Hopkins releases update on Roadmap to Diversity

By SARAH Y. KIM | March 8, 2018

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In early 2016, the University released the Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, a document detailing plans to help make Hopkins a more diverse campus. On Sunday, about two years after the Roadmap’s release, the University published a progress report on the Roadmap. 

The report outlines developments on the Roadmap’s four major goals: increasing the diversity of the Hopkins community, improving opportunities for Hopkins community members of all backgrounds, enabling robust engagement with diverse viewpoints and fostering a climate of respect. 

The University released the Roadmap partly in response to a list of demands made by the Black Student Union (BSU) in November 2015. These demands overlapped with those the BSU had upon its founding in 1968. 

The 2015 demands include increasing the number of full-time African-American faculty members, making the Center for Africana Studies an academic department and insisting the University take direct action against affiliates who discriminate against black students. 

According to the report, the University is hiring more faculty members who identify as underrepresented minorities (URM). The report refers to the Faculty Diversity Initiative (FDI), a $25 million effort launched in 2015 to increase the number of URM faculty through restructured hiring practices. However, the report does not claim that the FDI is directly responsible for the increase in URMs among new hires. 

The report also states that from 2015-2016, 10 percent of newly hired professors identified as URM, and seven percent of hires were black. In 2016-2017, 19 percent of newly hired professors identified as URM and 11.5 percent of hires were black.

However, faculty retention has become a growing problem for the University.Despite the increased percentage of new hires who are URM, the report notes there has also been an increase in URM faculty departures from 2016-2017.

Senior Kwame Alston, president of the BSU, said that the report shows that the Roadmap has failed to meet many of its goals and that hiring new URM faculty is not a major achievement. 

“Things are basically the same,” Alston said. “They have new hiring practices to get [URM] people here, but one of the things we talked about when the Roadmap first came out is what are we going to do to keep them here. It’s simple to get someone to the door.” 

The BSU has previously expressed dissatisfaction with the Roadmap. In May 2016, they published a six-page critique of an earlier version of the Roadmap, which was then updated in November 2016 in response to student feedback. 

“The Roadmap was a way of them silencing us,” Alston said. “It wasn’t everything we were asking for at all.” 

He maintained that the current Roadmap does not effectively address BSU’s 2015 demands, and said that at best it only addresses two to three of these demands.

“When I say ‘addressed,’ I’m saying they touched on that demand, not 100 percent fulfilled what we requested,” Alston said. 

He elaborated that the University has failed to make the Center for Africana Studies a department. Alston noted that the report mentioned new faculty in the Center, but it fails to address the proportion of new faculty for the Center who are URM. 

“That was one of the biggest things we were really dissatisfied with,” he said. “That was a very clear, simple demand we wanted.” 

He also lamented the continued lack of black professors in STEM fields. 

“The majority of our black students are STEM, and they don’t have professors that look like them,” Alston said. “URM are pressured by their families to pursue rigorous STEM careers because that’s the most lucrative field there is out there... there is a black professor in History, but all of the black students who are premed are not going to see her.”

The report also highlights the addition of new diversity and inclusion faculty, notably Fenimore Fisher, the University’s first vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer (CDO).

Fisher joined the Hopkins community on Oct. 23 and has had 20 years of experience working on diversity and inclusion initiatives. As CDO he is responsible for overseeing the Roadmap and has been communicating with members of student groups like BSU and the Student Government Association (SGA). 

Alston believes that diversity and inclusion faculty are an indispensable addition to the community. 

“When you look at how student life was run here at Hopkins, especially when I started here as a freshman, we were not on the same level as our peers,” Alston said. “We needed these positions. We needed specific offices devoted to diversity and leadership.” 

He emphasized that new faculty members like Fisher should not be expected to single-handedly improve diversity and inclusion on campus.

“If they don’t have the resources and the means to do their job, what you’re going to see is that students are going to be angry at them, versus at the whole system,” Alston said.  

In addition to new faculty, the report also provides statistics showing an increase in URM undergraduate students. In Fall 2017, 27.2 percent of the undergraduate population identified as URM, compared to 23 percent in 2016. Since 2010, the proportion of the student body identifying as African American has risen from 6.2 percent to 10.9 percent. 

The progress report also lists various exhibitions and talks that aimed to foster a more inclusive culture at Hopkins. For example, Hopkins recently began holding JHU Forums on Race in America. The report also highlights the University’s efforts at strengthening its relationship with the City, such as the HopkinsLocal economic inclusion program, as well as BLocal, a citywide coalition of businesses in the Baltimore area. 

Alston said that the BSU is continuing to hold the University accountable and holding meetings with officials to assess their progress. 

“We are not giving up on pushing our demands,” he said. “The BSU is not going to forget our political action in fall 2015... We sure as hell are not going to forget what they promised in the Roadmap.”

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