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A message to SIGCSE-members

Today’s musing falls under the things Sam had to write anyway category.

One of my broader professional responsibilities is to serve as one of the two moderators for the listservs for the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. Moderation usually takes a few hours each week: Adding members (after verifying that they are members), checking that messages meet our guidelines, dealing with the occasional question, communicating with the SIGCSE board, and so on and so forth.

A few weeks ago, someone posted the new California guidelines on funding for travel to other states. State funds will no longer support travel to states whose laws California interpret as discriminating against LGBTQ individuals. These states include Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The poster suggested that we might need to consider whether this decision by California might affect where we should or should not hold SIGCSE symposia.

A followup message brought up the issue of the travel ban. The poster noted that one of their colleagues was not able to travel to this year’s SIGCSE symposium because of uncertainty about the travel ban.

The SIGCSE Board has endorsed the ACM’s statement about the travel ban. But it’s clear that some folks want us to go further.

I have found the followup conversations interesting and useful. is clear that the SIGCSE community wants to be inclusive. Holding conferences in the US currently makes that difficult. But holding conferences outside of the US also makes that difficult because some people cannot return to the US if they travel outside of the US and some people cannot receive funding to travel outside of the US.

As you might expect, people feel strongly about these issues. I’ve found that the conversations have been civil, but a few have strayed a bit into more explicit and angry political critiques and some other members of the list have complained.

I’m trying a multi-pronged approach to the issue. I wrote a message to the mailing list [1]. I’m also reading postings a bit more closely than I normally do and asking folks to consider their tone and their words. I don’t think I’ll stop anyone from posting, unless it’s clearly off topic or in violation of the list policy, but I will caution. We’ll see how it goes.

Dear SIGCSE-members,

As many of you know, I am one of the two moderators for the SIGCSE mailing lists. This message reflects my perspective as co-moderator. The SIGCSE board and my co-moderator may have somewhat different perspectives.

As you have likely noted, we are in the midst of some somewhat controversial conversations on SIGCSE-members. Both the moderators and members of the SIGCSE board have received questions as to why we are allowing political postings to persist on the list. As co-moderator, I have generally approved the messages because they address subjects that are of clear interest to some portion of the SIGCSE community. I also agree with Michael Kölling’s observation that censoring relevant political speech is, in itself, political.

I ask that people focus on issues directly relevant to SIGCSE, such as what responses SIGCSE might take with regards to the the travel ban or other policies. Observations about the effects of those policies on computing education are also appropriate. Please do not post direct commentary on politicians or members of this list. And please do your best to keep things civil.

You should also remember that some members receive the mailing list in digest form and some members receive their mail as plain ASCII. Please limit the amount of text you quote from prior messages and please avoid attachments.

If you are not interested in these discussions, I would encourage you to do what many members do when they encounter discussions on SIGCSE members that are not of interest: delete the messages manually or using a mail filter.


– SamR

[1] Yes, that’s this musing.

Version 1.0 of 2017-07-07.