November 2020 Update from the USENIX Committee for Black, African-American, and African Diaspora


Back in June, USENIX published a statement on Racism and Black, African-American, and African Diaspora Inclusion. In that declaration, we, the committee, detailed specific steps we committed to take to increase USENIX’s representation of Black people across the axes of:

  • Conference organizers, presenters, and attendees

  • Campus representatives at HBCUs 

  • USENIX staff and Board members

We also pledged to send out a quarterly report to track our progress. Due to the events of this year, we are unfortunately late on delivering that report, but have increased the reporting period to include this month to give an overall view on our progress to date. 


This report tracks our efforts from June 13–November 13, 2020. During that time, the main committee met six times and grew from four to eleven members with 36% Black representation on the committee itself. We also created three sub-groups to dig deeper into USENIX’s policies and guidelines, outreach to HBCUs/campus representatives, and conference grant/mentorship opportunities. During this period, program co-chairs of three USENIX conferences formed program committees, and organizers of one conference initiated and finalized their program. Below are the specific goals we listed in that initial statement and our progress thus far.

Increasing representation and inclusion of Black people at our conferences

Ensuring that every conference has Black representatives on the list of program committee candidates

Across the conference committees formed during this reporting period, six out of the two hundred and twelve program committee members are Black. We do not have baseline numbers prior to initiating this effort, so we can only report on the current representation of 3%. In the future we plan to track the numbers of invitations as well as the acceptances.

Having a USENIX Campus Representative at each Historically Black College and University with a Computer Science program and performing tailored outreach for our academic conferences
USENIX is revamping its approach towards campus outreach to focus on advertising opportunities for grants. Instead of soliciting campus representatives from HBCUs before we finalized this program, we instead used the list of 81 HBCUs listed as having CS degree programs to perform preliminary outreach to promote open grant opportunities for Black students. We will examine click-through data on that initial outreach and contact those who showed interest. Having said that, we also added our first HBCU campus representative, increasing our representation from 0% to 1.2% of total HBCUs. That first HBCU representative also accounts for .9% of our current 110 campus representatives. 

Ensuring that every conference invites Black speakers/authors to present

For the one conference that initiated and finalized their program during this reporting period, the organizers solicited all speakers for talks via their Call for Participation. Of the 45 accepted speakers, one is Black. Again, we do not have baseline numbers prior to initiating this effort, so we can only report on the current representation of 2%.

Providing conference grants specifically for Black attendees

USENIX solicited Black student grant sponsors for three conferences but received no responses. As a result, USENIX directly funded 100% of the ten applications received across those events. 

We also initiated a new program that offered Black student grants in pairs to promote inclusion by ensuring that each grantee knows at least one other conference attendee. Each grantee had the opportunity to nominate another person of their choice to receive a grant. Neither of the two Black students who accepted grants after the inception of this program chose to exercise this option, but we plan to continue to offer this program going forward, funding permitting.


This was not one of the goals in our original statement, but conversation amongst the committee members identified mentorship of students as an excellent opportunity to help increase overall representation in the field of computer science and at our conferences.


At one conference, we created a mentorship program for undergrads at HBCUs to help them create relationships throughout the conference. This mentorship program paired undergraduate students with at least two senior community mentors. We created dedicated communications channels for mentored students to interact with each other as well as their mentors. 

In the spring 2021 school semester, USENIX will pilot a new program in which established researchers in the USENIX community (from both academia and industry) will hold office hours in order to provide students an opportunity to have informal conversations with potential mentors and role models.

Developing guidelines for conference organizers on how to increase inclusion of Black attendees at our events

We did not create these guidelines during this reporting period.

Increasing representation of Black authors in our written publications 

We currently do not collect representation data for our paper authors. We are exploring the mechanisms through which we would do this, which would allow us to track metrics in the future.

Modifying our conference and magazine submission guidelines to eliminate discriminatory language

We formed a committee that is reviewing our Submissions Guideline, Speaker Guidance, and Code of Conduct policy, focusing on inclusive language.

Increasing Black representation amongst the USENIX staff and Board

There has not been a Board election or any staff hires during this reporting period, so this remains unchanged from our baseline of 12.5% board representation and 0% staff representation.

Promoting Non-USENIX computing technology events and opportunities organized by and for Black people

We did not engage in any official promotion of non-USENIX events during this reporting period.


The ongoing pandemic and resulting economic turmoil has strained our communities and volunteers, presenting many challenges to meaningful progress during this reporting period. Although we made progress, the amount was not significant. Black inclusion remains a priority for USENIX, and we will continue to work towards and report on our efforts to achieve better representation. We continue to welcome your ideas and feedback via

Signed by the USENIX Committee for Black, African-American, and African Diaspora Inclusion:

Kurt Andersen, USENIX Board Secretary

Theophilus A. Benson, Brown University

Casey Henderson, USENIX Executive Director

Tadayoshi Kohno, University of Washington

James Mickens, Harvard University

Brian Noble, University of Michigan, USENIX Board President Emeritus

Laura Nolan, USENIX Board Member at Large

Tameika Reed, Women In Linux

Amy Rich, USENIX Board President

Carolyn Rowland, USENIX Board President Emeritus
Hakim Weatherspoon, Cornell University, USENIX Board Member at Large