The Committee on Campus Race Relations (CCRR) held its first meeting on March 17, 1994. While its formation was precipitated by a racial incident that polarized the campus community, the Committee owes its genesis more directly to the hard work and tenacity of a group of faculty, staff, and students who formed an ad hoc committee in response to the crisis. The original racial incident occurred in the spring semester of 1993, and the ad hoc committee worked for several months, spending long hours discussing the complex issues that emanated from the incident. Their work culminated in a report to President Charles M. Vest. The report addressed not only the issues raised by the original occurrence, but cited also several systemic problems that the group felt contributed to the incident and the subsequent responses of various sectors of the MIT community to the crisis. The report concluded by asking Dr. Vest to form a presidential committee on race relations. He announced the establishment of CCRR in February 1994.
At about the same time, another ad hoc group of faculty, staff, and students began meeting to develop an entirely different response to the crisis. This group grew out of a class taught by Dr. Clarence G. Williams, Special Assistant to the President, and eventually produced a videotape entitled It's Intuitively Obvious. The videotape recorded African American students discussing their experiences with race at MIT. Subsequent to the production of that video, an invitation was extended to the larger MIT community to make similar tapes, and Dr. Williams' office went on to produce four more videotapes in which students of different racial backgrounds discussed issues of race on the MIT campus. The funding for this series also was provided by the President's Office.
In the spring of 1996, the Committee took responsibility for preparing, funding, and producing a fifth videotape in the It's Intuitively Obvious series. This fifth tape brought together, prior to their graduations, many of the students who had participated in the first four tapes. These five It's Intuitively Obvious videotapes have been used successfully to initiate facilitated discussions of racial issues for various student, staff, and faculty groups on campus. We encourage campus groups and committees to view these tapes to gain an understanding of racial issues facing students and as an introduction to diversity training. During the 1999-2000 academic year, CCRR's educational outreach efforts included support for a group of undergraduates who wanted to build on the It's Intuitively Obvious series. Their two-part series, Breaking Down Barriers, was completed in 2001.
One of the major issues that CCRR has had to address from its inception, is the fact that it was not established to respond to crises; handle harassment complaints; or advocate for individual ethnic groups, affirmative action, or equal opportunity. It has been difficult, at times, to articulate exactly what "race relations" means outside the context of these other, more clearly defined issues. Slowly, however, we have come to realize that although advocacy, admissions, hiring, and harassment policies are not the same as race relations, these issues nevertheless constitute an important part of our agenda. Each has a crucial impact on the racial environment at MIT. In response to the charge from Dr. Vest in 1994, CCRR has committed itself to improving race relations at MIT in all its aspects.
The Guide to Resources in Racial, Ethnic, and Intercultural Relations was first published in the summer of 1994 primarily as a catalog of classes focusing on issues of race and race relations. As it evolved, the content shifted to highlight the nonacademic resources at MIT and to provide a forum for community voices. The Guide included statements about race relations by MIT's president and students. In 1997, we began including the text of Dr. Vest's remarks from the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Breakfast. In 1998, we added statements by six of MIT's Institute Professors on issues of race and diversity, and this edition of the Guide includes a new collection of Faculty Voices from some of the Institute's most distinguished teachers and researchers. In 1999, we were pleased to welcome the addition of Staff Voices to the Faculty and Student Voices. In September 2003 the CCRR decided to change the Guide to a brochure. All information from the Guide is now integrated into the Inventing Our Future website.
As part of its initial charge, the Committee has an active grants program that supports a wide range of projects and activities promoting multicultural understanding and positive race relations within the MIT community. Each year, the program funds between 15 and 20 projects—including arts events, residence-based events, lectures, seminars, and films.
In 1995, the Committee premiered a groundbreaking film, W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices. After the screening, members of the MIT community engaged in a conversation with the filmmaker, Louis Messiah; two of the screenwriters; and the musical director for the project. The screening and the public forum were a huge success for the Committee and paved the way for more CCRR-sponsored public programming. In 1997, the Committee established RACE2000!, a series of public programs focusing on race relations. RACE2000! provides opportunities, both small and large, for honest discussion about racial issues. Large, community-wide events have included "An Evening of Conversation with Noam Chomsky and Kathleen Cleaver" (1997), "Asian and Asian American Experiences: A Forum on the Racial Climate at MIT" (1998), and "Questioning Race: Is BLACK Black?" (1999), which featured a panel discussion with Professor Lani Guinier from Harvard, and Professor Melissa Nobles, Dean Isaac Colbert, and students Eto Otitigbe and LaTonya Green from MIT.
In spring 2004 the committee sponsored a panel discussion on Race: The Power of an Illusion. The panel was comprise of Professors Melissa Nobles, Ceasar McDowell, Jeff Ravel, Jonathan King, and Chris Capozzola from MIT.
In 2007 the Committee on Race Relations joined with the MLK Committee to form the Committee on Race and Diversity chaired by Professor J. Philip Thompson. This new committee presents an exciting opportunity for members of the MIT community to celebrate broad-range participation on issues of race and diversity within the MIT.