University President Ronald J. Daniels announced in an email to the student body on Friday, June 5 that Hopkins will be open this fall for limited academic instruction, co-curricular activities and residential life. By the end of the month, University leaders will share a detailed plan for comment and feedback. According to Daniels, a final plan will be posted by mid-July.
“Our community has witnessed and experienced the extraordinary pain caused by racial injustice and violence, borne especially by our Black students, faculty, and staff... It is difficult in this moment to think about anything but the anguish in the world around us. Yet we also know that the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 is an added strain for many,” Daniels wrote. “With that in mind, we write today to update you further on where the JHU Planning effort stands.”
This development was released amid recent backlash the University has faced in light of its response to Black Lives Matter protests and its continued to plans to implement a private police force.
Daniels shared that the University will begin Phase One of reopening once granted permission from Baltimore City, which announced that it will ease coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions on Monday, June 8.
In an email to The News-Letter, rising senior Smitha Mahesh expressed her surprise at the University’s announcements. She described the decision as premature given the consistent growth in COVID-19 cases.
Mahesh questioned whether the University is making decisions based on the student’s best interests.
“I am aware Johns Hopkins University has lost a lot of money due to the early closing of campus and shutting down of summer programs,” she wrote. “I am also very aware of Johns Hopkins University cutting employee's contributions to retirement accounts and the little cuts in the paychecks by high-salary paid administration and leaders of JHU.”
Rising sophomore and First-Generation, Limited-Income student Lubna Azmi also agrees with Mahesh that it is still too early to make decisions about the fall.
“Coronavirus cases and deaths are going to go up so exponentially right now,“ Azmi said. “I don’t think that is being considered right now.”
In the email, the University emphasized that they will be offering in-person activities to the extent possible in compliance with public health protocols. Administrators are currently evaluating facilities and resources to determine the feasibility of in-person classes and co-curricular activities.
“We are cautiously optimistic that this exercise will result in our being able to resume a meaningful portion of our on-campus undergraduate, graduate, and professional educational activities,” Daniels wrote.
He added that all or most courses will still be available online.
“We will be flexible and supportive in ensuring that students unable to return will have the opportunities to continue their academic progress and pursue their educational goals,” Daniels wrote.
Rising sophomore Andre Vu remains determined to continue his education in the fall, whether that may be online or in person.
“Hopkins has its own separate financial aid, so I’m not worried about cost. The main reason I want to go back is because of other opportunities, like research,” Vu said. “I don’t really mind online learning. It’s a bit burdensome at times, but it is easy to adapt to.”
Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the University admits that plans are still subject to change. The administration has recently formed a University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee to focus on academic issues and consequences, and the Committee will hold its first meeting in the coming week.
The town hall scheduled for Wednesday, June 10 will focus on the University’s plans and budgetary decisions, as outlined in its previously shared memorandum.
Ryan Aghamohammadi and Chris Park contributed reporting to this article.
Clarification: Executive President of the Student Government Association Sam Mollin, who serves on the student advisory committee for reopening campus, clarified in an email to students on June 7 that the decision regarding undergraduates’ return to campus has not been made or finalized. He added that the modality of courses remains uncertain.