In the midst of a national reckoning with structural racism and racial injustice, Johns Hopkins University leaders announced today a multi-faceted effort to advance equity and inclusion at the university, bolster diversity, and address discrimination in many forms, first and foremost around race.
University leaders outlined plans to conduct a comprehensive review of diversity and inclusion efforts across the institution, including the JHU Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion; launch an initiative aimed at understanding the legacy of systemic discrimination at the university; form a committee to re-examine the naming of buildings and programs that recognize controversial or racist figures; and expand anti-racist and inclusion training and education tools. The efforts will be a collaboration of faculty, staff, and students with diversity and inclusion officials at the university, as well as scholarly efforts led by university historians.
In a message to the Johns Hopkins community, JHU President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar said the national moment—sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police—requires specific and sustained action to dismantle structural racism. The university has made strides in promoting diversity and equity since 2015, when Baltimore's Freddie Gray died while in police custody, they wrote, but there is much more to do.
"We hope—indeed, we believe—that we will look back upon this era as a watershed in the advancement of true equity and inclusion," they wrote. "But to do so, we must redouble our commitment to listen attentively, deliberate thoughtfully, and act with urgency to address issues of historical and present-day racial injustice."
The first step will be a comprehensive review of the JHU Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, a document published in 2016 that outlines specific actions to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity among faculty, students, and staff, as well as in the institution's curricula and policies. It also lays out goals for strengthening the university's relationship with the Baltimore community.
According to the most recent progress report on the Roadmap, which was published in April 2019, between 2015 and 2017 the university saw upticks in the percentages of minority faculty (from 30% to 32%) and underrepresented minority faculty (from 8% to 9%). The term underrepresented minority faculty includes racial or ethnic groups that have traditionally been underrepresented within higher education—Black or African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander—and the term minority faculty includes those URM faculty as well as faculty members of Asian descent. The minority professorial faculty and URM professorial faculty grew during that time period, by 11% and 18%, respectively. New figures are expected to be shared later this month.
The Roadmap 2020 Task Force will be led by Katrina Caldwell, the university's new chief diversity officer and vice provost for diversity and inclusion at Johns Hopkins; Ashley Llorens, chair of the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council and chief of the Intelligent Systems Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; and Patricia Davidson, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Their aim will be to re-examine and renew the commitments and goals of the Roadmap.
"As President Daniels says in his message, this is a time for introspection as a university, to examine what we've done and how well we've done it," Llorens says. "I think now, we have an additional opportunity to look back and ask ourselves, 'What should we have been trying to do?' Engaging these questions will enable us to expand our goals while reaffirming our commitment to building a diverse and inclusive university."
The university will also launch an initiative that examines the history of discrimination at Johns Hopkins and how the university has both reinforced discrimination and served as a force to combat it. The effort will involve commissioned research, student seminars, workshops, and public lectures aimed at "more deeply understanding and reconciling the university's own history of discrimination, both overt and subtle, from its founding to the present day," Daniels and Kumar wrote.
"We're at a moment of deep reflection, of accounting for ourselves, and I think part of that means taking stock of our history and how we arrived at this place," Jones says. "We have archival knowledge to plumb. We have many members of our community who are themselves the keepers of our history. And we will have a team of expert historians and storytellers who will aid us to not only discover that past, but to present it in a way that makes it useful for the future of our community. But it will require all of us to be courageous to look squarely and unflinchingly at our most difficult moments from the past."
Johns Hopkins will also create a committee of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees to develop principles and a process for evaluating the naming of buildings and programs for individuals known to hold racist or unacceptable views, or the presence of statues or likenesses of these problematic figures. The committee will be led by university trustee Tony Anderson; Lawrence Jackson, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of English and History; and Karen Horton, professor and director of the Department of Radiology at the School of Medicine. The group will grapple with questions about when it is appropriate to remove a name or statue entirely, and when it is appropriate to provide greater historical context around that figure. A report detailing the committee's recommendations, built upon the actions of peer institutions as well as Johns Hopkins community feedback, will be issued later this year.
The final initiative involves strengthening the university's current suite of anti-racist and inclusion training and education tools this summer. These efforts will be aimed at providing opportunities for managers, leaders, and the university community at large to engage in continued dialogue and healing, Daniels and Kumar wrote.
More information about how members of the university community can join committees and participate in listening sessions will be shared soon. Additionally, a feedback form has been set up on the university's Diversity and Inclusion website.
The four actions outlined in the message reflect some of the foundational steps that are necessary to create an inclusive environment on campus, says Caldwell, who joined JHU as CDO and vice provost for diversity and inclusion on July 1.
"By wrestling with the university's history and developing a plan for the naming and contextualization process, this plan represents a really valuable step forward for making sure our communities see themselves reflected, included, and supported," Caldwell says. "We spend a lot of time focusing on the important strategic or tactical objectives that support diversity, but sometimes our physical spaces are not reflective of that progress. Or in other cases, progress that we've made can be stymied or slowed if we haven't adequately addressed the harm and the pain of the past."
Llorens adds that because of the breadth of the university's research and expertise and its international scope, it is essential to ensure equity and inclusion for all members of the university community. "I think we always have to remember that we are made better by doing this work," Llorens says.