Roadmap on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Kickoff Event

Remarks by President Ronald J. Daniels
Roadmap on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Kickoff Event

Good morning everyone!

I am truly thrilled that so many people from across our institution could join us today to officially launch Realizing our Promise, Johns Hopkins’ Second Roadmap on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

As Katrina said, this is an exciting moment for our university, because it represents a next step in a journey in which we have already made meaningful, measurable progress – thanks in no small part to the ongoing work of all of you!

As many of you know, the first Roadmap emerged out of a period when campuses across the country were roiled by student protests calling on colleges and universities to grapple meaningfully with the long shadow of racial inequity in this country and its entrenchment in our institutions – including here at Johns Hopkins.

I remember the moment in late 2015 clearly.

Our students—led by our Black Student Union—convened one afternoon to urge me and my colleagues to pay closer attention to the lack of representation of underrepresented minority faculty, students, and staff. They asked that we begin this work by participating in an open forum to discuss these issues and how we were going to respond.

I wholeheartedly agreed.

In preparation for the forum, I pulled papers from our archives dating back to the ‘60s to better understand how my predecessors had responded in similar moments. Looking at these statements against my own talking points, I realized that they may as well have been identical.

The uncomfortable truth was that progress at Hopkins had been episodic at best. Indeed, despite our best intentions, our faculty numbers in 2015 were almost identical to what they had been twenty years earlier in 1995. The message was clear: good intentions were not good enough.

We simply had to do more—and do it differently.

This was where the idea for the first Roadmap was born.

I am excited at the meaningful progress we have made to meet all the goals in the first Roadmap, including the creation of a new universitywide statement on diversity, equity and inclusion. And we have laid a critical foundation for public accountability and radical transparency through regular reports on staff, faculty, and graduate student diversity numbers across our divisions.

But we also know that progress has been halting in other areas. The work is not done.

This was why, in 2020, we convened the Roadmap 2020 Task Force to reassess our progress and renew our commitments.

Thanks to their work and the input of so many across our institution, the Second Roadmap lays out an ambitious set of new goals paired with significant resources to drive our progress.

To achieve these goals, we are committing:

  • To deepen and expand our diversity efforts, especially in areas where we have seen recalcitrance;
  • To support retention, inclusion, and success for every member of our community through professional advancement opportunities, a more inclusive culture, and community-building;
  • To enhance our institutional capacity and support these efforts by elevating the role of the chief diversity officer and expanding the Office of Diversity and Inclusion;
  • To strengthen and extend our partnerships with our Baltimore community;
  • And to make sure that Johns Hopkins is – as our BFSA leadership has urged us to be—a truly best-in-class employer and a place where each and every member of our staff is able to thrive professionally and personally from the minute they join us.

And, of course, we have undertaken this work not simply because it is the moral thing to do. It is also essential to realizing our mission as a university.

Indeed, failing to make our institution more diverse, inclusive, and equitable would be to abdicate our aspirations for research and educational excellence. Diversity is a precondition for excellence and for our capacity to have robust discussions, and to reckon with a variety of ideas and perspectives.

We do this, too, because inaction would neglect our obligations to democratic society.

Universities like ours ought to be microcosms of pluralist democracy, diverse communities where people from different backgrounds and beliefs can come together and learn to engage one another meaningfully across their differences.

At a time when so many of us live and interact with people who look like us and believe the same things we do, universities can help us break down siloes, bridge differences, and work together to model a society where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.

I am truly grateful to Katrina Caldwell and all our colleagues in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, to the Roadmap Task Force and working group members, to all the DEI professionals and members of equity-seeking groups across our institution, and to all of you here today who have participated in a truly expansive, inclusive and representative effort that has brought us to this moment.

Thank you for being with us on this journey and for the steps you will take today and every day to carry us forward.

Now, it is my great pleasure to introduce an academic leader whose career has embodied this work to the fullest: today’s keynote speaker, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski.

I have been fortunate to know Freeman for many years and have learned a great deal from his example.

As the president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County for three decades, he has transformed the school into a university nationally recognized for its achievement and diversity in STEM fields—which is also why his partnership has been so critical to our Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative that we launched last year to expand opportunities for historically underrepresented students pursuing PhDs in STEM fields.

UMBC stands today as a sterling model for universities across the country. And as Freeman would be the first to say, he has achieved this success through painstaking consultation with numerous stakeholders across the institution, empowering them to participate in the work of realizing lasting change.

He is truly the standard bearer for capable, moral leadership in higher ed—and I don’t envy whoever has to fill his shoes when he retires this year.

I couldn’t imagine anyone more qualified to help us kick off our Second Roadmap on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and I am so grateful he is with us.