancing the strength and impact of our community’s research, by helping to build a stronger and more supportive research community.

Please email one or more of us if you have concerns or just want to chat. The names and emails of all CARES members are on the CARES webpage.

About the authors:

Kathryn S McKinley is a Senior Researcher at Google. She has served twice on the SIGPLAN Executive Committee.  She is a member of SIGMICRO, SIGARCH, IEEE TCCA, IEEE TCuARCH, and SIGPLAN. She serves on the board of CRA and CRA-WP. She is an ACM and IEEE Fellow.

Margaret Martonosi is the H. T. Adams ’35 Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, where she also directs the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education.  She is currently co-chair of CRA-WP, and a former SIGARCH Vice-Chair.  With her co-authors, she received the 2015 ISCA Long-Term Influential Paper Award.  She is an ACM and IEEE Fellow.

Disclaimer: These posts are written by individual contributors to share their thoughts on the Computer Architecture Today blog for the benefit of the community. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal, belong solely to the blog author and do not represent those of ACM SIGARCH or its parent organization, ACM.