<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2020 09:05:08 -0400 Wed, 08 Jul 2020 09:05:08 -0400 SNworks CEO 2020 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Won't you be our readers? ]]> Today, the future looks uncertain, and the conditions of life seem untenable. This is what it means to live in times of crisis. And in times such as these, the journalist's highest form of service is to faithfully deliver to the public whatever measure of clarity and understanding that they can. But to do that, they need the public's trust. They need to have earned it in the past, and to have kept earning it ever since.

I count at least three ongoing, interlocking crises right now. There is the public-health crisis of the coronavirus (COVID-19). There is the social crisis of millions of Americans revolting against the racism which still pervades the United States. And there is the economic crisis of historic unemployment leaving millions of Americans unable to secure for themselves the necessities of life.

What this situation calls for is a strong relationship between the public and the media organizations, such as The News-Letter, that serve them. The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics reminds us that good journalism creates the public understanding that enables the pursuit of justice and democracy. Good journalism makes crisis comprehensible.

That is only possible with the trust of you, the paper's readers. To initiate investigations, we need your tips. To report stories, we need to hear your voices. To run photos, we need you to show up. And to feel like it was all worth it at the end of the day, we need to know that you consider us worth listening to.

To secure your trust, the paper's staff and editors owe you certain duties. They must always seek truth and report it. Minimize harm. Act independently. Be accountable and transparent. When they credibly perform these duties, they give the public good reason to trust the integrity of the paper. That trust is what in the end makes the work of the staff and editors meaningful.

The stakes are too high for the paper to be some kind of vanity project. In times like these, our journalism needs to serve you. It needs to empower you. That takes integrity on our part and trust on yours. In large part, my job with the paper is to make sure that we act with that integrity. But it is also to evaluate if that is actually translating into public trust.

That is why today I am excited to be launching The News-Letter reader trust survey. As the public editor, I can monitor the staff and editors' performances. But I can not gauge your level of trust. Not without hearing from all of you. So consider this survey an invitation. I want to hear how you feel about the paper. I want to hear what we can do to better earn your trust. Because we are going to need it to meet the challenges of meaningfully reporting on the world that we are all living in right now.

The survey should take between five to eight minutes to completely fill out. You can find the direct link to it here. Thank you in advance to all who choose to participate.

We want you to be part of this conversation! We encourage our readers to email publiceditor@jhunewsletter.com with questions or comments about our practices and published content.


Public Editor Jake Lefkovitz is distributing a survey to better understand The News-Letter's readers.

<![CDATA[Uncertainty looms following webinar for student groups]]> The Office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) hosted a webinar for student organizations on Friday, June 26 exploring what the co-curricular experience will look like this fall.

Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka, Executive Director of Student Engagement Laura Stott, SLI Director Calvin Smith, Jr., Interim Director of Homewood Arts Programs Nicoleen Willson and Assistant Director of Intramurals & Sport Clubs Gabriel Castellano spoke at the webinar.

Phased Resumption of Activities

According to the panelists, the University set three phases to guide the resumption of student groups' activities.

Phase One involves reopening low-risk activities, while student group meetings, large programs and any trainings will remain online. Phase Two-A will open spaces for student engagement with attendance caps. Phase Two-B will allow recreation and wellness classes, certain intramurals, community service and tabling to resume. Phase Three will reopen performing arts showcases.

In an email to The News-Letter, Vicky Chen, an executive board member for Theta Tau, expressed her concerns about limited opportunities to build relationships with potential new members during the early phases.

"I'm mostly concerned about how freshmen and new members can really start to build relationships virtually," she wrote. "No matter what, virtual is not going to be the same as in-person."

Smith stated that under Phase Three, almost every facet of student engagement will be reopened.

"We won't be able to have third-party or non-JHU affiliates on campus for the foreseeable future," Smith said. "Once we get into Phase Three, we can relax that policy."

Even as student groups resume their activities, Ruzicka noted that rooms previously open to club use may be unavailable as the University plans to increase its number of classrooms as each classroom will see drastic reductions to its maximum capacity.

"Space will be limited. It will be taken up by the academic enterprise, with socially distant, policy-aligned classrooms," Ruzicka said. "Levering and Charles Commons are being envisioned to use for classrooms."

Rooms including Mattin 161-162 and the Arellano Theater will be used for academic instruction. Several other locations, including the Glass Pavilion, are being considered as well.

Smith noted that changes will have to be made to existing room reservations.

Instead of indoor spaces, the University is looking to use outdoor spaces for club engagement. The outdoor spaces will have accessible heating and cooling and internet connections, according to the panelists. Tents will be in use to protect students from rain and snow. Certain student activities, such as the fall Orientation Show, have already been moved to virtual formats.

Ruzicka did not clarify whether the University would provide masks for students, a policy for which the Student Advisory Committee advocated.

"A decision has not been made," Ruzicka said. "But the University is looking into providing some quantity and some kind of PPE [personal protective equipment] to different constituents of the community, which includes students."

In an email to The News-Letter, rising senior Julia Zeng worried about safety on campus if the University does not provide masks to students.

"Hopkins should be helping students get access to masks because if they can't get masks, then I don't know how they're expecting students will have access," Zeng wrote.

Travel and Budget

According to Ruzicka, travel for student groups such as sports organizations is currently on hold.

Sports organizations will face space shortages as well due to ongoing construction at the Recreation Center. Opportunities for teams to practice will not be available until the University reaches Phase Two.

Based on demand for space, performance arts groups may no longer be able to have multiple practices per week. The focus will be on ensuring as many groups as possible have a rehearsal slot.

Ruzicka stated that some student organizations will also face budget cuts. This is an anticipated development, as announced by Student Government Association Executive Treasurer Addy Perlman in May.

Rising junior Neha Majety, president of a new student organization bARTimore, voiced concerns with the anticipated budget cuts in an email to The News-Letter.

"They didn't really tell us anything about that aside from the fact that travel budgets will not be accommodated," she wrote. "After finally getting a chance to submit a budget request and then learning about cuts, but not getting actual information about how that would apply to us, we are just very frustrated."

Hopkins Groups and SIF

SLI announced the use of a new system to manage student organizations. Features include a more robust budgeting tool, event tickets and a more streamlined process of inputting club information.

The new platform will be launched on Aug. 1. Fall re-registration will start on launch and last until Sept. 30.

According to Smith, SIF will be held online Sept. 4 via Hopkins Groups. Live conversation will still be possible through scheduled meeting times, and students will be trained throughout August on using the platform.

"When we do the virtual involvement fair, there will be booths, similar to what you had when you did tabling," Smith said. "The more information that you put in your booth, the larger your booth will appear to students looking for opportunities to engage."

Rising junior Ashley Wang remained uncertain regarding the new system of a virtual SIF.

"I'm kind of concerned about the 'more you promote = more exposure' system. I don't know how any of this can be quantified, and if it should be," Wang wrote. "While well-intentioned, it could devolve into something hierarchical."

Majety noted that any policies announced at the webinar could change depending on University and city-wide policy.

"It's very frustrating attending meetings and reading emails from the University saying they will give us information on these topics but then just being told we will know soon or they are still unsure," Majety wrote. "It just feels like everything is being postponed and makes it really hard to plan for anything."

Zeng echoed Majety in expressing her frustration that student leaders left the webinar without much clarification.

"I know SLI said for us to be creative," Zeng wrote, "I wish they had provided a little more guidance, support, and a clearer idea of what resources are available to student leaders."

SLI will host a second webinar for student organizations on Friday, July 31.


This fall, SIF will be held virtually.

<![CDATA[Love, Victor speaks to a rocky reality]]> Providing a renovation of the queer teen love story Love, Simon from 2018, the newly released TV series Love, Victor takes place in the same setting of Creekwood High School, with new characters and a different story. Victor Salazar, the protagonist of the new show, is a Puerto Rican with a "beautiful cinnamon complexion" from Texas who, despite financial shortcomings, has moved with his family to the more affluent school district of Creekwood High. We quickly learn that Victor sets upon himself the mission to discover his sexuality and, more importantly, who he is.

Compared to its parent film, the coming-out story offers a more difficult reality: Victor has to face this new identity while also being a part of a religious and traditional Latinx family. Although most critics gave harsh reviews, claiming the series has too much "teen angst" or is "pleasantly bland" for a "lackluster" plot, they may have missed the point of the film. The struggles that Victor faces offer a much-needed perspective that diversifies gay television and portrays the complexity of identifying one's sexuality.

As the oldest of three kids, Victor has always maintained a strong sense of family, which is very important within Latinx culture. Victor's father is a hard-working, blue-collar man that has started a new job in Atlanta. Although he is shown as the traditional machista father figure prominent in Latinx culture, Armando has a tough relationship with his wife. Their precarious relationship also hurts the rest of the family as Victor and his two siblings try to hold the family together. Given his family dynamics in a new city, Victor's plans for discovering himself are not as clear-cut as expected.

Beginning at Creekwood High as a sophomore, Victor quickly catches the eye of Mia Brooks, a gorgeous, witty girl who is very popular. On that same day, Victor quickly falls for Benji, a confident, charming guy who is openly gay. Even though he is still trying to determine his sexuality, Victor connects with Mia first, as the two classmates have a perfect personality match that makes their relationship quickly escalate to something serious.

Victor also begins working at a café, where Benji is assistant manager. As Victor forges a serious relationship with Mia, he also gets to know Benji more and more. Spending a lot of time between the two, Victor struggles to determine his sexuality. The series proves to be more than a teen romance, as most of the characters' own challenges play into Victor's long-winded journey to finding his true self.

While at work, Benji and Victor have a conversation about their current romantic relationships and past dating lives as they begin to open up to each other. Before coming out, Benji was, like Victor now, confused about who he was and his own sexuality. He jokes, "Turns out human sexuality is less of a straight line, and more of a Cirque du Soleil show."

Additionally, the strenuous relationships within his own household and being there for his girlfriend, Mia, places a large emotional burden on Victor. The expectations to take care of his family and to be a good, trustworthy boyfriend make it harder for him to find the time to ask himself what he truly wants in life.

Lost in his own identity crisis, Victor slides into the DMs of Creekwood's past gay icon, Simon Spier, who now studies at New York University with his boyfriend. Simon provides his own coming-out experience, guidance and encouragement to help Victor as he self-reflects. Throughout the series, their friendship grows as Victor finally discovers a safe space where he can express himself before exposing himself. Victor even takes an impromptu bus trip to New York City to visit Simon, which leads to a great epiphany that helps Victor build enough courage to come out.

The connection between the two characters most likely occurs as a quick way to connect both stories together; however, the friendship that is built reinforces a message to the viewer that coming out is never an easy feat and that sharing stories with the people that one trusts makes the process a little less frightening.

Frankly speaking, this series is not going to be your typical sexy, romantic gay teen film. Life as a young, Hispanic kid moving to an entirely new city while determining their sexuality is not a cute love story by any means. Love, Victor represents a raw, messy and confusing coming-out story with a realistic representation of what many people of color must face as members of the LGBTQ community.

As a Puerto Rican bisexual man who still can't find the words or the confidence to confront even my own family about my sexuality, this series provides a much-needed exposé of what members of the Latinx community must face to be "out and proud."

So, I'm sorry, Karen, if this show wasn't the exquisitely gay film that has been largely popularized by white cisgender men. Instead, as the plot thickens and Victor has to help others before himself, Victor finds it increasingly difficult to understand who he intends to be.

Love, Victor paves the way for a greater portrayal of the exuberant diversity within the LGBTQ community in popular film and media. In short, especially now with many stuck at home, this series is best described as binge-worthy.


Love, Victor offers a representation of the experiences of people of color in the LGBTQ community.

<![CDATA[Letter to the Editor 07/02/2020]]> In response to "We all miss campus, but making the return optional isn't equitable" published on June 26, 2020:

As president of our Student Government Association (SGA) and a member of the University-wide steering committee, I've been involved in fall planning for months. Equity has been a priority, and feedback is valuable. I thank the author of this article for airing their thoughts, but I would be remiss if I didn't share my disagreement.

The author argues that an optional return to campus will be inequitable partly because students are in unequal home situations. She's right that Hopkins students find themselves in a variety of home situations, but given that reality, it is necessary to give students the option to come back to campus.

A student might have had to return to an unstable home environment due to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the spring. Universal pass/fail grading was necessary for them because they faced obstacles to online coursework at home. If they have the option to return to campus this fall, then they have the opportunity to be in an environment conducive to pursuing their academic goals. The well-meaning but misguided argument in this piece would have that student stuck at home for another semester with everything still online, but this time with unforgiving letter grading. As we know, the differences in school and home are steep, but forcing all students into an online semester does not take away the stark differences in home life between students.

The author also argues that when students come back to campus, they will be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. However, this assumes a safe environment at home. In many states, cases are still rising. The University has released publicly available plans describing robust and mandatory public health guidelines, which are arguably better than widely ignored public health measures across the country. If students do get sick, Hopkins has a thought-out quarantine system in place. Meanwhile, students have access to some of the best health care in the world, presenting circumstances equal to if not better than the experience of contracting COVID-19 at home.

To be sure, online learning equity is a concern, but the author's predictions for its failures rest on shallow ground. The article cites intangibles like work with friends, meetings with professors and hands-on lab sections. But how can the author be sure the experience will be inferior when they make zero reference to the draft plan for academics? We the readers are given no reason why dragging every student down by forbidding a return to campus actually lifts anybody up.

To conclude, preventing students from returning to campus creates an inequity orders of magnitude higher than any that exists between in-person and online instruction. Given the measures the University is taking, it is likely that Hopkins will be safer for our undergraduates than most other parts of the country, if not much of the world. Even if in-person classes provide some minor advantage to students, the large majority of classes in the fall will be online anyways.

For those who cannot return to campus and cannot succeed in online classes, forcing classes to be online for everyone won't make their situation any better. Taking a leave of absence is always an option; no one is being forced to choose between peace of mind and a high quality education when the third option is choosing to take the semester off and wait for the public health situation to improve. COVID-19 has presented the University and the world with many tough decisions, but here the solution is clear: Let students return to campus in the fall if they choose and if the public health situation allows for it.

Sam Mollin is a senior Political Science and Environmental Studies double-major from Larchmont, NY. He is the Executive President of SGA and is a member of the JHU 2020 Planning Student Advisory Committee.

<![CDATA[Hopkins puts its credit rating ahead of its people]]> What do you call the phase of spending cuts that precedes thoughtful, deliberative planning?

This was the question I was left with earlier this month, after a virtual town hall on budgetary decisions made by the University leadership in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19). I hasten to add that it was an excellent event, full of detailed information about the University's finances and budgets.

Two weeks later, Provost Sunil Kumar and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Daniel Ennis released additional financial information in response to an open letter to University President Ronald J. Daniels and the Board of Trustees that garnered more than 600 faculty signatures. Meanwhile, the University established an ad hoc committee that, for the first time, includes elected faculty members from across the University.

These actions may herald a new era of greater transparency and collaboration in University governance. Although President Daniels' absence from the town hall and from the subsequent response were disappointing ⁠- he was, after all, the intended recipient of that faculty letter ⁠- it was nonetheless gratifying to see members of our University's leadership explain some of the rationale for their decisions.

So in that spirit of dialogue, I'd like to raise a few further questions.

The town hall and additional information offered encouraging news about the University's finances over the last decade, under the leadership of President Daniels. I was reassured to learn that the University's balance sheet is strong, with cash at record levels and a low debt burden. But the "intensive and successful effort" to improve University finances during this period raises puzzling concerns about the University's COVID-19 pandemic response.

In his April 21 letter, President Daniels described a three-phase response to the current budget crisis. First, "urgent action" to relieve immediate budgetary pressure; second, revision of budgets to close anticipated gaps over the next few years; and third, periodic reassessment based on evolving circumstances.

What perplexes me is the first phase. When announced, scarcely six weeks had passed since the University closed. Yet "a series of broad-based and decisive austerity measures that immediately reduce losses and cash depletion" was already necessary. Why?

As President Daniels explained, "these measures will provide us with the time to engage in thoughtful, deliberative planning on how additional cuts will be taken over a multi-year period." Vice President Ennis confirmed that rationale. "In truth," he remarked at the town hall, these measures, "were really about buying time."

Here is the riddle: If the University was in such a strong financial position entering the pandemic, why did we need to buy time before engaging in "thoughtful, deliberative" spending cuts?

When the "urgent" cuts were announced in April, immediately slashing $160 million from the University budget, projected losses were wildly speculative. In just one month, from April to May, the University's projected losses decreased by $83 million. In other words, just by waiting a month, the University had already recouped more than half of the projected savings from its hastily imposed, institution-wide cuts.

But let's put that $160 million number in further perspective. Hopkins has an annual budget of $6.5 billion. Over the past 10 years, we have consistently run annual operating surpluses between $70 million and $145 million - amounting to more than $1 billion in total. Setting just 10 percent of those annual operating surpluses aside would have provided enough of a cushion to offset all projected losses for fiscal year 2020. Why, then, was the budget so compromised that we needed to precipitously cut $160 million?

I'm no M.B.A., but here's what I think: A University that is financially prepared for a crisis could skip phase one of President Daniels' plan and move directly to thoughtful, deliberative cuts ⁠- in consultation and collaboration with affected constituencies.

Indeed, the University's actions raise the possibility that Hopkins was not so well prepared for this crisis after all. Faculty at the School of Medicine note that the financial crisis there predated the pandemic. Last year ⁠- well before anyone had heard of COVID-19 ⁠- their usual salary increases were reduced, budgets slashed and austerity measures taken. Some even wonder if the COVID-19 crisis is being used to hide serious management lapses that caused pre-existing financial troubles.

But our peers did the same thing! Duke, Northwestern, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and the University of Chicago all took similar actions after Hopkins, and others will surely follow. We may not be the richest of our peer institutions, but we're not the poorest either. Why did we take such a lead in launching urgent austerity measures? It's awfully out of character for an institution that typically looks to its peers before coming to any decision.

What about our multi-billion dollar endowment? We're told that we cannot increase our endowment payout this year because only a "small portion" is not limited by donor designation. Perhaps I'm misreading the University's last available audit, which tells us on page 14 that $2.4 billion (which is to say 43 percent) of the endowment is unrestricted.

We are further told that President Daniels and our trustees have been growing the endowment "to ensure that our mission is not as vulnerable to shifts in federal research support, clinical revenues and tuition." That is awfully ironic since we are currently seeing losses in all those categories, and yet our endowment is untouchable. How, then, does it make us less vulnerable?

Here's a thought experiment. Let's accept that using cash reserves to buy time to thoughtfully deliberate on necessary budget cuts would have been a "dereliction" of responsibility. Let's also accept that our endowment is sacrosanct and should never serve as a buffer in times of need.

In that case, why wouldn't borrowing $160 million to relieve the immediate budgetary pressure be appropriate? The University regularly borrows money ⁠- issuing bonds, promissory notes or accessing revolving lines of credit.

Apparently that idea was never considered. We've learned about the eight "mitigation strategies" that were explored. None, however, raised the possibility of borrowing money ⁠- although interest rates are at historic lows and Standard & Poor's has told us we have a "low debt burden." All those private equity types on the Board of Trustees, and the idea never came up?

President Daniels is familiar with borrowing. In 2017, he received a loan of $1 million from the University for the purpose of "retention." Why he needed this money - when his total compensation topped $2.7 million, not including hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income from his external board service - remains unclear.

Perhaps, from the perspective of our trustees, loans are reasonable to retain lavishly compensated administrators, but not to avoid rushed spending cuts leading to layoffs of underpaid staff. Layoffs and frozen retirement contributions are not exactly conducive to retention, after all.

Would a $160 million loan have signaled a "dereliction of our responsibility" to the University's financial stability? Or is maintaining that marvelous debt capacity and our superb credit rating more important than maintaining vulnerable employees in their jobs amid a once-in-a-century crisis?

Maybe we're saving that debt capacity for expensive new buildings like our new student center or that glamorous new trophy at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., in Washington, D.C. ⁠- both of which continue amidst the current austerity measures. We're told they are donor-sponsored projects, but no one will say how much of the projects are sponsored, and how much of the bill we'll be left to foot when those gleaming buildings are rushed to completion.

Let me point out that the austerity measures undertaken this spring were hardly painless. Stories are circulating of staff being laid off with little warning, risking the loss of visas that would lead to family separations. Recent faculty job searches ⁠- which require considerable investments of faculty time and University money, and which are the most essential investment in our University's future ⁠- have been abruptly canceled as they neared conclusion. Graduate students are panicking as they watch the clock on their funding tick forward while their research remains frozen. I could go on. Perhaps I should.

If you spend your time outside the Garland Hall bubble, you quickly learn that those "decisive austerity measures" ⁠- the ones that preceded the thoughtful, deliberative planning ⁠- have caused serious, short-term damage to the University. As for their long-term effect, we can only speculate.

The strange thing is that Provost Kumar and Vice President Ennis themselves recognize the risk of precipitous action. "When mitigation actions are rushed and lurching," they wrote, "they often result in unforeseen impacts that are costly or harmful to the mission in the long term."

I could hardly have put it better myself.

François Furstenberg teaches the history of early America and the Atlantic world in the Department of History, where he has taught since 2014. He completed his PhD at Hopkins in 2003 and now lives with his family in the Patterson Park neighborhood.

<![CDATA[Jay Chou's "Mojito" suggests that sometimes, it's okay to be happy]]> International pop star Jay Chou dropped his newest single, "Mojito," on June 12. Released alongside a vibrant music video in which he wanders through Cuban streets with his band, it was a much-anticipated release for ardent fans of Chou, whose last album Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories came out in 2016. He has only released four singles since, including "Mojito."

"Mojito" was well-received by the general public from the international community; Cuban sunshine, tropical shirts, antique cars and lively beats make the song not only a catchy earworm but also a great visual delight.

Happiness exudes from the lyrics and melody of "Mojito." In addition to the piano, trumpet and trombone, there is also a clear percussion accompanying the main jumpy beat. The lyrics take a mojito as a starting point, zooming out to the elegant, ethereal hostess. Then the point of focus changes from close-up to wide-angle, from a specific cup, to a specific woman, to the vibrance of the entire city. In the end, the lyrics lead the focus again to a zoomed-in, blurry contour of two lovers dancing together. The mojito montages the memories of a lover, portraying a tranquil yet effervescent, chaotic yet succinct, affectionate yet delicate Cuban city.

One important reason for the happy theme is that Chou today, different from his younger rebellious self who was angry about society, paparazzi and haters, seems to be genuinely happy. The singer was famous for his heartfelt and heartbreaking love songs like "Tornado," "Black Humor," "Silence," "Nocturne" and "Rainbow." But in recent albums, especially since he started a relationship with actress and model Hannah Quinlivan, whom he married in 2015, his sad songs have actually felt more forced, like his recent single "Won't Cry."

Therefore, "Mojito," with its cheerful, jubilant tune, Latin-inspired beats and affectionate flow in the rap verse, is only a natural outlet for Chou's pleasant personal life. Instead of the nobody who struggled through turned-down opportunities, break-ups and clashes with paparazzi, Chou writes and produces songs like the successful superstar and playful performer that he is.

Putting the song on repeat puts an involuntary smile on my face, even though it feels wrong to be happy in such a tumultuous time.

Amidst a global pandemic, political turmoil, international tension and a growing awareness of racial inequality, I feel a need to stay angry, as if that is necessary to effect any real change. Especially when those around me are always speaking up on social media and criticizing those who stay silent, it feels like I need to do more, starting with an active dissatisfaction toward the status quo.

Maybe it's the so-called compassion fatigue, "the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events." Or maybe it's just the peer pressure from the constantly passionate fighters around me.

But one thing I learned from "Mojito" is that you don't have to be angry to do the right thing. Chou has addressed many societal issues in his songs. "End of the World" admonishes against exploitation of the natural world; "Wounds of War" and "The Last Battle" portray the atrocities of war; "Dad, I'm Home" tells the story of how domestic violence damages the child involved as well as the romantic partners.

However, "Mojito" is aggressively happy in an aggressively difficult time. Instead of pointing out what is wrong, it envisions a world of what's right, and those visions bring unambiguous joy.

Cuba is a country known for its turbulent history, from seeking independence from Spain to seeking independence from U.S. influence, from one dictator to another dictator.

However, "Mojito" portrays a version of Cuba of music, classic cars, historical streets and dancing crowds where people celebrate life despite the turmoil, which is a mental strength we all need in 2020.

That is what I learned from "Mojito": It's okay to feel joy, even when life suggests it's necessary to stay angry to make a change. Mental strength and care for oneself are also essential, as one needs to secure their own oxygen mask before helping others.

"Mojito," without a doubt, is my oxygen mask.

<![CDATA[SGA votes to rename Woodrow Wilson Fellowship]]> The Student Government Association (SGA) met for the second time this summer on June 30 over Zoom. At the meeting, SGA voted unanimously to support renaming the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and Gildersleeve House of AMR II in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The group also signed the petition calling for the University to permanently end its plans for the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD).

Executive President Sam Mollin noted that the petition has over 6,000 signatures. On June 12, administrators decided to postpone the implementation of the JHPD for at least two years.

"Instead of a two-year freeze, the petition is calling for a complete stop to the private police force," he said. "I do not think it makes sense for the University to pursue this private police force when there are alternatives to policing that the University has chosen not to pursue."

Sophomore Class President Anthony Singleton questioned possible alternatives to the JHPD. Although the faculty member scheduled to present on the petition did not attend the meeting, Mollin explained that one possible option is the Safe Streets Program. Through this program, trusted members of the community intervene when there are possible situations of violence.

SGA unanimously voted for Mollin to sign the petition on behalf of the group.

"We see a lot of the issues related to systemic racism are related to the police," he said.

Junior Class President Nathan Mudrak introduced the resolution to rename the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and the Gildersleeve House following Princeton University's lead in removing Wilson's name from its School of Public Affairs.

In November 2016, Nathan Connolly, a professor in the History Department, submitted a motion calling on administrators to rename the fellowship in light of the former U.S. president's racist legacy. Connolly told The News-Letter in May 2019 that he and the Homewood Faculty Assembly were still waiting for an answer.

"This is an effort to not name things after racists," Mudrak said. "The resolution asks that we involve students in the decision-making about the names that follow."

SGA unanimously voted to pass the resolution, which was supported by the Black Student Union, African Student Association and Female Ladies of Color.

In addition, Senior Class Senator Ananya Kalahasti and Junior Class Senator Megan Chien introduced the reforms made to the Student Organization Liaison Procedure, including the suggestion to exclude first-year senators and specifying that Committee on Student Organizations (CSO) members would be assigned to three to four more organizations compared to other senators. These liaisons are intended to act as point persons in order for all student organizations to have a direct communication channel to SGA if they have any questions or concerns.

"We would like to exclude first-years because we feel they already have a lot on their plate with college life and adjusting to campus. They may not be as familiar with the procedures on campus, and they may not be able to answer questions as well as other senators," Chien said.

Executive Secretary Breanna Soldatelli, however, expressed that she found it unfair to exclude freshmen from the process. She raised the point that the other new upperclassman SGA members would, like freshmen, be unfamiliar with procedures on campus and have to learn anyway.

"Personally, when I was a first-year and new to the school, I worked really hard to understand everything on CSO. Also, since freshmen do not have other commitments to orgs, they would be able to dedicate more time to this," she said. "We also changed a lot about SGA this year, and all of us had to learn new things."

Noting uncertainty surrounding the fall semester, Kalahasti clarified that excluding freshmen was not in the original bill but was considered as a possibility due to logistical issues, since SGA aims to pair all the liaisons over the summer. In this way, SGA can avoid having to re-pair organizations to SGA senators during the semester once the Freshman Class Council is elected.

Singleton suggested assigning freshman senators to a fewer number of organizations so as not to overwhelm them.

"Maybe having a reduced number of orgs for freshmen to oversee... so that it is not overbearing for them but they can still learn the process," he said. "It would be a nice middle ground."

Executive Vice President Mehak Ali echoed Singleton's proposed solution and suggested for Chien and Kalahasti to add a friendly amendment to the bill. She also read some of the comments from the public on the issue, referring to the University's recently released current plans for the fall semester.

"One person agreed that adding freshmen would be counterproductive because having to teach freshmen through hands-on experience in addition to dealing with COVID-19 might create more issues. Another person said that another thing to consider is that freshmen are the only ones with confirmed on-campus housing," Ali said. "They will have the most access to on-campus clubs and could periodically take the load off of other senators."

Mudrak added the friendly amendment to the bill to pair first-years with upperclassmen as primary and secondary liaisons for the student organizations. SGA unanimously voted to pass the bill.


SGA signed a petition demanding the University end its plans for the private police force.

<![CDATA[Hopkins will offer hybrid classes for students who return to Baltimore ]]> University President Ronald J. Daniels and fellow administrators announced in an email to the Hopkins community that the University will be resuming in-person activities in the fall.

These plans are not yet final, as the University is seeking additional input. The email stressed that plans for the upcoming semester are prone to change if the public health situation demands it. However, administrators hope to reach a finalized approach for returning to campus by mid-July.

Rising sophomore Lubna Azmi, a first-generation/limited income (FLI) student, explained that she is hesitant about the plans in the email, which was sent on June 30.

"The best decision would be to keep quarantining but no one in America is getting that," she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. "Everyone is restless to get back to how things were... when at this point, we need new plans because people are going to die."

The statement confirmed an earlier promise that students who cannot return to campus will be allowed to continue remote instruction from their homes. However, according to Daniels, undergraduate students who wish to return to campus should expect a hybrid of in-person and online classes beginning August 31 and continuing through Nov. 20. All classes and exams will be conducted virtually following Thanksgiving break.

According to the University's Undergraduate Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Page, classes may even be offered on weekends and evenings in order to maximize classroom space.

Rising sophomore Daniel Gindi noted that many students rely on having their weekends free from class for commitments outside of school.

"I supposed the thought is to have fewer classes at any given time, but this removes the small break from the week that many students need. As an Orthodox Jew who observes Shabbat, I'm personally concerned with having to miss 14 extra classes for the classes that will now be taught on Saturdays," he wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Administrators noted that larger courses will be conducted online, with medium-sized and smaller courses following a mixed-platform model. The SIS course catalog will include information on class formatting following July 10.

Social distancing protocols will be enforced across the University, including the requirement of face-coverings while on campus. COVID-19 testing will be available to students exhibiting symptoms. Those who test positive must self-isolate for 14 days.

Gindi expressed concern about students' ability to social distance while among their peers.

"Their precautions and guidelines will help to prevent spread on campus but when people aren't in class I think students will be more lax than they should be," he wrote.

First-year students who come to campus will be required to live on-campus and have single rooms with limited sharing of bathrooms. Because of social distancing protocols, Daniels and fellow administrators noted that not all second-year students will be able to live in on-campus housing.

"We will provide housing in nearby hotels and apartments, with support from RAs and transportation to and from campus," they wrote. "Second-year students also are allowed for this academic year to live on their own, in private off-campus housing near campus. Our Off-Campus Housing Office can help identify the options for those who are interested."

While emphasizing that individual FLI students will have different opinions about the plan, Azmi explained that the uncertainty regarding sophomore housing raises a lot of questions about the semester's cost. Given this uncertainty, Azmi criticized the University's decision to increase tuition.

"The 3% increase in the tuition is ridiculous because the services students are receiving are nowhere near the same," she wrote.

The University's Undergraduate Coronavirus Information Page states that the rise in tuition is to ensure educational excellence at the University and keep Hopkins competitive with its peers. It promises to combat the economic stress of the pandemic with renewed financial aid, which will be released the week of July 6.

"We understand that the COVID pandemic is creating unexpected financial burdens for many families," the website states. "The university is prepared to help meet these burdens with commitments to significantly increase financial aid."


The University will host town halls for undergraduate students on Thursday, July 10 and Tuesday, July 7. Students are encouraged to ask questions about returning to campus and give feedback on the proposed plans.

<![CDATA[Protesters call for end to private police force]]> About 100 protesters marched to University President Ronald J. Daniels' home on June 29, taping copies of a petition demanding the cancellation of the private police force to his front door and windows.

The rally was organized and endorsed by numerous student and community groups, including Teachers and Researchers United (TRU), an unofficial graduate student union; Baltimore Bloc, a grassroots collective that aims to rebuild communities; and the Garland Sit-In and Occupation (Sit-In).

First gathering at the Harriet Tubman Grove, demonstrators called on Hopkins to cut its ties with the Baltimore Police Department and to better invest in surrounding Black communities. The rally was held in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Mihir Chaudhary, who graduated from the Bloomberg School of Public Health in May, was part of the coalition that helped plan the event. In an interview with The News-Letter, he condemned administrators' decision on June 12 to merely postpone the implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD).

"The two-year delay is essentially a stall tactic and public relations maneuver that the University is engaging in, one, to ride the public outrage and national uprising against police violence right now and, two, to wait for a lot of the memory and a lot of the activists who have been involved in the Sit-In to graduate to allow this to lose steam," he said. "We won't accept a two-year suspension."

Karen Lancaster, assistant vice president of external relations for the Office of Communications, responded to criticism of the JHPD in an email to The News-Letter.

"Our goal is to reduce as much as possible our reliance on sworn policing as a public safety strategy, and we will spend these next two years engaged in the discussions locally and nationally around a redetermination of the role of police in society," she wrote.

At the rally, TRU member Kristin Brig-Ortiz, a PhD candidate studying History of Medicine, noted that 6000 students, faculty, alumni and community members have signed a petition calling on the University to terminate the JHPD altogether.

"Hopkins is supposed to be a world-class university, but it's terrible at so much basic stuff, like reading the room, listening to opinions and caring about its employees, students and surrounding communities," she said. "For the administration, it's all about the image."

Last spring, the Sit-In, a group of students and community members, occupied Garland Hall for 35 days in protest of the JHPD, resulting in the arrests of four students and three community members.

Lester Spence, a Political Science and Africana Studies professor, praised the Sit-In at the rally. In addition, he recounted learning in 2011 that a white student called security on a Black student in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. Security officers, he said, harassed the Black student.

"Even if it was theoretically possible - it's not - to create a perfectly trained police force, it wouldn't be possible to deal with what I call the 'Karen problem,'" he said.

According to Spence, who is known for his research on race and police violence, implementing the JHPD would cement the divide between Hopkins and the rest of Baltimore.

"It would double-down on policing as a solution to a range of community problems," he said.

Tegan White-Nesbitt, vice chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures Graduate Student Forum, echoed Spence's sentiments in an interview with The News-Letter.

Citing their experience growing up in a Black and low-income neighborhood, White-Nesbitt argued that by creating the JHPD, University leaders are not promoting safety but instead pandering to parents and donors.

"Hopkins embracing a police force at the higher levels is all about money," they said. "Black neighborhoods get demonized and blamed for crime and shut out of the safe circle of Hopkins instead of being funded and supported in a way that really counts."

In her email, Lancaster emphasized the University's involvement in alternative approaches to reducing crime in Baltimore. She stated that Hopkins helped bring Roca, a youth anti-violence program, to the city and provides faculty guidance to Safe Streets Baltimore, a public health and safety campaign to reduce shootings.

"We intend to continue and expand on those efforts in the years ahead," Lancaster wrote.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Chaudhary characterized the University's efforts to serve Baltimore as "token gestures," noting how Hopkins Hospital has used hardball tactics to sue thousands of its Black and low-income neighbors in East Baltimore - for a median amount of $1,089 in alleged medical debt, according to a report published in May 2019 by the Coalition for A Humane Hopkins (CAHH), National Nurses United (NNU) and AFL-CIO.

As a non-profit hospital, Hopkins receives millions of dollars from the state of Maryland every year to provide free or reduced-cost care to low and moderate-income patients. However, according to the CAHH, Hopkins has made it difficult for patients to access charity care.

At the event, NNU member Natalie Segers, a nurse at the Hospital, voiced concerns that the JHPD would contribute to the "health-care trauma" that patients face. Security officers, Segers said, should receive extensive training in nonviolent holds and de-escalation techniques.

"Police rarely follow the least traumatic route of conflict resolution. We don't need cops in our hospitals," they said. "What we need is a complete revolution of what hospital security looks like."

Chaudhary argued in an interview with The News-Letter that the JHPD would contribute to what he perceives as the University's goal of gentrifying communities of color. He cited the controversial East Baltimore Development Inc. as an example of how Hopkins has displaced Baltimore residents.

In an interview with The News-Letter, TRU Treasurer Jacob Hammer, a third-year graduate student in Physics and Astronomy, mentioned that the Sit-In denounced racist policing long before George Floyd's killing by a white Minneapolis police officer.

"People need to look for and envision that radical change ahead of time instead of waiting for it to happen again and again," he said.

At the rally, Spence noted that the Minneapolis City Council recently voted to disband its police force. He commended other steps nationwide to dismantle racism, such as the Mississippi legislature's plans to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag.

"What we're fighting for, if there was ever a moment in which anything is possible, it's this one. If there was ever a moment where the world we want to create can actually happen, it's this one," Spence said. "Baltimore was, is and always should be owned by the people who live in it, owned by the people who work in it and owned by the people who love it."

On July 1, one of the groups that organized the rally, West Wednesday, will hold a peaceful protest in Hampden to demand accountability for Tyrone West and other victims of police brutality. West died in police custody on July 18, 2013; his sister Tawanda Jones has led a vigil demanding justice for his death every Wednesday since.


Monday's protest harkens back to the West Wednesdays held by the Sit-In during spring 2019.

<![CDATA[Baltimore restaurant reignites controversy after denying service to Black customer]]> Atlas Restaurant Group apologized after a Black woman posted a video of her and her son being denied service at Ouzo Bay in Harbor East on June 21. In the video, which has since been widely circulated on social media, a white manager denies service to the Black woman and her son because her son was wearing athletic clothing. The video shows a white child in similar clothing dining at the restaurant.

Since the incident, dozens of people have protested outside Ouzo Bay and other restaurants owned by Atlas. Maryland State Senator Jill P. Carter has also called for a boycott of the restaurant, arguing that there is no place for the company in Baltimore.

Atlas owns and operates a number of restaurants in Baltimore, including Tagliata and Azumi, as well as restaurants in Washington D.C., Texas and Florida.

The manager seen in the video is no longer associated with Atlas, according to its statement posted on Facebook. The company has also revised its dress code policy to exempt children under 12 and launched an internal investigation.

"What took place was not only disturbing, it was also eye-opening, and we are committed to learning from it and implementing real change as a result," the statement read.

After Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore - where two Atlas-owned restaurants, The Bygone and Maximon, are located - distanced itself from Atlas, both restaurants announced they are entirely discontinuing their dress code policies on June 25 in a separate statement.

In an interview with The News-Letter, PhD student Richard DeShay Elliott argued that there are larger issues with the owners of Atlas than this incident. He pointed to the Smith family - who founded Atlas - particularly because of their involvement with the conservative-leaning broadcast group Sinclair.

"Regardless of whatever their internal investigation shows, the [Smith] family is going to remain the same because, with the amount of wealth [and] the political power they have. They can do whatever the fuck they want," he said. "They've used their wealth and power to set public policy in the city for their benefit. Beyond the interpersonal racism, there is structural power racism in the way they operate in the Baltimore power ecosystem."

Elliott added that dress codes, in general, are used as a discriminatory measure.

"It's been known for a long time that long dress codes like that - no athletic shoes, no shorts, no T-shirts - are used throughout the United States, and particularly in Maryland, with the express goal of keeping Black people from entering certain establishments," he said. "I've been in situations where people have been rejected from a club or bar under those pretenses while there were white people who were against the dress codes that are allowed in."

Rising sophomore Yuwen Wang stated that she supported Atlas' decision to revise the dress code policies in an email to The News-Letter.

"The video was quite upsetting but necessary in order to generate the public response that compelled the restaurant to take action. The video went to show how certain policies, if not uniformly enforced, the implicit biases will be reflected in how people enforce them," she wrote.

Wang added that she will return to an Atlas-owned restaurant.

"I will visit an Atlas restaurant again because I don't believe this incident to be reflective of the character of their company," she wrote. "I appreciated the swift response by the company and I think it shows that they are willing to take the steps necessary to promote racial equity."

Elliott and Wang have both been customers at an Atlas-owned restaurant.

This is not the first time the Atlas Group faced criticism over perceived racism at one of its restaurants. Last year, another Atlas-operated restaurant in Fell's Point, Choptank, received criticism over their dress code policy that many viewed to be discriminatory.

At that time, co-founder Alex Smith defended the policies on his personal Facebook page, slamming the attacks as a hit job.

"Everyone in fells - as well as secrets, fagers, tiki lees, mgm, Wynn - all with [the] same dress code," he wrote. "Fake news media!"

Many restaurants and restaurant owners in Baltimore responded to the controversy, criticizing the restaurant.

Minje Suh, the owner of Waffie, a dessert shop in Hampden, stated her disappointment over Atlas' response in an email to The News-Letter.

"I noticed that they didn't address the main concern," she wrote. "The main problem wasn't about what he was or wasn't wearing, it was about the sole fact that they were discriminated against."

Suh added that she does not object to a restaurant having a dress code policy, but she expressed concern over how it would be implemented.

"As a restaurant owner, I understand why a restaurant would implement a dress code. Dress codes may be necessary when owners want to create a certain environment for customers," she wrote. "The problem is that dress codes have to be enforced by staff in a way that's fair and indiscriminate. It's the job of management to train staff members so that they clearly understand what's appropriate and what isn't when making judgment calls regarding dress code violations."

Several Baltimore-based food bloggers were critical of the company as well.

In an email to The News-Letter, Simone Phillips, who runs the Charm City Table blog, noted that the incident last Sunday was not unique and stated that the actions they took were not sufficient.

"The harm being caused inside of these spaces is frequent and seems intentional," she wrote. "Atlas' actions are the result of a viral video, and, while it may seem appropriate, it does not change the culture of Atlas as a company. There is a pattern of harmful actions being done to Atlas' employees and customers and the issues are much bigger than allowing children 12 and under to wear athletic attire."

Phillips added that she faced discriminatory actions by the staff at The Elk Room, an Atlas-owned speakeasy in Little Italy, over a year ago. She wrote that when she took a picture with a flash on, she was approached by the manager who let her know that flash photography was not allowed, despite the fact that a group of white customers were taking photos with their flash on at an adjacent table.

"When I asked the manager what the difference was, he could not explain it to me. I was extremely uncomfortable after experiencing this blatant double standard and left shortly after the exchange," Phillips wrote. "I did not report it because, when I shared my experience with the blogger community, many let me know these actions are typical from Atlas. I did not see the point in reporting a racist incident to the same people who put racist policies in place on purpose."

BmoreFood's Louie Silverio, in an email to The News-Letter, noted that he had also been racially profiled by a security staff at an opening event at Choptank. He also echoed Phillips in noting that racist behavior at Atlas restaurants predated this incident.

"It was just a matter of time before they were caught on video. They have had multiple incidents reported of racial discrimination," Silverio wrote. "But for this to happen to a young boy is unacceptable. He was clearly wearing the exact same thing as the white child dining outside. The look on his eyes of defeat and embarrassment makes me angry and sad that he will forever remember this moment."

Atlas Restaurant Group and Alex Smith did not respond to requests for comments by press time.


The Atlas Restaurant Group faces dress code backlash after manager refused to seat a Black child.

<![CDATA[Young lifts Baltimore's outdoor gathering ban ]]> Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young lifted the city's ban on large outdoor gatherings beginning June 26. This decision comes one week after Young moved the city into phase two of Maryland's re-opening plan, following shutdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

"We have seen tremendous progress in our city with respect to our numbers, due in great part to the risk reduction efforts by our city and residents," Young said in a news release.

Although large outdoor gatherings are now permitted, events that require a city permit and large stadium events are still banned.

Rising senior Mikhael Hammer-Bleich, who is currently living in Baltimore, supports Young's decision. In an email to The News-Letter on June 26, he noted that large outdoors gatherings have already occurred in the form of Black Lives Matter protests.

"The data seem to indicate that all the outdoor protests after the horrific killing of George Floyd did not materially increase Covid infections (with the possible exception of LA)," he wrote.

Rising senior Becky Shade, who is also currently living in Baltimore, explained in an email to The News-Letter that she did not support the decision.

"Some large outdoor gatherings like protests have been occurring anyway and those who attend are certainly not in the moral wrong for attending, as white supremacy has killed many more than coronavirus will," she wrote. "But, the state officially permitting large outdoor gatherings is certainly morally wrong for putting people's health at risk, especially in a city population with frequent high-risk comorbidities."

In addition to permitting outdoor gatherings, Young also ruled that enclosed meeting spaces will be allowed to reopen at half-capacity.

Hammer-Bleich voiced concerns about people congregating in indoor settings.

"Maryland and Baltimore need to be watching the data coming out of the south. It seems many of the super spreader events are taking place at bars and parties," he wrote. "I would strongly encourage reinstating an outright ban of indoor bars and parties for the near future within the state and the city."

Hammer-Bleich stated that he will continue to self-isolate despite Young's loosening of restrictions.

Shade, who will also be staying home, worries that essential activities will become high-risk if others in her community stop social distancing.

"If the change in regulations really does lead to behavior change in the population, activities such as going out to grocery stores where people who have attended large gatherings will be much more dangerous," she wrote.

In the news release, Young stressed the importance of continuing to take precautions against COVID-19.

"This lifting of restrictions on mass gatherings is low-risk if individuals continue to practice social distancing and other mitigation tactics, like wearing a face covering, but not without risk," he said. "Residents who choose to go out should still continue to do so safely."


As Baltimore begins to reopen, Mayor Young has lifted the ban on large outdoor gatherings.

<![CDATA[We all miss campus, but making the return optional isn't equitable]]> Recently, University President Ronald J. Daniels informed students that while Hopkins will offer some degree of in-person instruction and residential living this coming fall, no student will be required to return to campus. All or most courses will be offered online.

A choose-your-own-adventure fall experience sounds ideal in theory. Those who want to come back to Baltimore may, and those who would rather play it safe stay home. Simple. Yet the University is making an important oversight in splitting the student population into on-campus and off-campus groups. Despite Daniels' purported "keen focus on equity and fairness," an optional return to campus is inherently inequitable for those remaining off campus.

Recall the great grading system debate of the spring semester. Students rallied to show administration that, for many reasons, optional pass/fail wasn't an equitable option. For one, students at home do not enjoy equal access to resources and study opportunity. Varying internet speeds, time zones, noise levels, family dynamics and more could interfere with academics. There was also the fact that we were in the middle of a pandemic, and school was definitely not everyone's priority.

None of those things will be different in the fall. Students at home will still deal with various difficulties, and we will still be in the throes of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks. There's no guarantee that the students who struggled most at home will be able to return to campus.

Splitting the student population adds further layers of inequality. Yes, it would doom those at home to a semester of wistful scrolls through peers' posts of Baltimore sunsets and Döner Brös kebabs. But much worse is the inherently higher quality of education for those able to return to campus. While socially distanced college will look different, some things will stay the same: the rapport-building conversations with professors on the way out the door, TA-led lab technique demonstrations, gatherings with friends to pummel through a particular tough problem set - all without the inevitable poor video quality, lag and lack of self-discipline faced at home.

This will be the reality for many students in the fall: inequality with the price tag of a top-tier education. International students, immunocompromised students and those with at-risk families will be particularly vulnerable. Despite all this, students might be graded by the same standards regardless of whether they are at Hopkins or at home. Allowing those at home to pass/fail might ameliorate some of the inequity, but this is unlikely given that fully virtual summer classes are graded.

Even those who return to Baltimore could face challenges to successfully completing the semester. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials fear that the flu season and COVID-19 will combine into a perfect storm of public health devastation. By enticing students back with an undoubtedly better education, Hopkins is putting them at a greater risk of sickness. Personal illness in the middle of the semester is a nightmare already, but in Baltimore, students would be far from families that might normally provide care and support.

An optional return policy forces us to choose: our and our family's peace of mind or a high-quality education worth the tuition. That's not a choice students should need to make in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. The solution, of course, is to not leave it up to individual students. All online, or all back to campus.

Amid numerous international travel restrictions, economic turmoil and ever-rising COVID-19 cases, many won't have the opportunity to make a much-awaited return to Baltimore. Given the trajectory of the virus, the most prudent option seems to follow in the footsteps of hundreds of other universities: online-only.

No one wants to hear this. Online-only would be particularly heartbreaking for incoming freshmen and rising seniors, robbed of their first and last fall semester. And trust me when I say I'm itching to go back to what's become a second home. I yearn to hug my roommate, to regain some semblance of independence and even to revisit the Fresh Food Café - even not on chicken tender day. Yes, I went there.

But if Hopkins wants to live up to its claims of focusing on equity and fairness, this is the only way forward. Just as optional pass/fail was clearly not equitable, an optional return to campus is no better. Whatever the University decides going forward, it must remember that we are in a pandemic. Students shouldn't be forced to choose between their assured safety and a quality education.

Romila Santra is a rising junior from Overland Park, Kansas studying Neuroscience and Medicine, Science, and the Humanities. She is a section head for the Hippocrates Med Review and a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line.


Santra argues that students shouldn't have to decide between safety and their education.

<![CDATA[Amid U.S.-China visa restrictions, Hopkins must better support its international students]]> I have been an international student for the past eight years, but I may not be one anymore. I had believed America to be a wonderland of dreams, equality and tolerance for all.

I certainly don't believe it any more. The Trump administration's recent proclamation aims to revoke the visas of a significant number of Chinese graduate students who are suspected of having military ties. Three weeks later, the University shrugged the issue off with an insincere, belated email.

The email summarizes what the presidential proclamation means, recalls University President Ronald J. Daniels' statement back in July 2019 and reiterates the University's commitment to closely monitoring the situation and supporting international students and scholars. This is not enough in a time when U.S.-China tension tightens by the day.

In recent years, trade war and visa restrictions have been thrown back and forth. On May 29, the White House issued a proclamation which limits visas for graduate-level and above students who are "associated with entities in China that implement or support China's Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) strategy," shocking every international student in the U.S.

Student visa records show that in 2018 as many as 368,073 Chinese students studied at American universities, of whom Hopkins welcomed approximately 2,991.

Even though the proclamation is usually claimed to affect only a small proportion of international students, the actual results of this proclamation, as well as the culmination of years of tensions and restrictions, pose dire indirect consequences for international students as visas are delayed and employers lose interest.

I asked some friends who are international students about how the U.S.-China tension was affecting them personally. I received numerous anonymous submissions containing stories of aborted dreams.

One visited home during Christmas break of 2019. As of June 2020, they are still unable to return to the U.S.

One had his offer to a postdoc position rescinded by the employer, who waited for the visa to be approved for over four months before hiring someone else available.

One planned to get married to his long-distance girlfriend in China but is still unable to secure a flight ticket.

Many have to reconsider their future plans as visas are suspended, as internships offers are rescinded and, most importantly, as a future in America seems bleaker than ever.

I am not yet personally affected by the May 29 proclamation, as it targets mainly Chinese graduate students who have undergraduate degrees from Chinese institutions. However, I fear that this overt gesture of hostility sends signals to employers and institutions of higher education, which makes being Chinese in America harder than it already is.

More importantly, I fear this proclamation is only the beginning of the Trump administration's attacks on China and Chinese students in a desperate measure to portray a common enemy and unite a fractured nation.

When international students struggle with the uncertainty of the future, increasingly stringent visa controls will also hurt American higher education institutions and corporations, which anticipate great financial loss from the coronavirus pandemic. The Hopkins administration announced that if unmitigated, the losses from all tuition and student-related revenue sources could be as much as $25 million for FY20 and $150 million for FY21. Considering that international students usually pay tuition in full, stricter visa controls will only worsen the University's revenue loss.

Financial motives aside, international students also make up a great proportion of research and ongoing projects at Hopkins. U.S. President Donald Trump has suspended H-1B visas, which authorize more than 85,000 skilled workers and researchers to work in the U.S. each year. Similarly, other Republican lawmakers have pushed to suspend the decade-long program Optional Practical Training, which has allowed international students to extend a post-graduation one-year stay in the U.S. if employed in a field related to their area of study. When many international students cannot stay and work for Hopkins research and projects, it may take a toll on the University's academic progress.

Either out of financial considerations or out of insistence on academic exploration, Hopkins should do more to protect the status of international students, most of whom, like me, prefer lab reports to political drama.

Many universities, including Northwestern, Cornell, Northeastern and University of California, San Diego have issued statements voicing their support for international students from China, as most higher education institutions aim to create a diverse, inclusive environment for all.

Unfortunately, Hopkins has never been proactive in standing up for anyone except the top administrators, calling to arrest student Sit-In protesters in May 2019 amid private police controversy, laying off food service workers without assistance during a pandemic and suspending contributions to the employees' 403(b) retirement plans just one month after the close of campus.

With the entire nation embroiled in rage and grief over the murder of George Floyd, Hopkins issued a late and insincere statement, prompted backlash from the student body. Only after widespread criticism did University leaders issue a statement on June 12 suspending the implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department for two years, an action more performative and ameliorative than sincere or determined to help those who have suffered previously because of the poor judgement and selfishness of those in power.

In a similarly belated and insincere manner, the Office of International Services (OIS) sent an announcement to international students and scholars on June 19, three weeks after the presidential proclamation and about four months after racism against Asians became more overt in America.

As the email reads: "The JHU Federal Strategy office, in coordination with OIS, works diligently to represent the university's strong interest in maintaining robust global mobility... directly with decision-makers in Washington, D.C."

It would be convincing and appreciated, if the administration had shown any compassion for students or faculty in the past at all. Even though "working with the decision-makers in Washington, D.C." sounds assuring at first, it is no more than a grand yet hollow promise, not unlike the address to "stand in solidarity with the black community" from Hopkins administrators previously.

Frankly, it horrifies me that Hopkins repeatedly shows that underneath the intelligent academia built by renowned professors, curious students and diligent researchers (many of whom are Chinese students with visas) is an ultimately white institution where administrators make decisions only to protect and benefit themselves.

Hopkins administrators should assume more social responsibility, whether it's ensuring the welfare of its staff and faculty, reconsidering the decision to have a private police force in a time of widespread rage against police brutality or speaking out on behalf of the international students who contribute academically and financially to the University tremendously. Unfortunately, so far in a time of great crisis, they have not shown great responsibility.

We need no more words of "inclusion and diversity" or "enduring commitment." We need to see actions, and we need to see them now.

Shizheng Tie is a rising senior studying Environmental Engineering from Luoyang, China.

Errata: The article originally presented projected revenue losses due to COVID-19 as tied specifically to international student tuition. The projected revenue losses are from all tuition and student-related revenue sources.
The News-Letterregrets this error.


Tie considers the impact of growing tension between the U.S.and China on the Hopkins community.

<![CDATA[NASCAR has a long road ahead of it in the fight against racism]]> Late Sunday night, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was home to a horrific incident of racial intimidation and harassment. The auto racing body said it is fully investigating after a noose was found in the garage stall of racer Bubba Wallace, who is NASCAR's only Black driver, on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Ala.

According to ESPN's Marty Smith, Wallace never saw the noose. A member of his team first saw it and immediately reported it to NASCAR, who promised to find whoever was responsible for the act and "eliminate them from the sport." Wallace tweeted his own statement of his own, indicating that while he was saddened at the action, he remains driven and resolute in his fight to push the sport forward in its fight for equality.

This clear act of racial hatred comes in the wings of a slew of concrete, progressive actions by NASCAR, which owes much of its popularity to the southern region of America. Earlier this month the sport banned the Confederate flag, a constant member of the crowd at races, from being displayed at official events.

This strong and decisive move came at Wallace's behest. He's been championing for change in the sport - he donned an "I Can't Breathe / Black Lives Matter" shirt a couple of weeks earlier at a race in Atlanta and drove a car with the "Black Lives Matter" paint scheme to promote racial equality. NASCAR has been completely supportive of Wallace and has been taking clear steps to move forward.

Sadly, there's been reactions of racism and hatred in response to NASCAR's movements for change. Even with the ban on Confederate flags within the race facility, racist fans of the sport still found ways to rebel against equality. On Sunday before the noose incident, vehicles lined the boulevard outside the track at Talladega waving the flag of losers and traitors. A plane even flew a Confederate flag over the track dragging the slogan "Defund NASCAR" behind it.

It isn't just fans outside the gates who disagree with NASCAR's decision to promote racial equality. A notable helmet artist who worked with former champion Jimmie Johnson and Wallace was dropped by the drivers after using his Twitter account to lambast NASCAR's choice to ban the flag. NASCAR Truck series driver Ray Ciccarelli, who has never won a race and has only finished in the top 10 once, promised to quit the sport after the company made the decision to allow protests during the national anthem.

This type of response is indicative of the atmosphere that the sport has fostered for the entirety of its lifetime. NASCAR has been a safe haven for racists for many years, allowing ignorant and hateful members and fans to dig their claws into the sport and claim it as their own. The sport has been complicit in its position as a racist "Garden of Eden" in the sports world. Very few pockets of the modern American sports landscape have had the persistence of racist symbols and exclusion of black bodies like NASCAR.

The sport and its racers are now speaking out against racism, saying that the Confederate flag has "no place" in racing. This sentiment is unequivocally false. It has. For decades now. In the past, NASCAR has rolled out the red carpet for racism. No other sport in the last 50 years has had a widespread issue with bringing the Confederate flag to its events - not including Ole Miss and their love for racist symbols. And now that NASCAR has decided to attempt to right its past cowardice in dealing with racism and hatred, it faces a long and arduous battle.

American racism's attempt to fight back against progress and equality is often through violent images of intimidation and suppression. Take the Confederate monuments that are now being taken down hastily by gregarious protesters and embarrassed city councils. These statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson did not primarily arise right at the end of the Civil War. The two main periods when these monuments to failure arose were in the early 1920s, with the beginning of Jim Crow laws, and the 1950s and 1960s, right in the middle of the civil rights movement.

The erecting of these monuments came as reminders and warnings to Black Americans who sought to better their lives. Each statue was built as a symbol to disenfranchise Black people, to remind them of the Antebellum racism that enslaved and oppressed them for generations. We're all aware of the more aggressive tactics of racial intimidation, from lynchings of random Black citizens to church bombings and cross-burnings. Each method arises when racist white Americans are threatened by the mobility of Black people and fear for their self-appointed place at the socioeconomic pecking order.

A noose being placed in Bubba Wallace's garage is a sad, appalling instance. However, it is not unsurprising. It's an attempt to remind Wallace that he's nothing more than a Black body who shan't dare to step out of line. It's a reaction that is rooted in the history of racial relations, one that has been aided and abetted by the lack of accountability by the system. With the swath of Black men and women found hanging from trees across America in the past couple of weeks, it is an especially violent symbol.

Wallace and NASCAR have made the decision to attempt to join the fight against racism and right the wrongs of the sport. In response, those who have thrived and enjoyed the luxuries of being racist in the sport of racing feel threatened. Thus, like petulant and spoiled children, they will go kicking and screaming into the night to avoid losing their racist nook of society. The noose is a reminder of the deeply entrenched racism within the sport of NASCAR. It's a warning sign for what lies ahead and foreshadows the tremendous amount of work that it will take to move forward in the battle for equality.

Editor's note: Since the publishing of the article, the Bubba Wallace situation has progressed. The FBI finished its investigation determining that there was no hate crime involved, stating that the noose was formed from a garage pull rope from October 2019. This granted relief to those in NASCAR about the safety of Wallace, also championing celebrations on social media who thought the whole situation was a hoax.

On Thursday, NASCAR completed its own investigation and released a photo of the noose in question. NASCAR President Steve Phelps said "the noose was real" and defended the racing body's vigor in protecting and supporting their driver. Phelps also said that NASCAR conducted a sweep of every garage area in all 29 of its tracks, a total of 1,684 garage stalls. Only 11 stalls in total had a pull-down rope tied in a knot, and only one was tied like a noose-the one found on Sunday in Bubba Wallace's garage. NASCAR was unable to determine who tied the noose. In total, the findings of the investigation only provided relief that a hate crime hadn't been committed.

NASCAR appropriately defended and supported its driver in a time where it seemed necessary. The point of this article is unchanged, as it's obvious, based on the outcry to lambast Bubba Wallace and NASCAR for their reaction to this noose, that the sport has some real problems to deal with. When it was reasonable for people to believe that hate crime was committed, fans of the sport were looking for ways to discredit, all whilst turning a blind eye to those flying Confederate flags outside of the venue the same day.


Wallace, who drives the no. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports, is currently the only Black driver in NASCAR's top division.

<![CDATA[Baltimore moves into second stage of reopening]]> Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young announced on June 19 that Baltimore will enter stage two of reopening following shutdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

This measure follows the state-wide safer-at-home advisory and city-wide decision to allow outdoor dining and limited reopening of non-essential retail stores. Under phase two, non-essential businesses, public spaces and faith-based entities will be allowed to reopen with precautionary measures in place.

Restaurants will be able to offer indoor seating at up to 50 percent of maximum capacity. Indoor and outdoor pools, libraries, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the National Aquarium and museums will be allowed to open with the same limited capacity requirements.

Following decreased hospitalization rates and other key indices, Maryland entered into stage two of the "Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery" plan on June 5, per Governor Larry Hogan's orders.

Local jurisdictions were allowed to tailor the reopening timeline. At that time, Young noted that Baltimore was not ready to enter the next stage of reopening.

"I, more than almost anyone, would love to say Baltimore City is open and safe, but that simply is not what the data is telling us at this time," Young said at a press conference.

Rising junior Orlando Espinoza, who currently lives in Baltimore, explained that he was not surprised by Young's decision in an email to The News-Letter.

"It was an expected move, as most other places in Maryland have opened up," he wrote. "I just hope everyone here still remains careful."

In an email to The News-Letter, Carma Halterman, the owner of Carma's Cafe, said that she would not be opening the restaurant for indoor dining given its small size.

"I won't be reopening our dining room until social distancing is no longer necessary," Halterman wrote. "I appreciate the Mayor being conservative (in relation to state reopening) and hope businesses that are able to institute policies to protect their customers do so."

Carma's Cafe will continue to offer take out options and outdoor dining.

Baltimore resident and rising senior Sonomi Oyagi said she will continue to be cautious when going outdoors despite the relaxed measures.

"[My housemates and I] agreed that we're still going to generally avoid spending prolonged periods of time in indoor public facilities like libraries or eating inside restaurants," she said. "We're going to try to do outside seating if we do go out to eat."

Oyagi added that she supports Young's decision to delay the reopening measures.

"I've appreciated that he's been more hesitant and has waited longer. It definitely felt like [Baltimore City] was a bit more cautious than other parts of Maryland," she said. "This move feels a little bit quick, but that may be because of increased pressure to follow what the rest of Maryland is doing."


Despite lessened restrictions in Baltimore, Carma's Cafe will not provide indoor seating due to its small size.

<![CDATA[Post-protest thoughts: Do Black lives really matter?]]> I went to a protest earlier this month. I proudly held up a hand-painted sign as I joined the chorus of anguished cries and marched with 2000 other members of my community. I was impressed by the turnout, especially in my very white suburban Missouri town. As one of the few people of color in my community, I grew up feeling isolated and unknown, but as I heard my friends and neighbors proclaim, "Black lives matter!" I felt something new. I felt seen and heard and wanted. Knowing that communities across the nation were chanting the same thing, I was filled with hope. Maybe my people really are important to this country. Maybe Black lives really do matter to white America.

I hope that's the case, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure because I'm hearing people tell me Black lives matter to them, but that's not what I have seen.

If Black lives really matter in this country, why are there so few Black leaders, not just in public office but in influential positions in any field? Why don't I have any Black doctors to mentor me? Why have I never had a Black teacher or professor?

If Black lives really matter, why are American prisons overrun with Black men serving time for crimes white men were able to atone for with community service? If Black lives really matter, why have so many white people shown me "support" by telling me that they don't see my color, that they don't see my struggle, my culture, my history or me? If Black lives really matter, why do we only talk about them after Black deaths?

In 2014, mere miles away from my community, Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Mo., I heard "Black lives matter!" echo throughout my city. But those shouts turned to whispers within a few weeks as the story became old news. In 2018, I moved to Baltimore, a city that had also yelled "Black lives matter!" after Freddie Gray was slaughtered, but I found that those cries had long since been silenced without engendering any real change or justice. The media had moved on to other stories, despite the continued oppression of people of color throughout the city.

The problem is that Black lives don't really matter to white America. Black deaths matter to white America, or, more correctly, some Black deaths matter to white America. The thousands of Black people dying from coronavirus at disproportionate rates don't seem to matter and are barely worth a wistful sigh or mournful head shake. The 167 Black people who died from violence in Baltimore last year don't seem to matter. I haven't seen the protests for Aulsyn Anderson, Ralston Anderson or Ronald Carroll - all of whom died fewer than three miles from Homewood campus.

The reason the general public ignores these tragedies is the same reason Derek Chauvin thought it was okay to kneel on George Floyd's throat. Systemic racism has infiltrated our society to the point where we don't acknowledge or even care about Black people's suffering unless we're confronted with a video depicting unbridled bigotry and hideous injustice so blatant that it can't be ignored (at least not without posting a Black square on Instagram with the #BLM tag, of course).

I guess that's it, then. Some Black deaths matter.

Well, that's not good enough for me. And it's not good enough for my brothers and sisters who are sick and tired of not being seen. We do matter and if any of our white allies agree that we have worth and purpose and beauty, then they had better start acting like it.

That means listening to Black voices and amplifying their messages. That means hearing our stories and not rewriting the narrative into some self-righteous white savior tale. That means seeing us and seeking us. White people, you need to start actively incorporating Black voices into your conversations. Start intentionally searching for the diverse opinions and experiences people of color have to offer. We deserve to be heard. More than that, we need to be heard.

It's not enough to not be racist. Racism is the norm, and any actions that are not intently and intentionally working to dismantle our country's systemic white supremacy are complying with it. Silence is not an option, because if you are not actively anti-racist, you are racist. If you really think that my voice matters, that my life matters, that my people's lives matter, then help us fight for them. Not just now - when there's nothing better to do in quarantine - but in a month from now, when the media has moved on and the next big news is that a Kardashian is pregnant. You might forget about this, but we won't. We don't have the luxury of forgetting.

The fight for civil rights didn't begin or end in the 1960s. It began centuries ago and isn't close to ending. We are still fighting for the right to run, the right to breathe and the right to matter. We have been fighting since the beginning, and we will not stop until the battle is won. We will not be silenced.

Kennedy O. Onuoha is a rising junior from O'Fallon, MO double majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Psychology with a minor in English. She is a member of the Black Student Union and is the treasurer for Knotty By Nature.


As the country chants "Black Lives Matter," Onuoha considers whether it's true in America today.

<![CDATA[Black faculty demand representation on eve of Juneteenth]]> More than 200 members of the Hopkins community gathered in front of the Beach on Thursday, June 18 to demand that the University better hire and support Black faculty members, as well as cancel the planned private police force. The Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) held the peaceful demonstration in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the nationwide protests that have followed George Floyd's killing by a white Minneapolis police officer.

BFSA President Lorraine Smith, a senior grants and contract analyst at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, argued in an interview with The News-Letter that while Black people are hired for entry-level positions, they are not adequately represented in leadership roles.

"Being Black at Hopkins can be limiting. We don't get the same opportunities for advancement," she said. "They are starting to listen to us - now is the time for change."

Muyinatu Bell, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, believes that the University should listen to its faculty and students and cancel the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD). On June 12, University President Ronald J. Daniels and other administrators announced that they would delay their plans to implement the JHPD for at least two years.

Early on, Hopkins alum and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated for the JHPD. According to Bell, the University has ignored her worries about its creation.

"Generally, it's a very welcoming and supportive environment, so personally I feel supported. The one time where it was a little devastating that my voice was not heard... is the fact that I do have very strong feelings surrounding this police force," she said. "Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I am very aware of Bloomberg's viewpoint on stop-and-frisk policies at the time of my youth... and I am very concerned that we will experience a lot of the same discrimination that my friends and family experienced growing up."

At the demonstration, the BFSA distributed signs that read "No Hopkins Private Police."

Adriene Breckenridge, a senior academic advisor for the Krieger School School of Arts and Science (KSAS), recited the names of Black victims to police brutality. She then led protesters in remembering Floyd with eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence, the amount of time the police officer kneeled on his neck.

The protest was held on the eve of Juneteenth, which commemorates when enslaved people in Texas learned on June 19, 1865 that they had been freed, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. There is a push among activists and historians to make the symbolic date of freedom a federal holiday.

Daniels and other administrators chose to provide a half day of paid leave to employees on Friday, designating the holiday as an apt time to reflect on racial injustice.

In an interview with The News-Letter, former BFSA President Lynnise Norris noted that peer institutions, such as Princeton and Harvard Universities, gave their employees the full day off.

She called on Hopkins to do more to promote Black equity, observing a lack of Black male faculty members in particular.

"I worked at Hopkins for 23 years. It was an oppressive, toxic environment," she said. "I was denied promotional opportunities because they blackball you when you speak up. I want to see opportunities available for everyone, not just a select few... Hopkins leadership to me does not look like the city of Baltimore."

BFSA member Cynthia York, a project manager at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, stressed the need for the administration to listen proactively to Black voices. York helps run the Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins Exhibit, which highlights Black alumni's contributions to the University, from medicine and science to the arts and humanities.

"If [students] don't see someone that looks like them, they don't feel like they're part of campus," she said.

York said that she has also experienced this feeling.

"I've kind of absorbed it. I've taken it as the way it is around here," she said.

BSU Vice President Rahwa Yehdego, a rising junior, described how the underrepresentation of Black faculty members has affected her and her peers.

"Sure, you can increase the number of Black students every year, but more doesn't mean that we have a better experience. Administration likes to say that we have a diverse student body, but what do they do to help protect, support and foster those students? The fact that we barely have any Black faculty is an issue," she said. "People assume that we're here to fill a quota. You already have impostor syndrome as a Black student at Hopkins, but other students and faculty validate that."

She shared how racism has impacted her Black peers.

"I've had a lot of friends who've had negative interactions with professors, especially when it comes to trying to be candid and open with them and then getting different results than other students," she said. "I had a friend whose advisor told him freshman year to switch his major because it would be hard for a Black student."

Alyssa Thomas, who graduated from KSAS this spring, echoed Yehdego's sentiments.

"As a Black student, you sometimes carry the burden of being the sole representative of your group in a space, and that can deter you from accessing resources and help that you need," Thomas said. "I never felt like I could... seek help in the way that other students could because they felt like they had members of the faculty that identified the same way they did."

According to the second progress report on the Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, released in April 2019, five percent of professors in 2017-18 were African American, compared to 4.1 percent two years before. University officials drafted the Roadmap, a document outlining plans to make Hopkins more diverse, following demands from the Black Student Union (BSU) in November 2015.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs, Yehdego said, is supportive but overworked. She called on administrators to expand the Center for Africana Studies and to develop resources specifically for Black students.

"I know that they're hiring some new Black counselors, but the fact that it took something as tragic as what happened to get them to listen - we've been telling them the same things," she said. "There's a list of demands after Freddie Gray's death in 2015, and almost everything on that list hasn't changed."

Rising senior Harena Haile, a member of BSU, emphasized the need for greater financial support for affinity groups on campus.

Plans for the JHPD, she added, should be abandoned altogether.

"No one asked for a pause," she said.

The University decided to postpone the JHPD, Haile reasoned, because of national pressure to defend its image.

Yehdego called on students to keep fighting against its implementation.

Despite her concerns, Bell expressed her optimism in the University's future handling of the JHPD.

"In general, I believe in the Hopkins leadership and administration to do the right thing," she said. "I still have hope and faith that they will make the right choice and stand on the right side of history regarding this matter."

At the protest, the BFSA collected suggestions that it plans to deliver to Daniels in order to promote racial justice at Hopkins.

Correction: The original version of this article identified Rahwa Yehdego as the president of BSU. She is the vice president.

The News-Letter regrets this error.


The Black Faculty and Staff Association organized a peaceful demonstration on the eve of Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating emancipation.

<![CDATA[SGA discusses improving inclusion on campus]]> The Student Government Association (SGA) discussed resuming in-person activities and promoting diversity efforts at its first meeting of the 2020-21 academic year on Tuesday, May 16. Although SGA typically begins meeting in the fall, the group decided it would meet twice this summer, citing unprecedented circumstances and the need to carry out time-sensitive activities.

Executive Vice President Mehak Ali said that recent protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prompted her and Executive President Sam Mollin to meet with Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka to discuss how Hopkins can better combat racism on campus.

Ali noted that they will be meeting with Dean Ruzicka again next week and offered to advocate for students who are not in direct contact with administration.

"If anyone wants to tell us about their experience on campus or ways administration could improve the lives of black and brown students on campus, please message us and we can take that to our meeting with her," she said.

According to Junior Class Senator Megan Chien, many conversations about race and inclusion on campus have centered around the University's plan to implement the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD), which was recently put on hold for at least two years.

Chien and other members of SGA's Health, Safety and Sustainability Committee have recently joined the Garland Sit-In and Occupation in order to familiarize themselves with the group's demands. During the spring of 2019, the group, composed of students and community members, occupied Garland Hall for 35 days in protest of the JHPD's creation.

While SGA has made definite goals to foster inclusion on campus, Mollin noted that plans for the fall are still being discussed.

"I've been on the University-wide steering committee for fall planning. We've had meetings planning for things, such as how libraries will reopen to how research will reopen. This week, we are having meetings about housing and dining and orientation," he said. "Just today, we had one about student activities."

Given that fall plans are uncertain, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar announced in an email to the Hopkins community on June 16 that no student will be required to return to campus this coming academic year, even if the University reopens.

"We will be flexible and supportive in ensuring that every student has opportunities to continue their academic progress and pursue their educational goals," they wrote.

Executive Treasurer Addy Perlman addressed what the student organization subcommittee is doing to facilitate the functioning of student groups during uncertain times.

"I'm working on finding the best way to have different student groups collaborate together so that we're having more student interaction and experience while still saying safe and healthy," she said.

Mollin proposed that SGA accommodate to current circumstances by amending its rules bill to include Zoom etiquette. The proposed changes, which passed unanimously on the floor, were meant to mitigate the potential for "Zoom-bombers" disrupting future meetings and ensure that Zoom chat spaces remained appropriate and on topic.

Looking toward the future, Executive Secretary Breanna Soldatelli announced that seven members who serve on the Communications and Marketing Commission (CMC) will aim to communicate SGA's progress to the student body. This task includes helping Soldatelli update SGA's website, which she described as a work-in-progress.

Soldatelli noted that improving the website, along with live-streaming meetings on Facebook, is part of SGA's efforts to increase transparency with the student body. SGA's next step, she said, is to make its past records available to the public.

"I met with the head librarian at the Hopkins Libraries in Brody and we are going to start putting all of SGA's records from the past couple of years into the library," Soldatelli said. "It is important that all the records are public information."


Some members of SGA have recently joined the Garland Sit-In and Occupation to better understand its goals.

<![CDATA[Postponing the JHPD is a performative step in the right direction. Hopkins must do more to combat structural racism.]]> Three days ago, top University officials announced that they would be halting their plans to create a private police force (JHPD) for at least two years. This was the second communication sent to the student body in response to the protests that began when George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. It took almost an entire week after Floyd's death for the University to release a statement.

The first email Hopkins sent claimed to express solidarity with the black community, but neglected to acknowledge the University's contributions to structural racism in Baltimore. While administrators mentioned the launch of a virtual symposium on racial justice, they notably failed to address the planned private police force.

Their second email announced the delay of the implementation of JHPD for two years, but this performative gesture means little given that the University was already falling behind on its timeline. The Vice President for Security left in June 2019; over a year later, the University still has not filled this vacancy.

As a result, a draft of the JHPD's required Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) - set to be released during the fall of 2019 - has yet to be revealed. This December, University President Ronald J. Daniels himself told The News-Letter that "there's simply no activity taking place right now with respect to the MOU."

The rationale behind a mere two-year delay was unclear from the email. We commend the University for aiming to "invest in alternative approaches" to safety, but the best way to "reduce... our reliance on policing" would be to outright cancel the JHPD.

The issues that the University now claims to grapple with regarding policing are the same concerns that students have been voicing since 2018. Opponents of the JHPD, particularly the Garland Sit-In and Occupation, have stressed that racial biases and corruption of the BPD would surely be an issue at Hopkins. Yes, several roundtable discussions were hosted in response. But the decision ultimately was the same. Why would a two-year break make a difference?

The one guaranteed change will be the departure of all students who fought against the planned JHPD from the beginning. The majority of students who joined the Garland Sit-In and Occupation in 2019 will have graduated. The Accountability Board will need to be updated, and will likely include students who have never even set foot in Garland. While Hopkins plans to resume the conversation about policing in two years, it is leaving behind the students who led it in the first place.

It is clear that Hopkins is only bending to public opinion at the moment. Over two-thirds of Americans view Floyd's death as a sign of "broader problems" of systemic racism in policing. It would be tone-deaf for Hopkins to implement a new police force while anti-police protesters are taking to the streets day after day.

We are glad that Hopkins is finally listening, but the question remains: Why wasn't our outcry enough before? Why was the letter from 101 faculty members to the Board of Trustees not enough? Why was a referendum stating that 71 percent of students opposed the JHPD's creation not enough? For the sake of its image, Hopkins ultimately is listening to the demands of the nation, but only after ignoring years of demands from its own community.

Unfortunately, the University is not typically a leader when it comes to racial discourse. Hopkins has a history of exploiting black bodies, like Henrietta Lacks', to fuel its research. More recently, the Hospital has used hardball tactics to sue thousands of its patients in East Baltimore for a median amount of $1,089 in alleged medical debt. These lawsuits earn pocket change for Hopkins at the expense of its black and low-income neighbors. The University must acknowledge that a police force would similarly disproportionately target black individuals.

Hopkins has proven that it cares more about its image than the needs, thoughts and fears of its constituents. The Hopkins sign was recently painted with graffiti messages like "no private police" and "Hopkins is racist." The University was quicker to cover up the graffiti than to declare its solidarity with the black community.

The administration has made a few attempts to seem open and helpful, but these actions serve only to create a veneer of thoughtful dialogue, rather than launch meaningful change. The demographics of students and professors highlight the lack of black representation on campus. In 2015, eight percent of reported faculty identified as members of underrepresented minority groups. Furthermore, only two percent of all full professors are black. Hopkins cannot state that it stands against racism and inequality when we don't have the professors, faculty or students to support this claim.

Beyond simply pausing the development of the JHPD and waiting for the dust to settle, Hopkins must use its resources to invest in the black communities it has historically exploited. The original bill that established the JHPD also included millions of dollars in funding for Baltimore City youth programs. Granted, Hopkins has established initiatives in the past to better serve the Baltimore community, including HopkinsLocal and the Community Impact Internship Program. The Second Commission on Undergraduate Education also seeks to increase community-based learning within Baltimore. Hopkins can strengthen these structures and do so much more as a leading research institution to promote equality in the city.

The JHPD would by nature oppose the University's self-touted "core commitment to justice, equity, and inclusion." We must not only delay but abolish it. Students must continue current advocacy efforts; every Hopkins affiliate can sign the letter to abandon the private police force. Courses in the Center of Africana Studies and other classes with a focus on racism in the U.S. are easily accessible opportunities for students. Learning is the first step to sustainable anti-racism.

We call on students to commit to anti-racist change, and we at The News-Letter promise to do the same. We aim to establish an accountability board to ensure that we are amplifying black voices and issues. Please contact us at managing@jhunewsletter.com if you have questions or suggestions about making our paper more representative.

We must make sure that Hopkins does not forget the fight for George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless other victims of racist police brutality. Our activism must be long-lasting, sustained and never pushed to the bottom of the agenda. It is up to current students and faculty to hold the University accountable for its racist history, and to ensure that Hopkins uses its privilege and power to better serve the Baltimore community.