GRE-blind graduate admissions, expanded fee waivers highlight EECS focus on equity and diversity

As the largest department at UC Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) [over 130 faculty, 730 graduate students, and 3,450 undergraduates] has long recognized the challenge of attracting, admitting, and graduating doctoral students who will enrich the diversity of the field.

In the context of the recently heightened awareness of the damage caused by structural racism nationwide, Black student leaders, among others, have suggested a number of improvements to address racial climate challenges and other sources of inequity in the department. In response, EECS has stepped up its equity and inclusion efforts in all aspects of Department operations—teaching, research, graduate student recruitment and retention, and faculty recruitment and retention.   A task force, consisting of student leaders, faculty, staff, and Department leadership, has been assembled to provide continuity and accountability across all our diversity efforts on an ongoing basis, particularly efforts to address racism and social justice in EECS.

In response to growing concerns that hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic would further disadvantage applicants who do not have equal access, the Department has decided to completely remove the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) from consideration for graduate applicants for 2021 admission. This decision is consistent with a number of our peer institutions in the Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance.  According to data collected by the Black In AI mentoring program, co-founded by new Berkeley EECS faculty member Rediet Abebe, many qualified candidates do not actually apply to many graduate programs due to the financial and logistical burdens of taking the exam and submitting scores. Next Spring, EECS will review the impact of this decision on graduate applications and admissions for 2021, and then make a decision regarding GRE use for Fall 2022 and subsequent years.

In addition, fee waivers for application to graduate school have been expanded across campus to allow more students to afford an application to Berkeley. The Department hopes these efforts will attract more talented minority students to apply, and will determine how effective these measures  have been during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.