Carnegie Mellon University
March 17, 2021

Taking Action Against Hate

Dear Members of the CMU Community,

Over the past several years we have witnessed a disturbing rise in attacks rooted in hate and targeting groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic fueling xenophobic sentiment, violence targeting people of Asian descent is at an all-time high. Hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 cities rose by 150 percent in 2020, according to a recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino. This reporting tracks other data from Asian American advocacy organizations, including Stop AAPI Hate, which recorded more than 2,800 incidents of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans between March and December 2020.

Violence against transgender and nonbinary individuals is also on the rise, including in Western Pennsylvania where four trans people of color died from acts of violence or neglect in the month of February alone. Nationwide, more transgender and gender nonbinary people were killed in the U.S. in 2020 than any year since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking these tragic deaths in 2013. A divisive sociopolitical climate and lack of broad legislative support has further heightened feelings of isolation, vulnerability and anxiety among these groups.

Last summer, I communicated with you about our unbending resolve to stand up against bigotry, bias and hatred in all its forms, including confronting systemic racism against Black Americans and people of color. In the wake of this latest wave of violence, we wish to re-affirm our commitment to stand in solidarity with all those seeking equity and peace. If you are a member of the CMU community who is being affected by these events, please know that your safety is our number one priority. The university will investigate and address any reports of violence fueled by bigotry and will provide resources to support you. Additionally, Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) provides students with a wide range of support groups and workshops for those directly or vicariously impacted by inequality and injustice. In partnership with the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, CaPS also offers informal connection programs and resources for prioritizing self-care. CMU is also committed to robust advocacy on these issues with elected officials in Washington, D.C., Harrisburg as well as locally.

Extremist hate is an increasingly insidious and dangerous epidemic and, in our technology-driven society, it can spread like wildfire. This reality demands sustained action. Today, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Pat Gallagher and I announced a joint center dedicated to combatting extremist hate — Collaboratory Against Hate: Research and Action Center. The center will bring together our collective expertise from all relevant disciplines — including computer science, data science, social sciences, psychology, psychiatry and the law — to develop effective interventions to inhibit every stage in the creation and growth of extremist hate groups and to minimize their destructive consequences. The collaboratory will be co-led by Dr. Lorrie Cranor, the director and Bosch Distinguished Professor in Security and Privacy Technologies in CMU’s CyLab, and Dr. Kathleen Blee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Dean of Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The center is currently calling for interested collaborators with diverse backgrounds and relevant expertise to build out its research team. Those with knowledge and passion for combatting extremism and radicalization are invited to contact the center.

The Collaboratory Against Hate Center is a distinct expression — and valuable extension — of our leadership at the nexus of technology and society, complementing the work of the Block Center for Technology and Society, the Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cybersecurity (IDeaS), the CyLab Institute for Security and Privacy, as well as other efforts within and across our schools and colleges. The initial idea for the center stemmed from a partnership between President Emeritus Jared Cohon and Pitt’s Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg in the aftermath of the attack at Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. Their conversations and collaboration gave rise to this effort, and I am deeply grateful to former President Cohon and former Chancellor Nordenberg for their vision and leadership.

The need to combat hate is an increasingly urgent call to action. While the challenge will be great, we should not underestimate the incredible power we can harness when we come together with common purpose. Together with our colleagues at Pitt and with partners across the region, we look forward to advancing both scholarship and solutions on this important issue and, ultimately, helping to safeguard the right of all to peace, safety and respect.


Farnam Jahanian
Henry L. Hillman President's Chair