What a difference a year makes.
When I wrote my message to you this time last year, I had just returned to the classroom for the first time in over a decade to teach an Intersession course to Hopkins undergraduates on the relationship between universities and democracy.
I so enjoyed being with our students that I decided to launch a full-semester course this spring on the same topic. This time around, the context has changed considerably. Our country faces the aftermath of an assault on the United States Capitol led by domestic insurrectionists, a significant economic recession, and a pandemic that has claimed more American lives than World War II.
For me, these factors underscore the key role of universities in our society to make lifesaving discoveries, communicate facts to the public and policymakers, and, importantly, to teach its citizens.
I am immensely proud of what Johns Hopkins has accomplished this year. Our faculty and staff have been truly indispensable in the fight against COVID-19. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center was recently named one of the most important inventions of the year by Time magazine. The Berman Institute of Bioethics' landmark report on digital contact tracing has been downloaded more than 168,000 times in 134 countries. And the herculean efforts of our School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health have been integral in developing better treatments for the virus, defending against its spread, and shaping the debate on equitable vaccine distribution.
We have also begun the gradual resumption of in-person activities, understanding how important it is for so many of our students to be on campus this semester. Knowing the difficulties facing us in the ongoing pandemic, we did not take this step lightly. Aided by expertise from across our institution, and informed by local and national public health guidance, we have implemented rigorous safety measures, expanded testing for undergraduates and our faculty and staff on campus, and launched the JHU Social Compact, which outlines our collective responsibility to each other. The semester has not been without its challenges, but I am heartened that the systems we have put in place are allowing us to take this step forward.
Thanks to the extraordinary work of so many across the institution, Hopkins will emerge from this moment stronger than ever. Already, we are forging ahead on several long-planned projects. From our future Washington campus at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue and the SNF Agora Institute building designed by the famed architecture firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop, to the inclusive and collaborative spaces of our new student center, these will not only significantly enhance the student experience in the years ahead but deliver on our university's responsibility to embody democratic values and cultivate them in our students.
Despite the uncertainties we face, I know our university will requite its mission to help make our society safer, more just, and more humane.
Ronald J. Daniels