The Student Government Association (SGA) published the results of a survey they conducted to assess student opinions of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD) and public safety in an Instagram post on Nov. 11. A detailed report of the results was also emailed to the student body on Nov. 14.
In SGA’s 2018 Referendum on the JHPD, 74% of the student body reported being anti-JHPD and 26% reported being pro-JHPD. In the 2022 survey, 48% of the student body reported being anti-JHPD, 39% reported being pro-JHPD and 13% reported a neutral stance. The 2018 Referendum garnered 2,070 responses while the 2022 survey garnered 823.
The 2018 SGA Referendum allotted students approximately two months to respond. In their Instagram post, SGA claimed the 2022 survey allotted students approximately two weeks to respond.
In an email to The News-Letter, SGA Senior Class President JiWon Woo explained the limited time constraints for the 2022 survey.
“We believe that gathering feedbacks and concerns regarding public safety was a time-sensitive matter, especially with the uprise in incidents around the campus at that time,“ he wrote.
However, the survey link was sent to students on Oct. 19 with a response deadline of Oct. 24, only giving students five days to respond. SGA sent a reminder email on Oct. 26, which again stated that the survey would close on Oct. 24. Woo claimed that the survey’s actual deadline was Oct. 31 at noon.
Woo further outlined how the administration will use the survey results.
“They will try to address the concerns to best of their abilities,“ he wrote. “SGA will ensure that the concerns are well-addressed and feedbacks are implemented by the administrators. We will continue our conversation with VP Bard and his team to improve the public safety around the campus.”
Alumni Leland Held was a freshman when SGA conducted their 2018 Referendum. In an email to The News-Letter, he described how SGA marketed the Referendum.
“[The 2018 Referendum] was sent out and promoted by SGA in a lot of emails,” he wrote. “It was mentioned throughout the semester.”
Woo stated that in addition to SGA’s two emails, the survey was promoted in an Instagram post that was shared by students and members of SGA on their Instagram stories.
Senior Brianna Groch commented on the differences between the 2018 Referendum and 2022 survey in an email to The News-Letter. They do not believe that the student body is as pro-JHPD as the 2022 survey suggests.
“The way it is reported makes it appear as though students are becoming more supportive of implementing the JHPD, but I can assure you that many [Hopkins] students and affiliates stand in opposition to this agenda,” they wrote.
They concluded that the significant differences in marketing, sample size and answer options mean the two studies are not comparable.
In an email to The News-Letter, junior Andre Zou agreed that the survey should have been better marketed to the student body. However, he held that the results are indicative of a shift in pro-JHPD students becoming more outspoken about their views.
He believes that the student body is actually more pro-JHPD than the survey suggests, and expressed support for the University’s plans to implement the JHPD.
“Campus safety is a great concern for me and I’d say a majority of the student body. I am sure we are all aware of the recent wave of violent crimes in and around campus,” he wrote. “I understand that JHPD will not magically solve all crimes, but I think it is the right step forward towards making Homewood a safer place for both Hopkins students and the surrounding community.”
The 2022 survey also assessed how safe students feel both on campus and at off-campus but nearby locations. The results showed that the majority of students felt safe on campus but unsafe at nearby off-campus locations. The survey also exhibited that students who reported feeling more unsafe were more likely to support the JHPD’s implementation.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Groch speculated that differences in feelings of perceived safety might result from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Students perceive themselves to be a lot less safe in surrounding communities, and I think a lot of that has to do with prejudice and bias,” they said. “A lot of our peers are genuinely afraid of the homeless people who are on St. Paul Street, and their presence feels threatening to them despite the fact that they’re not doing anything to students.”
Groch added that students who support the JHPD are likely ignorant about or have a lack of experience with policing. They added that support for the JHPD’s implementation is representative of Hopkins students' indifference towards surrounding communities.
The 2022 survey also asked students to respond to an open-ended question about how public safety around the Hopkins Campus could be improved. Common responses included improving transportation, security, lighting, investing in the community, increasing Blue Light and providing more safety education.
In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Dua Hussain noted that the poor training and presence of security officers might push some students to support the JHPD.
“Most people can agree, as the survey showed, that our security isn’t good,” she wrote. “These people are probably picking between horrible campus security that don’t make them feel safe and cops that make them feel a little safer, an unfair decision to have to make.”
In their email to the student body about the survey results, SGA stated that they had received reports of security officers cat-calling students, not paying attention to their surroundings and not being present where they are supposed to be. SGA emphasized that all such incidents should immediately be reported through the LiveSafe app.