Diversity at Johns Hopkins

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Reports of bigotry and racial discrimination across U.S. higher education have drawn this country’s attention in recent weeks, and it is important to acknowledge that this moment is not about a handful of incidents at a few institutions. Rather, it is part of a national narrative—one that plays out in the daily lives of students, faculty, and staff on campuses across the country, including ours.

At Johns Hopkins, we wrestle with a complex racial legacy. Our institutions were founded by an early abolitionist whose philanthropic values reflected a belief in access for all. But across the winding history of our university, through our actions and inaction, we have not always lived up to that ideal. Recent progress cannot wholly eradicate a complicated past, and our relationships on campus and in our broader community continue to be shaped and defined by the legacies we carry.

Just this afternoon, our students held a protest on the Homewood campus, not only to stand in solidarity with their peers at the University of Missouri, but also to send an important message to me and to our community about the need to intensify our efforts and strengthen the climate and culture at Johns Hopkins. The students presented me with their demands, and we agreed to meet again, with other university decision-makers, later this month.

The realization of the ideal of true equality is a core value for this university, and we are steadfast in our belief that diversity—not only diversity of thought, but also diversity of people and of human experiences—is central to our education, research, and service missions.

Recognizing that we have real, ongoing work to do in this area, the university has been engaging with students, faculty, and staff across our divisions over the past year. We have been working not only to open a deeper dialogue, but to identify concrete actions we can take to address the concerns expressed with pain and frustration in meetings, lecture halls, and small group discussions, and over social media.

Some of these have been put into action already and others are under active exploration. With gratitude to the members of our community who have committed themselves to these efforts, I would like to provide a brief update on a few and affirm our commitment to do more:

We have made a robust effort to recruit a diverse student body. This year’s entering class at Homewood—the undergraduate class of 2019—is not only the academically strongest class ever, it is also our most diverse class ever, with 23 percent identifying as an underrepresented minority (Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander), up from 12 percent in 2009.

Our orientation for new Krieger and Whiting school students this year included, for the first time, a mandatory session on identity, privilege, and social justice, and related training for orientation mentors and resident assistants. We also hosted a “Baltimore Day” during orientation to introduce our freshman to the vibrancy of this city and address concerns about the perpetuation of negative images of Baltimore.

All entering freshmen were asked to read and discuss The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of this country’s foremost thinkers on race, who is coming to the Homewood campus next week to join that discussion.

The new JHU Forums on Race in America have helped to fuel important conversations about diversity and inclusion. Ta-Nehisi Coates was the inaugural speaker of the series last spring. New York Times columnist Charles Blow spoke at our first event of this academic year, and Dawn Porter, the producer of the film Gideon’s Army, will come to campus on Dec. 2.

Over the past year, we have worked closely with the deans of each of our schools to develop a comprehensive Faculty Diversity Initiative, which will be announced later this month. It will include components to strengthen both our recruitment and our retention of diverse faculty, ensuring that we find, hire, and keep the most talented minds from across this country and around the world, and that we regularly report on our progress.

Across the university, we have sponsored new approaches to addressing these challenges, including unconscious bias training for leadership and search committees, the revamping of hiring practices, and support for research and service initiatives to reduce disparities in our society, starting right here in Baltimore.

Going forward, we will work to do more, and to communicate more, about these important efforts. I believe strongly that these initiatives will strengthen the character of our community. But I know that we also need to hear new ideas, criticisms, and alternatives. I invite and encourage you to send your thoughts or concerns to me at president@jhu.edu.

I am determined that I, and many others, will remain open to your thoughts and input, and that we will engage these challenges together with the courage and vision that is the signature of our academic community.

Ronald J. Daniels