Dear SIGCHI members,
Recent weeks have brought much learning and reflection for our community. We have been seeing gut-wrenching news about Maui fires, and the impact of environmental crises is only on the rise, with this impact being felt most by already marginalized populations. We recognize that this has a range of implications for our community, and how we organize events and do scholarship. Concerns have also been raised about CHI 2024 and its location in Hawai’i, by Dr. Josiah Hester and others, and we have been in constant conversation with members of our community, and across various volunteer groups and organizational levels, in determining how we respond and proceed.
First and foremost, we understand that the concerns raised are an outcome of values and commitments that we all hold dear, individually and collectively. We would like all members of our diverse SIGCHI community to feel supported in taking the stand they aspire to take re: CHI 2024, about submitting or not, reviewing or not, attending or not. Should you feel compelled to stand in solidarity with the protest and wish to take this time to not participate in CHI and/or other SIGCHI conferences, we absolutely respect your decision. If you feel that going to CHI is important for you given where you are at in your career, or to connect with others to feed your need for a stronger sense of community, we respect this too. Here we explain our shared position as the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC) and CHI Steering Committee (SC), following extensive discussion and reflection.
The EC shares responsibility with the SC in approving the sites proposed for CHI conferences. For each instance of CHI, this decision needs to be made 3–5 years in advance, so that future committee volunteers bear the consequences of it. In the years since Hawai’i was chosen, a lot has changed for us, our community, the world. Together we have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, tensions around environmental justice, political struggles and wars across the world, and more. Our understandings of and approaches to equity and social responsibility have evolved as a result. The decisions we make today, for our SIG and our conferences, may look quite different from those that were made with the information and knowledge our committees had access to and appreciation of years ago. Just as today’s decisions would result in a set of consequences for our next generation of leaders to contend with. Because when we know better, we do better.
Our SIG is not in a position to bear the financial loss that would result from a CHI cancellation at this time. There would be serious long-term consequences for our field as a whole. A 2+ million US dollar loss of community funds from cancellation of contracts would require us to cancel all SIGCHI spending. This would include canceling SIGCHI’s community support programs that contribute hundreds of thousands each year (~USD 700K in 2022–2023) to supporting events, initiatives, and travel awards. The fund that enables our operations infrastructure for our 26 conferences (~USD 500K in 2022–2023) would also collapse. If we fall below the minimum budget balance that ACM requires us to have, we would be placed under long-term scrutiny by the SIG Governing Board and ACM. This would impact the future of our programs and SIG until we are able to gradually build back our balance.
This is a difficult moment for us — for SIGCHI and CHI leadership, for all of our conferences, for hundreds of our members and volunteers, and many beyond our SIG. We on the EC and SC commit to deliberate on and decide how best to carry our lessons forward. Our immediate focus is on the following (and we solicit further community input):
First, we would like to foster information exchange and open communication, for all to see and hear the many intertwined perspectives currently at play. For this, we (the EC and SC) will be conducting multiple open sessions. We invite members and volunteers to attend on Tuesday, September 5, at 1PM UTC (in your time zone) and 11PM UTC (in your time zone). Details are on our website.
Second, we will jointly revisit site selection priorities and processes across all SIGCHI conferences, and communicate this knowledge for the benefit of conferences ACM-wide. We will share our report via the SIGCHI Medium publication.
Third, we welcome community input on how best to allocate available SIGCHI community support funds and resources — for supporting members, volunteers, groups, local community partners, and more — as we approach CHI 2024. We invite you to share your thoughts by emailing the EC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fourth, we want all our members to feel supported and mentored towards achieving their goals and staying true to their principles, no matter their stance. For this we ask your help. Please extend grace to those who may not think like you. This is a time for all of us to reflect — on our own stances and on others’.
Fifth, our volunteers are overburdened across all levels of organization and governance. We urge you to give your time and energy to serve. To help with reflecting on the past, mitigating harm in the present, and building better solutions for the future. To do the work that is needed to bring the change you wish to see in CHI and in SIGCHI. If you are unable to offer the time and energy yourselves, we ask that you consider supporting others who do, however best you can.
We are thankful for and humbled by the deep care and investment that so many of you feel towards the CHI conference and our field, SIGCHI colleagues and friends, and for social and global justice. It is an honor to be part of a community that centers responsibility and accountability, and can remain principled and accepting even when divided. And even as we unlearn and learn, we hope you will remember that we are in this together.
On behalf of the SIGCHI EC and the CHI SC