Computer Architecture Today

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

Recent events have brought concerns about discrimination and harassment in our community to the fore. In particular, Margaret Martonosi’s reading of the diversity statement at Micro has snowballed to bring forward accounts that have surprised and shocked many.  If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read Kathryn McKinley’s post on the subject. SIGARCH does not tolerate such behavior and is stepping up its efforts to eliminate it. More important, if you have been or become a target of such behavior at a SIGARCH event, this post describes how SIGARCH can help you.

SIGARCH has consulted with ACM to establish a means for it to help in the fight against discrimination and harassment. ACM is SIGARCH’s parent organization and requires all SIGARCH events and communications to abide by its policy against discrimination and harassment. If a violation of this policy occurs, ACM urges reporting the incident to the event chair or the ACM President, CEO, or COO. SIGARCH recognizes that reporting to a conference chair or an upper level ACM administrator can be intimidating, especially in the face of an already traumatic experience. SIGARCH has therefore established a new subcommittee called SIGARCH CARES – SIGARCH Committee to Aid REporting on discrimination and haraSsment policy violations.

The role of SIGARCH CARES is to serve as a resource comprising of well-known and respected people in the architecture community who are approachable and willing to listen to and help people who experience discrimination and harassment at SIGARCH events; the committee members can be a sounding board for these people and can provide advice on the steps necessary to have the matter further investigated by ACM. It is important to understand that for the matter to be reported, the person experiencing the incident must still themselves send the complaint to ACM where it will be handled according to ACM’s policy. The SIGARCH CARES committee cannot serve as an intermediary in that official process and it cannot be involved in any aspect of the handling of the complaint by ACM.  

Our motivation in providing a standing CARES committee is: (1) people are more likely to report harassment or discrimination incidents if familiar and respected members of the community are available for support, (2) unlike conference chairs, the members of the CARES committee will be chosen largely for their commitment and record on the targeted issues, (3) longer membership terms and an (eventually) established committee enable building experience and a record that inspires more trust for those considering coming forward about an incident,  (4) committee members are expected to be physically present at our main events and work with the SIGARCH executive committee to publicize their role, and (5) the presence of such a committee with respected and trusted members from the community assigned to watch for these issues should serve as a deterrent for such behavior as well as encourage us all to be aware of and speak up if we observe such behavior.

I am grateful to the founding members of SIGARCH CARES: Margaret Martonosi and Kathryn McKinley will co-chair the committee and Lieven Eeckhout, Joel Emer, Timothy Pinkston, and Viji Srinivasan will be the other members.

I also want to acknowledge those who contributed to the discussions with ACM and signed the initial letter to ACM that laid out the case for this committee (including all SIGARCH EC members, the TCCA chair, and key contributors to the Micro diversity statement):  Lieven Eeckhout, Joel Emer, Babak Falsafi, Natalie Enright Jerger, Kim Hazelwood, Scott Mahlke, Margaret Martonosi, Kathryn S McKinley, Parthasarathy Ranganathan, Karin Strauss, David A. Wood.  This effort would not have begun without the blog post by Natalie Enright Jerger and Kim Hazelwood and without Margaret Martonosi’s reading of the diversity statement at Micro.

Our hope is that soon our sister organizations will join to create a unified committee for all events in the architecture community. Until then, SIGARCH CARES will act as a resource at the events (co-)sponsored by SIGARCH, which include ISCA and ASPLOS.

The last few months have been a period of self-reflection for our community as we grapple with our record on diversity and inclusion. There is no doubt that facing up to our own inconvenient truths has been painful. At the same time, however, I continue to be inspired by many colleagues, male and female – my mentors, role models, collaborators, friends, and others – who are clearly motivated to fix what is broken and make us stronger.  I hope that you never have the need to reach out to our new committee, but if you do, remember SIGARCH CARES to help you.

About the author: Sarita Adve is Richard T. Cheng Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is chair of SIGARCH, on the executive committee of the ACM SIG Governing Board, and on the board of the Computing Research Association. She is an ACM and IEEE fellow and winner of the AnitaB.org Woman of Vision award in innovation and the SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes award.