Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

Hopkins evaluates campus climate and presents roadmap for the future

By LANA SWINDLE | May 4, 2024



The University hosted an online event assessing the Hopkins campus climate and ways to improve it in the future.

The University hosted a virtual talk on the Roadmap and Climate Assessment — designed to review the progress on the Ten for One strategic framework — and present its roadmap for the upcoming year on Wednesday, April 24.

The event opened with President Ronald J. Daniels, who stressed the importance of the roadmap, especially in light of recent protests and debates on campus. He referenced two major improvements for the University this year: the diversity of the undergraduate class and the administration’s increased efforts to support Hopkins staff. Daniels compared the demographics of the Class of 2027 with the Class of 2017, during which he revealed an increase in the diversity of the student body. He also described how the administration has elevated the staff’s role and attempted to more sufficiently acknowledge their contributions this year. 

Provost Ray Jayawardhana spoke next, stressing the importance of freedom of expression at the University. He cited the administration’s efforts to strengthen the voices of students, staff and faculty by establishing three advisory bodies — the Cross-Institutional Student Advisory Committee, the Johns Hopkins University Council and the Staff Advisory Council. Jayawardhana then discussed recent improvements in the graduate and postdoctoral experience, which is one of the major goals in the roadmap and the Ten for One framework. 

“We are building on our nearly 150-year-old mission to recruit and support the most promising talent from across the world through a variety of efforts,” he said. “As many of you know, we just saw the ratification of our first collective bargaining agreement with the PhD students. It includes a significant and highly competitive increase in minimum stipends and expanded benefits for dependent care and parental leave.”

Damani Piggott, associate vice provost for Graduate Diversity and Partnerships, followed Jayawardhana’s presentation with a discussion of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, a program that aims to address underrepresentation in STEM by offering academic and financial support to doctoral students. 

Meredith Stewart followed Piggott’s presentation, detailing three new initiatives outlined in the roadmap. She began with the Staff Advisory Council, which was launched last fall and is composed of 48 faculty members and five subcommittees. It will work toward achieving the goals outlined in the roadmap and the Ten for One.

Stewart transitioned to the career architecture project — designed to support Hopkins staff and provide them with more accessible career, development and growth opportunities — and the pay equity initiative. Hopkins recently sent out its first-ever report on staff pay equity after the issue was raised by the Black Faculty and Staff Association. The University aims to focus on achieving parity by job title and addressing any pay misalignments in the future.

Vice President for Government, Community and Economic Partnerships Maria Harris Tildon then presented the University’s role and goals in Baltimore — namely, to build opportunity in neighboring communities. Tildon described Hopkins as an anchor institution — the University currently employs more than 41,000 people as the city’s largest private employer, according to the presentation. 

The presentation then transitioned to Emil L. Cunningham, the assistant vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion and the deputy chief diversity officer. He outlined the results of a survey that polled University affiliates about their experience at Hopkins. It had an overall response rate of 21%, receiving 11,000 out of 50,000 possible responses, and was administered in Spring 2023.

“The data revealed that respondents experience really high rates of comfort on our campus,” Cunningham said. “Not only comfort on campus but in work units, in departments, programs, classes, meaning that overall, the Hopkins experience is a fairly positive campus climate. [...] While there are many positives to note, there are some areas that will require us to think about how we do better to ensure that we are able to serve each and every one of you.” 

Cunningham then presented the data on contentment with the University. According to the survey, 61% of faculty reported that they had seriously considered leaving Hopkins over the course of their time at the University, citing low salary rates as their major concerns. Staff respondents expressed similar sentiments. This was contrasted with 27% of undergraduates and 20% of graduate students, who instead cited their sense of belonging as their primary reason.

Junior Rosa Gao described her thoughts about the sense of belonging at Hopkins in an interview with The News-Letter.

“[The campus environment] is pretty inclusive, and you are caring for each other — I personally don’t have any issues with it,” she said. “I was part of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center and Multicultural Affairs, so I know that there are programs in place for helping people get connected to people of their own communities and foster a more inclusive environment.”

Roughly 76% of all respondents indicated that they were comfortable with the Hopkins environment but with some key demographics-based gaps. Cisgender men were more likely to indicate that they were very comfortable on campus compared with cisgender women, nonbinary and transgender students. White, Middle Eastern and North African respondents were also more likely to indicate that they were comfortable on campus than Black respondents, and heterosexual respondents expressed more comfort with the overall climate than LGBTQ+ students.

In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore Sampath Rapuri described his thoughts on how the University can address these gaps.

“I guess [a good way would be] trying to foster collaboration between everyone in a way that doesn’t bubble people off into groups that they feel most comfortable in and align with their own cultural values,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to do that, [and] I don’t have a solution for that, but it’s just something I noticed.”

With regard to political views, high confidence levels were recorded across all respondents. Only 5% of moderate respondents suggested that they were uncomfortable with the campus climate, compared with  7-8% of conservative, liberal or progressive respondents. Individuals with disabilities also responded that they were significantly less comfortable than respondents with no disabilities. 

Faculty responses in general reflected a lack of confidence with the University. Only 38% of tenured or tenure-track faculty and 27% of non-tenure-track faculty felt that senior administrators took their positions seriously. 40% expressed a lack of confidence in their department, division or University leadership. 

Staff respondents reflected a similar level of discontent with University administration, and only 37% reported feeling that faculty valued their opinions. They also expressed concern about their career opportunities at Hopkins. Cunningham cited the new career architecture program as a means of addressing these concerns.

The survey also revealed that undergraduate and graduate respondents were less likely to indicate that they experienced financial hardship than students at other universities. However, nearly 1,400 students still indicated that they are experiencing some form of financial hardship at Hopkins, citing housing, tuition, food and technology as major reasons for this.

The event concluded with a Q&A section, a review of the University’s progress and the steps Hopkins will take to address the concerns within its community.

“It’s clear from the data that I share that while we have made notable progress, there still remains a lot of work to be done,” Cunningham said. “This journey that we’re on is challenging, but it's also going to be profoundly rewarding because it moves us closer to the University and the community we aspire to be.” 

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