The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others in America have evoked a powerful response as people around the world are speaking out and protesting against the systemic racism faced by the black community in the United States. Members of USC Viterbi co-ed engineering society Theta Tau launched a fundraising campaign on June 3, and in just two weeks, they raised over $12,000. Theta Tau distributed that money to several groups advocating on behalf of the Black community.
“This cause is important to Theta Tau because we’re more than a professional engineering society–we’re a group of humans who believe in human rights,” said Cami Simpson, the corresponding secretary on the Theta Tau executive board and a rising junior majoring in industrial and systems engineering at USC Viterbi.
“Engineering organizations like Theta Tau must fight for equality because engineers create the best and brightest ideas of a generation, ideas that constitute the future of our society,” added Ritika Dendi, the vice president of Theta Tau and a rising junior majoring in computer science. “Without equal representation and rights for minority groups, we cannot build a future that is just and fair.”
The executive board of Theta Tau decided that as an organization with a sizable platform, they wanted to use their influence to help support the organizations that were making real changes in the fight against systemic racism in the United States.
Donations raised by Theta Tau were distributed to five different organizations: the Equal Justice Initiative, Black Lives Matter, the Black Visions Collective, the ACLU Foundation, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Members of the executive board chose these organizations with the hopes of combatting the issues of police brutality and racism in America from all angles.
“From defending legal rights of individuals through the ACLU and the NAACP, to helping those who have been wrongfully convicted with the Equal Justice Initiative to continuing to spread awareness and education about these issues through Black Lives Matter and the Black Visions Collective, we believe that each of these organizations serves an important purpose,” said Cat Yang, the president of Theta Tau and a rising senior majoring in computer science.
Theta Tau first held an internal donation drive to be used to initially match donations. In just two days, active members and alumni raised $1,600. Additionally, Theta Tau reached out to a sponsor from an anonymous company that also pledged to match donations. With both the internal pool and the external matching, Theta Tau was able to maximize the impact of the donations they raised.
Theta Tau members spread the word about their campaign to family, friends, and social media followers. “We encouraged our members to spread the word through social media and created graphics that we posted on both our organization’s Instagram along with our personal ones,” Dendi said.
Theta Tau is committed to continuing to go beyond fundraising to continue to support this cause in the future. “We recognize that racism and discrimination exists in STEM, and we want to ensure that we work hard to fight against it by continuing to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive environment at Theta Tau,” Simpson said. The executive board has already begun discussing how Theta Tau can use their platform to help.
One idea Simpson mentioned is for Theta Tau to both participate in and run workshops that start dialogue about racial issues and address the diversity and implicit biases that may come up in Theta Tau and in the broader STEM field.
Theta Tau also hopes to broaden the reach of their recruitment process. “We want to help combat discrimination in higher education and continue to bring diverse perspectives to our organization,” Dendi said. To do this, Dendi said that Theta Tau plans to go beyond classroom visits and clubs fairs to actively reach out to communities within USC that are underrepresented in STEM and encourage them to join the organization.
“We, at Theta Tau, all deeply care about equality and racial injustice, and want to recognize our privileges and use our abilities to help advance the Black Lives Matter Movement,” said Amanda Wang, who serves on the executive board as the administrative secretary and is a rising junior at USC Viterbi majoring in computer science. “We have used our social media platform to voice our support and stand in solidarity with the Black community. We hope to continue to become good allies, educate ourselves, and do what we can to help.”