The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 14, 1998
September 14, 1998
VOL. 28, NO. 3


Open Letter to the Members and Friends of The Johns Hopkins University

President William R. Brody reaffirms university's ongoing commitment to diversity and equal opportunity

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Four years ago a university-wide committee challenged all of us to rethink how we work, communicate and associate within the academic environment as we enter the next millennium. The Committee for the 21st Century, or C-21 as it was popularly known, comprised some of the best and most thoughtful minds at Johns Hopkins. I was privileged and proud to serve as the committee's initial chairman.

Since the release of the committee's final report in September 1994, the university has taken decisive actions to reach some of the specific goals outlined in the report. We have intensified our efforts to extend the scope of our international partnerships and associations; we have promoted closer collaboration between departments and among divisions; we have made steady progress in tying the entire academic enterprise together electronically; we have enhanced undergraduate and graduate programs; and we have sustained the whole by moving the university toward greater financial self-sufficiency.

President William R. Brody

In countless ways we are redefining and reinventing the way we research, teach and serve at Johns Hopkins. In each of these capacities we know that our success depends upon the participation and contributions of women and men from all backgrounds. Only by embracing the opportunities of diversity and promoting an environment welcoming to all can we hope to become one of the leading institutions of the 21st century. It is to the challenges and rewards of this ongoing effort that I direct these comments.

The Johns Hopkins University is strongly committed to equal opportunity and access to its programs and activities. In keeping with this commitment, the university has been, and will continue to be, vigilant in promoting a diverse community of faculty, staff and students. Recently, the issue of affirmative efforts to foster diversity has been the subject of national focus and debate. It is therefore appropriate that I reiterate the university's interest in diversity as a crucial aspect of its educational mission and its service to the nation.

In the first place, maintaining a diverse community reflecting a plurality of perspectives is essential to the pursuit of academic excellence. Diversity enriches intellectual discourse, teaching and research by making available multiple viewpoints and life experiences. During this unique stage of their lives, our students can learn as much from each other as they do from members of the faculty.

Maintaining a diverse student body is important beyond the classroom as well. Demographers project that those now classified as minorities in this country will become a majority somewhere near the middle of the 21st century. The more highly educated this population is, the more competitive our economy will be, and the more our democracy will flourish. Furthermore, we must prepare our students to live in this increasingly diverse society. A student educated in an entirely homogenous environment will simply be unprepared to deal with the issues and individuals in today's global society and economy. Indeed, in the words of the late Justice Lewis Powell, "It is not too much to say that the nation's future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this nation of many peoples."

Our mission therefore requires that we attract talented individuals from a broad array of backgrounds so that all may learn from the unique attributes each individual brings to the Hopkins community. Some of those distinguishing attributes are unique skills and experiences; others include race, ethnicity, gender, disability, geographic origin, language background and socio-economic status.

As we continue our efforts to preserve and enhance the diversity of the university community, we must do so carefully, within the law, and with sensitivity and creativity. I renew my charge to the provost, the deans and the Diversity Leadership Council to develop a positive action plan for diversity as we move forward toward the 21st century.

At the same time, I wish to emphasize that the university's policies prohibiting illegal discrimination and harassment against students, faculty and staff will be strictly enforced. Johns Hopkins will do its best to ensure fair treatment in employment and benefits for everyone, regardless of rank or position. This includes the opportunity for every person employed on a full-time basis to participate in his or her own growth through training that can lead to professional and personal development. I encourage all members of the university community to review the university's policies and procedures relating to equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and sexual harassment and to discuss any issues or concerns with the appropriate supervisors, department or division heads, human resources staff, the affirmative action coordinator or other individuals with whom they feel comfortable.

Finally, the university acknowledges that our staff and faculty and students lead rich and often complex lives of which Johns Hopkins is but one part. We will strive, in keeping with our policies on family and medical leave, to accommodate and support them when they face critical family and personal issues that may temporarily affect job performance or stand in the way of personal development. This, too, is part of what is involved in ensuring that the university offers a truly open and welcoming environment to all who share and contribute to its mission.

--William R. Brody