In an email to the student body on May 7, University officials announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded its investigation into the noose found in the Stieff Silver building on July 2.
According to Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Bob McLean, Acting Vice President for Public Safety Connor Scott and Vice Provost for Institutional Equity Shanon Shumpert, the FBI was unable to find sufficient evidence to pursue charges. The Office of Institutional Equity’s independent investigation yielded the same results.
In an email to The News-Letter, junior Emmanuel Ochieng expressed concern that the investigation did not result in a charge.
“I find it very disturbing it was inconclusive,” he wrote. “Especially given the building's proximity to Homewood Campus. I get [that] the building was under construction, but nothing at all sounds very off.”
McLean, Scott and Shumpert explained that they viewed this act as a hate crime from the start.
“We approached this as a hate crime and had hoped that the investigations would bring to justice those who would wield such a despicable symbol of hate and violence toward Black Americans,” they wrote.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Public Affairs Specialist for the FBI’s Baltimore Division Joy Jiras explained the timeline of the investigation.
“These investigations take a considerable amount of time, specifically when you are dealing with the possibility of a hate crime. We had a significant amount of interviews conducted as well as analysis done by the FBI lab,” she said. “Both of those things took longer than normal due to COVID-19, so it takes longer than our typical investigations already.”
She noted that intent must be proven for a crime to be considered a hate crime from a federal standpoint. Because the FBI was unable to prove intent, it cannot consider the incident a hate crime at the federal level.
Sophomore Feven Welde, a member of the Black Student Union and Female Leaders of Color, believed the matter should have been pursued more.
“I don’t know how far the University went in terms of its investigation, but I feel that with the reputation that Hopkins has and its standing in the state of Maryland, I think more could have definitely been done,” she said.
According to Jiras, the FBI closed the investigation because investigators had no more leads to pursue.
Though the investigation did not lead to any charges, the school-wide email included a list of actions the University took in response to the incident. Among these efforts is the establishment of new requirements for reporting instances of discrimination by third-parties or construction professionals in University facilities.
In an email to The News-Letter, Assistant Vice President of External Relations for the Office of Communications Karen Lancaster shared a letter sent to all Hopkins contractors and consultants explaining these new requirements, which include rules that firms must report incidents related to safety, diversity and inclusion immediately and notify Hopkins security of all safety concerns.
Additionally, the University posted Speak2Us hotline posters at all construction sites to facilitate reporting of incidents and launched a work group for the purpose of developing non-discrimination, diversity and inclusion guidelines for the University’s vendor contracts. McLean, Scott and Shumpert noted that more detailed guidelines are currently being developed for food service, transportation, security and large construction projects.
To this end, the University held its first symposium for vendors on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion, which included 73 representatives from vendors in the design and construction industries.
“Johns Hopkins officials and vendors discussed the importance of economic inclusion to the university, and representatives of participating firms addressed the value of a diverse workforce, as well as best practices in training and incident response, particularly in the context of a hate crime or other serious circumstance,” McLean, Scott and Shumpert wrote.
The University requested that the prime contractor on the Stieff Silver site where the incident occurred, Plano-Coudon Construction, take additional steps. All workers who returned to the re-opened construction site on July 27 were required to attend an anti-discrimination training, the company’s anti-discrimination policy was revised to include “acts of hate” and the company accelerated the development of a discrimination and harassment prevention training program for its employees and subcontractors.
Sophomore Kareem Chambers, the external communications chair of Men of Color Hopkins Alliance (MOCHA), felt these measures were Insufficient.
“MOCHA isn’t in agreement with the response of the school’s administration in relation to the noose situation, as it seemed like they brushed it off with no real afterthought and no consequences,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Welde agreed, arguing the matter should have been handled more swiftly.
“It should have been dealt with in an efficient manner and right away,” she said. “Obviously, it’s more difficult to find information a few months after as compared to starting the investigation as soon as possible.”
She added that she would like more preventive, rather than reactionary, measures going forward to prevent events like this from happening again.
In their email, McLean, Scott and Shumpert acknowledged the impact of this incident.
“We know that these actions do not erase the trauma many members of our community felt upon learning that such horrifying racist imagery was found in our midst,” they wrote. “But we hope they serve to strengthen the effectiveness of our commitment to fostering equity, justice, and humanity at our facilities.”
Laura Wadsten and Michelle Limpe contributed reporting to this article.