A Letter from President Daniels and Provost Kumar

Dear Johns Hopkins Community: 

In this moment of national reckoning with racist violence and structural racism it is clear that as individuals, as a university, and as a society, we are faced with both an imperative and an opportunity to act. Sadly, that pain and impact reverberated again this week when a racist symbol was found on a construction site in an off-campus lab facility and Johns Hopkins unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms condemned such an act of hate and the legacy of racial oppression that it embodies.

We hope—indeed, we believe—that we will look back upon this era as a watershed in the advancement of true equity and inclusion. 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. 

In recent weeks, we have taken some important initial steps on each of these paths in candid and sometimes hard conversations, formal and informal, with our Black students, staff, and faculty; in taking time off to commemorate Juneteenth; and in pausing the establishment of a campus police department to develop alternatives for public safety. But we also have spent this time wrestling with what should come next—how to hold fast to the progress we have made while also pursuing solutions to dismantle systemic racism, advance equity, and increase diverse representation at Johns Hopkins.

Our university’s context

As a community, we lived through a painfully similar moment several years ago, when a series of incidents of police violence resulting in the deaths of Black people across the country— including Freddie Gray in our own city in 2015—shone a piercing light on the brutal injustices upon which this nation was built and which continue to shape the present for Black and Brown Americans.

At that time and in the years since, we were rightly called upon by our city and our faculty, staff, and students to acknowledge and enlarge Johns Hopkins’ role in advancing equity and inclusion, and together we did so—through the creation of the JHU Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, which took an expansive approach to new programs and accountabilities to address the inequities faced by underrepresented and historically marginalized members of our community. We also launched HopkinsLocal, our Baltimore-based economic inclusion effort that has provided jobs for hundreds of Baltimore’s citizens, and a series of public educational initiatives, such as Vision for Baltimore for K-8 citywide vision screening and glasses, and P-Tech for integrated high school, community college, and career support, among other community programs.  

The Roadmap established a strong foundation. Under its comprehensive framework, we created mechanisms for transparency and accountability, including regular faculty, staff, and graduate student composition reports, with 2019 data to be released this month. We have increased the diversity of undergraduate students and staff across our institution, as well as faculty and graduate or PhD students in a number of departments. We have instituted revised search practices, unconscious bias training, and a new discrimination and harassment policy, and supported mentoring and pipeline programs across the divisions. Last week, we welcomed the university’s second vice provost and chief diversity officer, Katrina Caldwell. 

Next steps

Our progress over the last five years is real and measurable, but we know that it is not sufficient. This moment demands that we deepen our resolve and act with even greater urgency. We must fill the gaps we know persist, explore new areas for improvement, and expand our scope for change

To get us started, we stand ready to move forward along four paths. We will: 

  • Create a 2020 Task Force to review the current Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion and make new recommendations for the institution; 
  • Launch a scholarly initiative to understand and acknowledge our institution’s past history of discrimination on a number of different grounds, focused first and foremost on race;
  • Establish a committee to develop principles and a process for reexamining the naming of buildings and programs across Johns Hopkins; and
  • Expand our anti-racist and inclusion training and education tools. 

Roadmap 2020 Task Force.

We have asked three of the university’s leaders—Katrina Caldwell, vice provost and chief diversity officer; Ashley Llorens, chair of the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council; and Patricia Davidson, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing—to steward a Roadmap 2020 task force to re-assess the first JHU Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion and ultimately provide a set of new commitments, goals, and accountabilities for the next Roadmap

This task force will be composed of faculty, students, and staff from across the institution. Together, they will undertake a series of listening sessions and will develop a set of recommendations for our next five years, with measurable goals and accountabilities, including but not limited to areas such as internal promotion and professional development; anti-racism education and training for students, faculty, and staff; and effective climate assessments. Where our progress has been insufficient, we need advice on new approaches and collaborations within and beyond our academic community aimed at ensuring more concrete progress in the years to come. These recommendations will not only fuel revisions to the JHU Roadmap and divisional diversity plans but also shape the university’s strategic priorities that follow the 10x2020.

Initiative to Understand and Acknowledge Johns Hopkins History.

At an institution like Johns Hopkins, forged in the aftermath of the Civil War and implicated in the failed project of Reconstruction and the segregated society that followed, it is critical not only to chart a path for the future but also to understand, acknowledge, and grapple with the role of racism and other types of discrimination in our history. Hopkins Retrospective was launched in 2013 as a corollary to the commissioning of a new history of the university, and has encompassed a number of initiatives to support historical research, exhibits, and campus displays with respect to race and diversity. Hopkins Retrospective also has worked to capture and digitize the university’s unique voices and pioneers through oral histories of underrepresented minority, women, and first-generation students, faculty, and staff, and through collaboration with the Black Faculty and Staff Association on the Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins

This fall we are launching a new initiative 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. The SNF Agora Institute will shepherd this effort, which will be led by Martha Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and professor of history. In collaboration with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Martha will oversee a number of different activities that seek to develop a more complete and textured understanding of our institution through commissioned research, art exhibitions, student seminars, workshops, and public lectures.

Committee to Establish Principles on Naming.

At the same time, we see and hear the need to address questions regarding the legacy of individuals whose names or iconography adorn buildings and programs at Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine, and to develop a set of principles and a process for evaluating how we acknowledge, and respond to, conduct that we regard as antithetical to our values. In recent years, our institution and its divisions have taken steps to contextualize rather than erase these parts of our history. As we’ve acknowledged previously with regard to Johns Hopkins President Isaiah Bowman (1935-48), a leading scholar and government adviser who was also an avowed racist and anti-Semite, it is critical that we confront our past as we seek better and more just decisions for our community and our society.  

As the university and its divisions consider growing calls to rename facilities and programs, we will undertake a deliberative process for developing thoughtful principles and procedures at an institutional level that can then be applied with rigor to specific cases—principles for considering whether renaming or contextualization is the more appropriate response, and for ensuring that historical memory can be kindled so that we don’t lose sight of the lessons of the past. Among our challenges is how to acknowledge the contributions of individuals in our history without excusing conduct that we regard as repugnant.  

To address these questions, we have asked Tony Anderson, university trustee; Larry Jackson, professor of history and English and director of the Billie Holiday Project for Liberation Arts; and Karen Horton, professor and director of the Department of Radiology, to lead a cross-institutional advisory committee composed of faculty, students, staff, alumni, and trustees from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine. Their work will commence this summer, and a report will be completed in October. The committee will welcome and engage divergent views and provide meaningful opportunities for community feedback.

Inclusion and Anti-Racism Training and Education Tools.

Finally, we know that our community is seeking opportunities for continued dialogue, healing, and understanding. This summer, the university will work to strengthen our suite of inclusion and anti-racism training and education tools for leaders, managers, and the university community at large, and Katrina Caldwell and Sherita Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine, will collaborate to deepen diversity awareness training and education across our institution. We also share for your information a link to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s collection of Racial Discussion Resources offered for the benefit of us all on the website of the JHM Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity.

Our leaders welcome and will continue to be in dialogue about racial injustice and equity at events such as the upcoming Candid Conversation with the Hopkins Diaspora and BFSA on July 14, and we hope these tools support you to do the same. 

Taken as a whole, we believe these steps will move us forward, sustain and deepen efforts already underway, and embody the inclusivity we seek to build together. We know progress on these issues requires not merely our present focus but regular attention, discussion, and action over an extended period of time.

We are grateful to this community for the ways in which it has supported and advocated for each other over the years, and especially during this anguished and pivotal moment, and for showing our institution that change is both necessary and possible. 


Ronald J. Daniels 

Sunil Kumar 
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

More information will be provided on these initiatives and opportunities to participate in the committees in the coming weeks. Please share your interest in participating in these initiatives or committees as well as any feedback below.