Johns Hopkins Committee to Establish Principles on Naming to host listening sessions

The group is developing guidance for future decisions about the names of existing facilities, professorships, scholarships, fellowships, and programs

The Johns Hopkins Committee to Establish Principles on Naming will host the first in a series of listening sessions later this week as it continues its work to address important questions regarding the legacy of individuals whose names or iconography adorn Johns Hopkins buildings and programs.

One of several initiatives undertaken by Johns Hopkins University and Medicine during this period of national reckoning with racism and inequality, the committee's charge is to develop institutional-level principles and procedures for evaluating requests to change or remove the name of an existing building or program, which can then be applied to specific cases.

"We are working carefully to ensure that the process is transparent and accessible to all; we know that we can't go forward leaving anyone behind."
Tony Anderson, Karen Horton, and Lawrence Jackson
Naming committee co-chairs

This group's first virtual listening session, for Hopkins faculty, will be held on Friday at noon. In the coming weeks, the committee will seek additional input as it hosts listening sessions for staff, students, alumni, and members of the Baltimore community. A full list of upcoming events is available online.

"The sessions are an opportunity for all of the stakeholders at Hopkins and in Baltimore to discuss the broad goals and circumstances of naming and re-naming, and also to contribute the day-to-day lived experiences of interacting with the name on a door, a building, writing a name in an email signature, and so forth," said the committee's co-chairs—Tony Anderson, a vice chair of the university's board of trustees; Karen Horton, professor of radiology and radiological science and director of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Science at Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Lawrence Jackson, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of English and History at JHU's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

"We are working carefully to ensure that the process is transparent and accessible to all; we know that we can't go forward leaving anyone behind."

The committee's creation was announced this summer alongside several initiatives aimed at deepening the institution's commitment to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. It will not take up specific renaming requests, nor will it develop criteria for future naming decisions—those decisions will remain with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, the boards of trustees of Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, and relevant school or divisional leadership. However, the committee will share with those entities its draft report, which is expected to be issued this spring.

The committee, made up of faculty, staff, students, and trustees, is focused on three core questions:

  • What substantive criteria should be used when considering renaming requests?
  • What process should be followed in evaluating them?
  • How can we provide effective historical context in cases where renaming isn't appropriate but where greater public understanding of an individual's legacy is warranted?

"We have been at work as a full committee for almost six months now, reading, holding meetings, conferencing a bit with peer institutions who have begun the evolutionary process of re-designating the symbolic framework of their campuses in the service of greater justice, equity, and inclusivity," the co-chairs said. "But this is not a rote or formulaic endeavor, and after our conversations with students, faculty, staff, community, and alumni, we will be drafting our recommendation in an open-ended process to produce a unique body of principles to guide the university's decision-making process on naming and re-naming."

For updates or to submit feedback, visit the committee's website.

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