William R. Brody
President William R. Brody tonight sent the following message to students, faculty and staff at The Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.
Events of last weekend, triggered by an offensive and repugnant invitation to a fraternity party, have underscored that racism is still an issue. It's still an issue in our society. As much as we wish it were otherwise, it is still an issue in our university community.
But though the point is underscored, it is, for me at least, not a new point.
In fact, issues of diversity, tolerance and inclusion at Johns Hopkins have been a high priority since I became president 10 years ago. One of my first major actions was to create a university-wide Diversity Leadership Council. Throughout my tenure, I have been supportive of its work as well as that of the Black Faculty and Staff Association and the University Committee on the Status of Women.
We have made progress. But no one ever believed, even before last weekend, that we had done all we should. We all knew that we still had lots of work to do toward making Johns Hopkins the diverse, tolerant, respectful, and welcoming community we want it to be.
In fact, before last weekend, the university was already within weeks of announcing important new initiatives based on months of work by the DLC and the UCSW. I am taking advantage of this important moment — when our attention is riveted on the question of how we can build a stronger community — to accelerate the announcement of some of these initiatives and introduce others:
The deans, directors and I have unanimously adopted a proposal by the UCSW for a set of Principles for Ensuring Equity, Civility and Respect for All, laying out our unyielding expectations for treatment of students, faculty and staff by all other members of the university community. That set of principles can be found online now at www.jhu.edu/news_info/policy/civility.html.
I have directed the establishment of a university-wide commission, comprising faculty, staff and students, to make specific recommendations for the implementation of these principles and to help all of us to remain focused on their centrality to our success as a university.
I have directed that we undertake, as the DLC has proposed, greatly enhanced training and education on diversity issues for students, faculty and staff. [While details on this initiative will be forthcoming, it is worth noting now that we believe — for instance — that diversity activity for Homewood undergraduates should extend beyond Orientation at least throughout the freshman year. It is also worth noting that several of our divisions have been leaders in this area, with programs that may provide models for the university as a whole.]
I am directing the deans to work with the faculty to implement an important recommendation on curriculum I received this week from a distinguished group of African-American professors from across the university. These faculty members point out that, in recent years, college and university students have become increasingly unfamiliar with the history of racism in the United States and around the world. They propose that we develop courses, workshops and seminars to increase our students' exposure to the history and current reality of racism.
I have directed that we establish better and more regular communication between the administration and the leadership of our multicultural student groups. I also am determined that we better establish the atmosphere of trust necessary for students to feel they can bring forward concerns without fear of negative repercussions.
As much as last weekend alarmed and disappointed me, this week has given me reason for renewed admiration of and faith in our student body. The Black Student Union and other minority student groups have made their concerns known to all of us with eloquence, passion and civility. Leaders of other student groups have responded with support for the BSU and a determination to reach out across divides of race, ethnicity and culture. The great majority of students with whom I and other senior leaders have spoken are determined to take advantage of the opportunity presented by this unfortunate moment to build increased understanding and unity at Johns Hopkins.
We will continue the dialogue that has begun this week. One venue for that continuing dialogue will be a forum on campus climate issues, open to the entire Homewood campus community, on Monday evening, Nov. 6. We will listen and we undoubtedly will hear important new ideas for addressing issues that face underrepresented minorities, students of diverse sexual orientation, women and others at Johns Hopkins.
I commit to you that attention to those issues will not fade when that forum has passed or when this unfortunate episode recedes from the front pages. The construction of a campus community — one that is open to all, tolerant of all, welcoming for all and comfortable for all — is not a job that is completed in a day or a week. We will not finish the job in a year or even a decade. It must have our constant attention, and it will.
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