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What Does CARES Have to Do with Anything?

A grid showing the SIGCHI CARES members, as listed in this article.

CARES refers to a committee established to support those who experience discrimination and/or harassment at ACM events. CARES supports such individuals by allowing them to engage with established allies within the SIGCHI community. Although ACM has formal mechanisms to handle cases of discrimination and harassment, CARES serves a different purpose. CARES provides a more informal support structure composed of peers who listen, provide emotional support, and also help affected individuals understand and navigate their options.

Several ACM special interest groups (SIGs) have their own CARES: SIGARCH/SIGMICRO, SIGGRAPH, SIGCOMM. Last fall, when I first learned about these CARES, I knew that SIGCHI should have one as well, to help our community better enact and sustain systemic change by empowering those who have suffered to speak up.

Many SIGCHI members have felt discriminated against or harassed at SIGCHI-sponsored events. SIGCHI has addressed these issues as they came up in the past but not in a systematic manner, and often in a way that overly emphasized policy and procedure over acknowledging pain and providing human support as well as practical direction.

Harassment and discrimination are difficult issues to eliminate altogether, but as a start, we believe that a chartered committee consisting of familiar and effective allies within the community can inspire trust, and those who experience harassment and discrimination at our professional events will be more willing to come forward.

SIGCHI CARES exists to support those who have had such experiences, offering them an open and confidential conversation, which, with the affected individual(s)’ consent, can also lead to creating better awareness of discriminatory dynamics on the part of event organizers and increasing the accountability of conference organizers, event staff, and conference attendees.

SIGCHI CARES was initially formed in January 2020, and the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC) approved and appointed an initial fourteen members. In April, we added two more members. In assembling the inaugural committee of CARES, we prioritized those who had been active in addressing discrimination and/or harassment issues in diverse areas of our community. We welcome self and community nomination of potential CARES committee members as we move forward. The committee has been in full operation since early April, 2020, and we had planned to introduce SIGCHI CARES to the broader SIGCHI community at CHI2020.

While I am chairing SIGCHI CARES as part of my role as Vice President at Large of the SIGCHI Executive Committee, I gratefully recognize and lean on my SIGCHI CARES partners: Nova Ahmed, Cynthia Bennet, Stevie Chancellor, Rachel Clarke, Gopinaath Kannabrian, Karrie Karahalios, Celine Latulipe, Helena Mentis, Michael Muller, Andrea Grimes Parker, Cale Passmore, Katta Spiel, Tess Tanenbaum, and Rina Wehbe. Their compassion, tenacity, and ability to ask the hard questions and demand good answers have been a constant source of inspiration.

These SIGCHI CARES committee members embody different ways “of being human and speaking humanly,” in Martha Nussbaum’s memorable words. In doing so, they help our community more fully realize our capacities to empathize, to serve as allies, and to act in accordance with our own shared values.




For/By the SIGCHI Community

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Shaowen Bardzell

Shaowen Bardzell

Professor of Informatics at Indiana University; Vice President at Large, ACM SIGCHI Executive Committee.

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