Johns Hopkins University is committed to the equal dignity and worth of all persons—inclusive of race, color, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, socioeconomic status, and political viewpoint.
Our commitment to these values is expressed in several key documents developed over more than a decade, including our diversity statement and our Ten by Twenty, which articulates a dedication to “guaranteeing equal opportunity for every person in our community, and the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities [URM], including into positions of leadership.”
In the context of three pillars of the Ten by Twenty, the Roadmap is about Individual Excellence, finding new ways to attract the most talented faculty, students, and staff, and then to nurture their success; it is rooted in a Commitment to our Communities, recognizing that our work within Baltimore can cultivate new opportunities for all; and it is necessarily a One University endeavor, requiring purposeful commitment from every division and department.
The Roadmap is intended to articulate and deepen our institutional commitment to our core values. Our vision for diversity at Johns Hopkins is for our community to reflect the broad array of human differences found in our society at large. This diversity advances the university’s fundamental role in cultivating students’ capacity for learning—from classes, classmates, and colleagues—and serves as a distinguishing factor in our success. The achievement of this ideal will depend on our ability to create and nourish an environment and culture where people from all backgrounds feel valued, engaged, and empowered to succeed.
We approach the challenge of meaningful change not as a single initiative or moment in time. Rather, this must be a sustained effort across the full range of our strategic priorities, undertaken with the complete support of our university leadership, including our deans, cabinet, and board of trustees, and communicated within our community in a manner that reflects the ethos and aspiration of this endeavor.
Components of Change
As we embark on this effort, it is useful to be explicit about our aims. This Roadmap is informed by the experience of our own institution and by the academic literature, both of which call our attention to four goals in particular:
- Achieving greater diversity of membership in the JHU community. Across our history, access to the university has been impaired by a range of explicit and implicit societal barriers that impact minorities unequally (Bowen and Bok, 1998; Strohl, 2013). As our excellence and ability to achieve our mission is directly linked to incorporating differing perspectives, we have a compelling interest in surmounting these barriers, committing ourselves to recruiting, supporting, and retaining individuals from a spectrum of populations and life experiences. Only through these actions can we build an academic environment that both reflects and models the intellectual strength of our diverse world.
- Improving opportunity for JHU community members of all backgrounds. Improving our diversity of membership is necessary but not sufficient (Pike & Kuh, 2006). After welcoming a diverse group of people to our community, we must be able to ensure their meaningful and continuing participation in the myriad pathways through which faculty, students, and staff can flourish and advance.
- Enabling robust engagement with diverse viewpoints. As an academic institution, it is important to vindicate a vision of diversity that speaks not only to participation but also to the fostering of discussion and debate about complex underlying issues (Saenz et al., 2006; Gurin et al., 2009). We strive to create an environment in which we understand, value, and learn from each other, and can realize the benefits of diverse and divergent views and perspectives. A deep and robust commitment to academic freedom is a necessary foundation for diversity to thrive.
- Fostering a climate of respect. We must commit ourselves to a climate that embraces diversity, promotes inclusion, encourages civility, and sustains open dialogue and free expression (Saenz et al., 2006). This is especially critical at a time when social media and other forums enable anonymous, unaccountable hostility.
Feedback to the Roadmap
A critical aspect of the development of the Roadmap has been the input of the university community, gathered over the past several months electronically and in person. These comments have strengthened the final document immeasurably. Following the release of the draft Roadmap in February 2016, individuals across the university responded with their ideas, critiques, and feedback. The university received more than 100 substantive individual responses through email and a feedback form available on the Provost’s Office website. In addition, 30 distinct groups of faculty, students, or staff provided feedback, often to the president, provost, or other university leaders, through meetings, open forums, and private conversations.
The feedback reflected a wide range of perspectives on issues of diversity and inclusion. Many respondents applauded the university’s overarching effort or the specific values, ideas, and projects described within the draft document, expressing a strong belief in the importance of this work, disappointment in previous lack of progress, or a strong desire to do more. Others doubted the need for any focus on diversity at all, questioning whether the efforts would compromise the university’s standards and whether they represent a political concession to specific groups on campus. Still other commenters questioned the university’s conviction, the specificity of its plans, and its long-term willingness to see its commitments to fruition. There were some common values expressed across the varied perspectives,including the sense that JHU should welcome outstanding learners, scholars, and employees regardless of their backgrounds; that discrimination should not be tolerated; and that in its constant pursuit of excellence, JHU should be a place where free expression and rigorous debate are treasured.
Certain ideas or themes were repeated several times. They include a desire to focus not just on the recruitment of a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff but also on their retention, particularly through mentorship and professional development opportunities; an interest in seeing more diverse leadership at every level of the university, from midlevel to senior ranks; a concern about broadening the intellectual diversity on campus; and a general consensus that the university must be clear in its aims and accountable to the community through data, metrics, timelines, and regular reporting on progress.
Not unexpectedly, there were differences in priorities expressed. For example, several respondents wanted the Roadmap to more fully represent the black experience on campus. Others expressed that diversity—and this document—must be understood broadly, incorporating the full spectrum of our community. Many comments touched on the need for more training around cultural competence and/or unconscious bias for faculty, students, and staff, but there was disagreement over whether that training should be mandatory and whether, if offered, it would be rigorous and effective.
This feedback was considered carefully and assessed against the draft Roadmap and the university’s key commitments. The cumulative input led to shifts in approach in the document—an added focus on graduate students and trainees, for example, after hearing that the student section felt too undergraduate-centered—and key revisions, such as increased attention to the specific efforts of our divisions. Some material, including the goals driving our work, has not changed from the original draft and not every comment, idea, or approach was incorporated. Every section of the final Roadmap, however, attempts to incorporate significant revisions based on the input of our community.
We recognize there is a marked familiarity in some of the issues we are confronting on campus today, and the sense—among our alumni and long-standing faculty, especially—that we have been here before. This Roadmap, therefore, not only states our commitments and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion in clear and unequivocal terms, it also ensures that we will be held accountable for our ambitions by the university community and the governing structures of the institution.
In this respect, the Roadmap has been endorsed by the university’s board of trustees, providing a clear mandate from the highest level of university governance for our work. Our trustees’ endorsement means that our commitments are not ephemeral promises, subject to the trends of the moment or the dedication of individual leaders. Rather, this document, and the deliberative process used to develop it, is meant to foster steady, tangible, and demonstrable change.
At times, success will be hard to quantify, particularly because we will employ neither quotas nor identity-based targets that are legally impermissible. Our efforts will also necessarily align with other important principles. We will not compromise in our pursuit of excellence—indeed,our commitments to diversity and inclusion are intended to achieve heightened excellence. Nor, in our pursuit of these commitments, will we recede from other foundational tenets of the university, such as our bedrock commitment to academic freedom.
To measure our progress and foster accountability in the months and years ahead, we will use data gleaned from a number of different sources, including, where appropriate, periodic surveys of various campus communities. While data alone cannot paint a complete picture of our community or adequately capture progress toward our ultimate aims, a focus on data collection and analysis will allow us to track improvement in particular areas, such as the diversity of our entering classes or faculty ranks, satisfaction with campus climate, the use and effectiveness of various trainings, or the trend in reports of discrimination or bias. Transparency will be a driving force in our sustained progress, and we will also provide timely and pertinent reports and updates with sufficient details to allow assessment of progress. And we will provide opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff to continue to inform us of their perceptions of progress and to help steer our work.
From these mechanisms for accountability—surveys, data, periodic reports, and opportunities for input—we will share key results with the university community, including through postings on a new diversity website (diversity.jhu.edu).