Open letter to the CITRIS community

The human rights abuses we have all witnessed over the past few weeks have been devastating. We grieve with the families and communities of those who are suffering and those who have lost loved ones. As scientists, engineers, and researchers, we are confronted by the evidence of systemic abuse and must act.

Along with millions around the globe, we stand with the Black community to call for justice and an end to state-sponsored violence and discrimination after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, three of more than 1,000 reported police killings in the past year. We are horrified by the vigilantism that targeted Christian Cooper and killed Ahmaud Arbery. It is clear that technology is contributing to societal awareness, and many of the perpetrators will be held accountable only because of the evidence captured on cell phone video. But technology has also been used to fortify agencies of oppression. Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral. 

CITRIS’s mission is to examine society’s most pressing challenges and explore how technology can contribute to solutions. We are committed to honoring the experience and accomplishments of Black and Brown leaders and innovators. To creating diverse teams among our faculty, staff and students. To challenging bias in our own institution and foster not only research excellence but inclusion, equity and belonging. Our focus is advancing the fields of health, sustainability, the future workforce, social media and tech policy, and applications of AI. Still, there’s much more we can do.

We will continue to highlight the inspiring innovations of people of color; to build on-ramps to rewarding careers for students and entrepreneurs of all backgrounds; to recruit a representative staff, leadership team and advisory board; to include the interests and vulnerabilities of marginalized communities when designing or co-creating technologies that affect them; to protect the privacy and security of those fighting on the front lines for social change. Our research must treat technology tools, platforms and networks not just as neutral infrastructure but as potential instruments of both repression and social justice. 

Thoughtful tech innovation can reduce disparities in educational opportunity, increase access to healthcare, protect civil liberties and sound the alarm at threats to democracy. But technology cannot achieve these lofty goals without the collaboration of those able to bring their full identities to the work of sparking and sustaining the fire for change.

We commit to supporting and advancing this cause and invite your suggestions of ways CITRIS can catalyze the movement for a more just and equitable world.

Costas Spanos, Director
Camille Crittenden, Executive Director
CITRIS and the Banatao Institute