<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Sat, 23 Jan 2021 08:27:50 -0500 Sat, 23 Jan 2021 08:27:50 -0500 SNworks CEO 2021 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Baltimore City loosens COVID-19 restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining]]> Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott lifted the ban on indoor and outdoor dining in Baltimore on Wednesday, announcing that eateries can reopen for dining at limited capacity beginning at 6 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22.

In a news conference at Park Height's Zeta Center, Scott justified lifting the ban, citing the city's decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Since the risk for COVID-19 transmission is greater indoors, the new rules on dining state that restaurants and bars will be limited to 50% capacity outdoors and 25% capacity indoors. Bars and breweries that do not serve food will be able to reopen for the first time since November. Additionally, restaurants are required to maintain sign-in and sign-out sheets for guests to assist with contact tracing and diners will only be permitted to stay for one hour.

Scott has also issued guidelines on other recreational activities, including gyms, which can host classes with up to 10 people if they are socially distanced and require participants to wear masks. Indoor recreation sites, such as bowling alleys and indoor pools, can reopen at 25% capacity. Tobacco shops are also permitted to resume sales without on-premise consumption. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25% capacity and indoor gatherings to 10% capacity.

While excited to have the option to dine-in at different eateries, junior Ashleigh Hawthorne explained in an email to The News-Letter that she is apprehensive about actually attending a restaurant.

"I worry that this reopening might lead to a surge in cases, so I will probably continue to get takeout for a while," she wrote. "Depending on the trends we see over the next few weeks, I might be more inclined to eat out in the future."

Freshman Daivik Chawla expressed similar concerns in an email to The News-Letter, stating that he is excited that Baltimore will feel more active and lively, but it is important to be cautiously optimistic about this decision.

Chawla wrote that he would be comfortable using dine-in options if he is certain that the restaurant is enforcing COVID-19 guidelines.

"This would only be after someone has specifically recommended a restaurant," he wrote. "I'd continue with takeout for at least a few more days after the ban has been lifted."

Hawthorne noted that, even though the outdoor and indoor seating arrangements will be distanced and sanitary measures will be implemented to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, there are still risks associated with eating out.

"I feel like a lot of the safety measures put in place are there to protect the customers, which is awesome, but I worry that dining in might increase the risk among restaurant employees," she wrote.

Chawla noted the importance of social distancing as a measure that should be enforced at all times.

"Since eating involves removing my mask, I would like to ensure I'm at a comfortable distance from other people dining in," he wrote. "I'd also really like to see tables being sanitized after every meal, [restaurants] using e-menus and the staff of the restaurant wearing gloves and masks at all times for the safety of all their customers."


While students are excited to begin going to restaurants again, some have noted the increased COVID-19 risks associated with indoor dining.

<![CDATA[University leaders hold town hall on spring return to campus]]> University leaders held a town hall to discuss plans for the spring semester on Sunday, Jan. 10. Associate Vice Provost for Education Janet Schreck facilitated the explanation of the finalized plan.

The plan, which was released on Friday, Jan. 8, confirmed that the University will hold hybrid classes throughout the spring semester and offer mandatory twice-a-week COVID-19 testing to students in Baltimore living both on and off campus.

As in the fall, students are not required to return to Baltimore if they wish to stay home. Additionally, students will still have the opportunity to choose between a letter grade or a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading system for each class.

Student Government Association Executive President Sam Mollin, who was also a member of the University's student advisory committee for reopening campus, supported the University's decision in an interview with The News-Letter.

"The choice I have as a student on that committee is basically: 'Do I trust the committee of public health experts that Johns Hopkins has to determine whether it's safe to reopen?' And I do," he said. "We have some of the best public health experts in the country, and if they say it's safe to reopen, then I think it is."

COVID-19 testing

Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Stephen Gange explained the precautions the University has taken to be able to open in the spring, despite COVID-19 rates being higher now than when the University deemed it necessary to close campus in the fall.

"We believe all of the work that we put in in preparation for the fall, coupled with improved capabilities for the spring, are the best measures available for bringing students back in a couple weeks," he said.

These improved capabilities including using saliva samples for COVID-19 testing, building a lab staffed by the Hopkins Hospital to process tests, establishing five testing sites on the Homewood Campus and hiring and training over 30 people to run them.

According to Gange, the University can now conduct over 4,000 tests per day with 24-hour turnaround times. Additionally, the University will use genetic testing technology to identify new variants of the virus and implement wastewater testing in campus residence halls as a further outbreak-detection measure.

Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being Kevin Shollenberger noted that students will need to make appointments for their COVID-19 testing through MyChart. Students will also use MyChart to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines if eligible under Maryland state law.

"Our undergraduate students do need to participate in a twice-a-week asymptomatic testing and receive at least two negative tests that are 48 hours apart before participating in any in-person classes or University-sponsored activities," he said.

He also recommended that students take a COVID-19 test in their hometown 72 hours before traveling; this test is not mandatory but is recommended by public health guidelines. Shollenberger noted that Student Financial Services can assist with the cost of COVID-19 tests taken prior to travel.

Mollin noted that in addition to participating in the biweekly testing, students should honor the Social Compact, which will be launched in a few weeks.

"The biggest thing beside the measures that the University has in place is whether us as students can hold each other accountable to actually do everything that is prescribed in a return to campus guide," he said.

Quarantine periods

Students who test positive for COVID-19 will receive not only a notification from MyChart but also a call from a nurse. Students who test positive in on-campus housing will be required to move to isolation housing immediately. For students living off-campus, isolation housing and transportation to the housing will be provided by the University if adherence to public health guidelines is not possible in their off-campus housing.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Alanna Shanahan explained that students will also be assigned a case manager once they have tested positive.

"These case managers are there to assist students with any hiccups they have along the way - any assistance they may need connecting with academic advisors or faculty, connecting with their families or just checking with the mental health of the student," she said. "We want to make it as pleasant as possible given the circumstances."

Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka added that students will have access to support groups through the Counseling Center and can talk with a University chaplain while in isolation housing.


Move-in for students living on-campus will be conducted on Jan. 16, 17 and 19. Jan. 18 will not be used for move-in in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students will begin their move-in time slot with a COVID-19 test at Shriver Hall before going to their assigned residence halls.

Dean of Academic and Student Services Andy Wilson stressed that because of public health guidelines, parents will not be allowed into the residence halls to help their children unpack.

"It is a dramatically different move-in than the traditional rite of passage, and it is something we know is a bit of a strain and a pain point for families," he said. "We do want to make sure that families have the opportunity to say goodbye to their students, and we are hoping they can do so outside the residence halls."

Additionally, the University will not allow traditional moving staff into the residence halls, some of which do not have elevators. Because of this, Wilson encouraged students to mail the majority of their items to the University ahead of time and pack only their essentials for move-in day itself. He noted that students will not be allowed into mail rooms to pick up the rest of their belongings until they have received their first negative COVID-19 test result, 24 hours after their move-in slot.

According to Ruzicka, orientation and other first-year activities will be held virtually, with some in-person elements added once students receive negative COVID-19 test results.

"While students may be physically distant, they will be socially connected," she said. "They will have virtual floor meetings with RAs [Resident Advisors], they will get to know the folks on their floor virtually and then hopefully start to see them in small numbers."

Wilson added that the University will offer campus tours and a community walk of Charles Village in person with virtual social programming each night.

Freshman Sai Dharmasena, who lived in the Homewood Apartments during the fall, stated that she wishes the University would allow students into each other's dorm rooms in an email to The News-Letter.

"It's unreasonable to not allow students in each other's dorms in a pod system," she wrote. "This fails to fully accomplish the goal of preventing the spread of COVID, as people are more likely to meet in unsafe locations off campus, not to mention deteriorating mental health due to compounding stress and isolation."

On-campus activities

University leaders underscored that on-campus activities will occur in accordance with state and federal COVID-19 regulations.

Wilson explained that only students living on campus will have access to Nolan's and the Fresh Food Cafe, both of which will be open for Grab-and-Go dining all day. Levering Kitchens, Brody Cafe and CharMar will be open to students living in off-campus housing as well.

Shanahan highlighted that the University intends to open the Brody Learning Commons, but officials are still unsure when it will be available to students.

Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Janet Weise clarified that students whose courses require access to on-campus workspaces will be allowed to access those spaces.

The Recreation Center will be open as well at a limited capacity, with masks required. According to Director of Athletics and Recreation Jen Baker, students will be able to reserve up to four 45-minute time slots per week; the facility will not be open during move-in, but University leaders expect it will open shortly after.

In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Lauren Zou expressed her disappointment with the lack of certainty the University leaders offered.

"I wish some decisions, especially in regards to library and study space re-openings, could have been finalized before the webinar took place," she wrote.

Off-campus students

Ruzicka emphasized that students not on campus will still have access to virtual programming.

"90% of our programming will continue to be virtual," she said. "Those students who are not on campus, who are living internationally or have chosen to stay at home, will still have a robust opportunity to engage in larger programming, as well as smaller groups in more intimate, cohort-based programming."

Associate Vice Provost for International Programs and Student and Scholar Services Jim Brailer noted that the United States' Student Exchange Visitor Program has not yet issued its formal guidance for the spring, meaning that return plans may be uncertain for international students.

However, Brailer believes that the guidelines from the fall will hold through the rest of the year.

"They have intimated to our professional units that the guidance that was in place for the spring 2020 and modified for fall 2020 should be expected to continue for the spring semester," he said.

This means any student who enrolled in the fall of 2020 can return if their program and course schedule offers in-person opportunities, and students who were already enrolled in spring 2020 can return even if their coursework is completely remote.

Because visa applications and travel bans differ by country, Brailer recommended that international students with questions about their individual situations reach out to OIS@jhu.edu.

Gabriel Lesser contributed reporting to this article.


Administrators detailed the logistics of on-campus activities this spring.

<![CDATA[Letter to the Editor 01/09/2021]]> In response to "OIE investigates TA's tweet about failing a Zionist student" published on January 9, 2021:

As faculty affiliated with the Jewish Studies Program at Hopkins, we are deeply troubled by reports that a Hopkins teaching assistant spoke of penalizing students in her class on the basis of their identity and background - even for displaying an image of a street sign in Tel Aviv. As scholars of the Jewish experience, we understand the protean character of antisemitism and the ease with which people can convince themselves and others of the collective guilt of targeted groups and the "need" to "punish" them.

Some of us are particularly appalled by reports that said individual presented her hostility as motivated by anti-racist commitment, given that targeting whole categories of people for hostility is a classical feature of racist bigotry.

We hopeallfaculty and students at Hopkins, regardless of field, share our viewthat there can never be any justification for using a student's background, identity or politics as a factor in gradingand that declarations of the sort allegedly made, particularly when made by someone exercising power over students, are intolerable.We call on the administration to undertake a fair, full and prompt investigation of the matter at hand; to resolve the matter appropriately; and to inform the campus community of its findings, decision and rationale immediately upon conclusion of the investigation.

But our concerns are broader too. Looking beyond this particular investigation, we note that similar incidents have occurred on campus over the past year, and we are thus concerned that this incident is part of an emerging pattern. Antisemitism on campus should be fought like other forms of prejudice, whether that antisemitism is of the white supremacist "gentlemanly" sort that tarnished Hopkins in the 1930s and 1940s or the sort that presents itself as somehow progressive.

Prejudice itself must be fought through knowledge and the acquisition of critical thinking skills,and we, as scholars of Jewish studies with a wide range of views regarding the history and trajectory of Israeli policies and the complex Jewish-Palestinian situation in the Middle East, hope that Hopkins students will study the situation with us and with our colleagues in other related fields.​We also believe that training against antisemitism should be included as part of the University's general anti-racist training, and call on the University to make that change.

Students who believe they have been subjected to antisemitic treatment are encouraged to make this known to the University's Office of Institutional Equity or to any of the signatories of this letter. We look forward to the prompt resolution of this matter.

Neta Stahl, Director of the Stulman Program in Jewish Studies and Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature

Kenneth Moss, Felix Posen Professor of Modern Jewish History

Steven David, Professor of International Relations

Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Professor of Philosophy, Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of the Humanities

Pawel Maciejko, Associate Professor, Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Chair in Classical Jewish Religion, Thought, and Culture

Samuel Spinner, Assistant Professor, Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Chair in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture

Beatrice Lang, Lecturer, Yiddish Language

<![CDATA[OIE investigates TA's tweet about failing a Zionist student]]> The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) has opened an investigation into comments made by Rasha Anayah, a teaching assistant (TA) and graduate student in the Department of Chemistry, following reports that several of her tweets targeted Zionist and Jewish students.

"[E]thical dilemma: if you have to grade a Zionist students exam, do you still give them all their points even though they support your ethnic cleansing? like idk," one tweet read.

A poll accompanying the Nov. 15 tweet asked respondents to choose between "yes rasha. be a good ta" and "free palestine! fail them."

Anayah has been a TA for "Applied Chemical Equilibrium and Reactivity" for two years. This fall, she served as the head TA for the course.

Alanna Margulies, the president of the Hopkins Hillel student board, expressed concerns about the potential impact of Anayah's tweets on students, particularly freshmen.

"This is a situation that has made a lot of students unsafe, and it's something that affected people who haven't spent much time on campus," she said. "To have this as one of their first interactions with their TAs and their classes, that just makes it all the more important that the school takes action that takes into account justice and making sure students feel safe and comfortable."

Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestine activist organization of which Anayah is treasurer, condemned all acts of racism, especially anti-Semitism, in an email to The News-Letter.

Representatives of SJP noted that Anayah has been threatened on social media by organizations that have reported on the incident.

"These organizations have a long documented history of engaging in smear and censorship campaigns aimed on stifling free speech on campus through the utilization of racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian tropes to vilify and defame their victims," the group wrote.

SJP called on the University leaders to protect Anayah from these organizations and to acknowledge the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as they conduct their investigation.

Anti-Semitism refers to hostility, prejudice or discrimination toward Jewish people. Anti-Zionism is an opposition to Zionism, a nationalist ideology that supports the establishment of a Jewish state. While anti-Zionism does not equate to anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism has sometimes been used to express anti-Semitic sentiments.

Kenneth Moss, the Felix Posen professor of Modern Jewish History at Hopkins, noted the historically complex relations between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

"It is certainly the case that anti-Zionism has been an important dimension of real, existing anti-Semitism at many junctures in history," he said. "Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have been both distinct at times and also entangled."

Anayah's tweet explicitly referred to a Zionist student, but her other tweets expressed sentiments more generally toward Jewish students at Hopkins.

"[D]idn't get pinned with an israeli or some bitch white boy to have to share my knowledge with," one tweet read. "[W]e had an undergrad in lab who had been on birthright and had one of the street signs to tel aviv on her laptop. it stabbed me every time she opened it. if i had been paired to [o]ne of them or one of these conceited white boys i would have lost it."

Although her Twitter account has since been deactivated, screenshots of her tweets were made available online.

In a Jan. 5 email to Hopkins Hillel affiliates, Provost Sunil Kumar and interim Dean John Toscano stated that they had seen the tweets and are taking action.

"We are aware of an incident of alleged antisemitism and potential abuse of authority in the discharge of academic responsibilities on our campus," they wrote. "Any link between grading and bias runs counter to our values and policies, and we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that does not occur."

Due to federal privacy laws, they added that they were unable to provide further details or comment specifically on the incident.

Similarly, OIE declined to provide details of its investigation to The News-Letter but explained that the University reviews each report of discrimination according to the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures. Part of the assessment is to implement any interim measures, which includes placing individuals on administrative leave or restricting their access to campus.

In an email to The News-Letter, Anayah emphasized her commitment to scholarship and social justice.

"In regards to my teaching and evaluation of students, I have always acted with the utmost integrity and fairness," she wrote. "I am a dedicated teacher and scholar with a commitment to social justice and to my role. My record as a teaching assistant is a testament to these facts."

Anayah stated she was unable to discuss her tweets, citing the ongoing investigation.

The Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) condemned her tweets in a statement, noting that the group has been working with the University on the issue.

"This is an urgent matter and we believe this situation must be resolved as quickly as possible and with transparency," the statement read. "If the allegations are true, we expect there to be clear communications from top leadership to the University's Jewish community that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and has consequences."

The Washington, D.C. office of the Anti-Defamation League affirmed the BJC statement in an email to The News-Letter, calling on Hopkins to take appropriate action.

"Students should be evaluated and afforded academic opportunities based on the quality and merit of their academic work, not based on their personal protected characteristics or their ideologies or viewpoints," the statement read.

Howard Libit, the executive director of BJC, described the tweets as anti-Semitic.

"The way it was communicated, I don't have any doubt that it was anti-Semitic," he said. "The idea that a TA at Hopkins would give lower grades to a student who supports Israel's right to exist is appalling and unacceptable."

Senior Jeremy Berger, however, asserted that it is inaccurate to label Anayah's tweets as anti-Semitic. He stressed the importance of using these labels correctly.

"I know countless times where Palestinian activists, no matter how they conduct themselves, are eventually targeted and attacked as anti-Semites because of their anti-Zionism," he said. "It's really important not only for the truth's sake and not only for not labeling someone as anti-Semitic correctly but also for Jews."

According to Berger, the poll in the Nov. 15 tweet was not meant to be taken seriously but was the result of someone who has been triggered by a Zionist student.

Berger maintained that Anayah's other tweets were not anti-Semitic either.

"You have to understand the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis have access to the student's ancestral homeland," he said. "The country that they built and benefited from has come from the explicit loss of land, culture, displacement and ethnic cleansing of her people."

Berger urged organizations like Hopkins Hillel and individuals who have labeled Anayah as anti-Semitic to admit to mischaracterizing anti-Zionism.

"As a Jew, I am deeply disturbed to see the response to this 'incident' of vicious attacks, harassment and the spread of blatant lies," he said. "No one was threatened, and certainly no one was threatened for being Jewish."

Moss stated that understanding how anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are distinct is no more important than understanding how they bleed into each other.

"If you come away from understanding the historic relationship of the Zionist project to Palestinians feeling strongly critical about it, that's not intrinsically anti-Semitic to me. If on the other hand,people invoke tropes of innateJewish malignity or Jewish power...and call that anti-Zionism, that doesn't make it a legitimate discourse in my view or mean that it's not anti-Semitism," he said. "I would hope that rather than assuming there is a simple way of defining either of these things, we look at them in their full complexity."

Greta Maras contributed reporting to this article. Alanna Margulies is a contributing writer for The News-Letter. She did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.

The Department of Chemistry did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Editor's Note: The original version of this article did not include some of Moss's quotes. They have been revised to more accurately reflect his position.

Correction: Alanna Margulies is a contributing writer, not a staff writer, for The News-Letter.

The News-Letter regrets this error.


Tweets made by the head teaching assistant of a large chemistry course this fall are being investigated for anti-Semitism.

<![CDATA[Hopkins will reopen with a hybrid plan for the spring]]> University President Ronald J. Daniels and other administrators announced in an email to University affiliates today that Hopkins will open for increased in-person activities for Homewood undergraduates in the spring semester.

Hopkins will enter Phase Two of reopening, as laid out in a draft plan released three weeks ago. All undergraduate students will be required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week beginning Jan. 11 and to use the Prodensity app daily before coming to campus. Face coverings must be worn at all times, and students are instructed to avoid large gatherings.

The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Whiting School of Engineering will offer 18% of their undergraduate courses in-person. Those classes will start online at the beginning of the semester but switch to in-person instruction on Feb. 2.Graduate schools and the Peabody Institute will communicate their respective plans for the spring, which may vary.

No students or faculty members will be required to be on campus, and the University will provide virtual alternatives for classes held in-person.

In an email to The News-Letter, Assistant Vice President of External Relations Karen Lancaster emphasized that while the University remains flexible, the one-week delay in resumption of in-person activities does not necessarily suggest an eventual switch to online-only operations.

"We have always been clear that we will change our plans if the public health situation requires it," she wrote. "Our decision reflects the many steps we have taken since the fall to prevent the spread of the COVID virus among our community, not a prediction of what the state of the pandemic will be at the end of January."

Undergraduate students will also be able to engage in in-person research starting Feb. 8.

Freshman Asha Shetler voiced her support for the decision. She explained that while her classes are all online, she plans to attend them in Baltimore in University housing.

"Being on campus makes studying for classes much easier and allows for better mental health, as students can have more of a social life as well, especially for freshmen who have not made many friends yet," Shetler said. "I'm very excited to be on campus for the first time."

The University has opened its housing facilities for undergraduate students. According to Lancaster, around 1,350 students - of which around 1,000 are freshmen - will be living in University housing in the spring.

Shetler believes that Hopkins has implemented the necessary measures to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak on campus.

"Hopkins has constructed a rather robust safety system against it," she said. "The biggest thing I am concerned about is that, for people like me who have all of their classes online, it will still be hard to develop a social network despite being on campus."

Sophomore Asimina Zoitou highlighted that students who return to campus must do their part in adhering to University protocols.

"The described public health measures are important and reflect an institution that is aware of the challenging public health situation we face today," she said. "The increased testing and the social distancing measures taken are essential for a safe transition. However, the responsibility of every individual to ensure safety is also important."

While COVID-19 cases spiked nationwide following Thanksgiving, Daniels and other administrators stated that a similar increase in the number of positive cases did not materialize in the Baltimore area.

Baltimore has enacted various restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, notably suspending both indoor and outdoor dining starting Dec. 11 as the daily number of cases and deaths reached record levels.

Lancaster attributed the decision to the high risk of contagion that indoor dining carries. She noted that some forecasts projected post-Thanksgiving daily new case numbers to reach 5,000.

Daily new COVID-19 cases in Maryland have not exceeded a high of 3,796 and have been hovering between the high 2,000s and low 3,000s.

Zoitou, who is from Greece, stated that her initial plan was to return to the U.S. if the pandemic improved. However, she and her family are skeptical about whether she should return, given the surge in cases, and her plans are not yet set.

She called on the University to provide more resources for international students who remain unsure of their plans.

"As an international student, traveling during the pandemic is a worrying procedure and probably one of the factors that make me question if I can or should return on campus," she said. "More information, recommendations for international students or more flexibility on the dates of the return on campus would greatly facilitate students to make a decision for their spring semester plans."

Sophomore Susan Liu, who is from China, also expressed her doubts about returning to the United States.

"Realistically, going to the U.S. now does not seem to be the prudent decision. I actually have to be quarantined in another country before flying there," she said. "The school could have done better with providing resources for international students. One big thing is I know a lot of schools provided international Go-Local options, but when we talked to Hopkins about it to set a program, the school just wasn't willing to do that."

In their email, administrators cited the successes of peer institutions in carrying out a hybrid reopening last semester. They also stressed that transmission was low at Hopkins this fall, even in the context of limited in-person lab research.

"We know that thousands of our students were in Baltimore during the fall semester and will be here in the spring regardless of our operating posture and have thus far avoided any significant outbreaks due to their diligence in following COVID safety practices in their daily lives," they wrote.

The University will be asking students and affiliates to affirm their commitment to act responsibly and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by acknowledging the Social Compact, a document that will be launched in the coming weeks.


Hopkins will follow the draft reopening plan released in November.

<![CDATA[Hopkins professors call for Trump's removal after rioters storm Capitol building]]> Nine Hopkins professors have signed an open letter calling for President Donald Trump's removal from office after his actions encouraged far-right rioters to storm the Capitol building on Wednesday, Jan 6.

As of publication, the open letter has been signed by over 1300 political scientists, including Hopkins professors Filipe Campante, Hahrie Han, Dan Honig, Margaret E. Keck, Renée Marlin-Bennett, Adam Seth Levine, Olga Oliker, Sarah E. Parkinson and Adam Sheingate.

The letter urges lawmakers to either impeach Trump or invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

"The President's actions threaten American democracy," the letter reads. "Our profession seeks to understand politics, not engage in it, but we share a commitment to democratic values. The President's actions show he is unwilling or unable to fulfill his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. He should be removed from office immediately before further violence takes place or further damage is done to our democracy."

In an interview with The News-Letter, Parkinson, who is an Aronson assistant professor of Political Science and International Studies, argued that the issue has far surpassed party politics.

"We're into the realm of an executive who is actively trying to subvert the Constitution and American democracy," she said. "If the 25th Amendment is supposed to be invoked when someone is unable to carry out the duties of office... and if impeachment is supposed to be in the case of a crime... then, in terms of the Constitution of the United States and the way that the presidential oath of office works, this is an executive who should be removed."

Sheingate, a professor of Political Science, explained in an email to The News-Letter that he signed the open letter for similar reasons, labeling Trump's actions as "treason."

"Signing the letter is a symbolic act. In joining with other political scientists, I wish to express my deep concern for the future of American democracy. These are perilous times," he wrote.

Similar statements have been made by Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who has called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

During the riots, many far-right extremists successfully broke into the Capitol building, interrupting representatives and senators as they counted the Electoral College votes. Congress was ultimately forced to leave the House Chamber, stalling their confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

Many rioters were directly encouraged by Trump, who urged his supporters to go to the Capitol building earlier that day at his "Save America Rally." At the rally, he falsely claimed that he had won the election in a landslide.

During the riots, Trump continued to insist that the election had been stolen from him as he requested rioters back down.

"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!" he wrote in a now-removed tweet.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Campante, the vice dean for Education and Academic Affairs at the School of Advanced International Studies, argued that Trump's rhetoric and encouragement directly caused and exacerbated the riots.

"There's absolutely no question. It's as direct as can be," he said. "It's not even coded [language], it's an open call."

Trump has since pledged to transfer the presidency to Biden in an "orderly" manner at the end of his term, but those who signed the open letter believe that this is too little too late.

Despite Trump having less than two weeks left in office, Campante argued that it is still necessary to begin the steps to remove him.

"It's not an over-reaction," he said. "The president has enormous powers and he has demonstrated that he is willing to use those in very destructive ways ... Not doing anything implicitly sends the message that that's okay ... There's value in taking as many steps as possible to signal that this is not okay."

The events of Jan. 6 also prompted an immediate response from University President Ronald J. Daniels, who sent out an email to University affiliates shortly after midnight.

"I watched with horror, as did so many of you, the tragic, sobering, and unfathomable scenes of violence that unfolded earlier today at the U.S. Capitol," he wrote. "The norms and institutions that define our democracy are so difficult to build but so easy to deform and damage, which is why communities like ours must continually join in the hard work of embodying democratic values."

Additionally, the Homewood Student Affairs Diversity and Inclusion Team held an open forum on Jan. 7 for University affiliates to discuss their thoughts - both anonymously and with their peers. Overall, the students who attended expressed significant frustration, fear and anger over the previous day's events.

Assistant Chaplain of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life Rev. Maeba Jonas, who introduced the forum, emphasized that there was support available for students who needed it. She stressed that this was an important moment to reflect.

"If what you see surprises you, you need to start listening to those who aren't surprised," she said.

Several student groups have also responded to the riots, including the College Democrats at Hopkins (HopDems), who have joined other chapters in calling for Trump's removal.

In an email to The News-Letter, HopDems co-president Ryan Ebrahimy shared that he is proud of the professors who are speaking out against Trump's actions. He also argued that Trump was only one of many problems highlighted by the riots.

"More infuriating than the domestic terrorism we witnessed yesterday, or the authoritarian leader and his colleagues in Congress who helped fan the flames, is the stark differences in which the police treated the Trump supporters compared to peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors this past summer," he wrote. "A racist system of policing in our country was and continues to be disgustingly glaring."

Fellow HopDems co-president Sylvana Schaffer shared similar views in an email to The News-Letter.

"While the president is clearly responsible for inciting yesterday's coup attempt, Republican members of Congress who have spent the last four years enabling him (including Hopkins alum and Maryland Representative Andy Harris) should be held accountable as well," she wrote.

Chris H. Park, the vice president of HopDems, is a News & Features Editor for The News-Letter. He did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.


Rioters who stormed the Capitol building interrupted Congress' confirmation of the Electoral College results.

<![CDATA[Bloomberg School of Public Health goes viral again with help from the Mental Notes]]> The Hopkins School of Public Health (SPH) posted a parody of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's hit song and video "WAP" on their social media accounts on Dec. 15. The video featured members of the Mental Notes, a comedy a capella group at the Homewood Campus.

The parody song, titled "Wear A mask Please," was thought up by Aliza Rosen and Nick Moran, the social media managers for the University (@johnshopkinsu) and the SPH (@johnshopkinssph), respectively. Rosen told The News-Letter that she and Moran have worked very closely since the beginning of the pandemic, as both accounts have played critical roles in sharing COVID-19-related content.

Moran had posted about the importance of getting flu shots for the SPH, using various song lyric parodies, and the two of them wanted to keep with the theme of musical parody for further content.

"We first floated the idea around the time when the WAP dance was trending on TikTok, but 'WAP' still stood for something too inappropriate," he said. "At one point in late October I just came up with 'Wear A mask Please,' and we knew right away that we got it."

After coming up with the idea, Rosen and her team opted to include student performers in the process.

Music Director for the Mental Notes Millan Patel said that the group was enthusiastic to take up the opportunity.

"I was very excited, and it was not something we were expecting to happen," he said. "Once they reached out and told us, we were immediately interested and wanted to get involved as soon as possible."

The Mental Notes worked with Rosen to refine the lyrics of the parody and arrange the parts for members of the group. The video was shot in November with four Mental Notes members (Sara Pardee, Noah Johnson, Nikki Ucheya and Patel) and the Blue Jay mascot. Operating in compliance with social distancing and public health protocols, unsurprisingly, all participants wore masks throughout the filming process. These even included masks made by ClearMask, a company founded by Hopkins graduate students and alum.

The final video features two other Mental Notes members, Veric Tan and Harrison Le, who submitted their contributions from home.

As of publication, the video has received over 134,000 views on Instagram and over 471,000 views on Twitter. It was retweeted by Cardi B on Dec. 17, much to the excitement of the video's creators, stars and Hopkins students at large.

"I was ecstatic and absolutely floored when I saw that Cardi B retweeted it," Patel said. "We were joking about her seeing it for the longest time, but for it to actually happen was incredible. I didn't even think it was possible."

Freshman Class President Kobi Khong believes the video represents the spirit of awareness, which he appreciates about Hopkins. He was pleased with the reactions that members of the incoming Class of 2025 have exhibited.

"We sent that video in a group chat we set up for the newly admitted class, and some of them are drawing fanart of Jay doing the WAP dance," he said in an interview with The News-Letter. "This is their first impression of the school, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Rosen appreciates that the video has been shared widely by students and the general public, especially considering its strange and comical nature.

"Some people think it's really cringy, but I love cringy content, and I think [the silliness] is part of its appeal," she said. "Peer awareness has also helped it spread because having someone you respect spread a social message makes you much more likely to click on it."

The video's success joins other popular posts that have launched the SPH Instagram into stardom.

Rosen hopes that the video brought some comedic relief among an otherwise difficult year.

"Everyone has been through so much this year, so if this video is able to bring smiles and joy and laughter to people, I'm happy to make that happen."


Cardi B retweeted the WAP parody video by the Mental Notes, encouraging fans to wear masks.

<![CDATA[University releases draft plan for hybrid spring reopening]]> The University shared a draft plan for Phase Two of its reopening in an email to Hopkins affiliates on Dec. 18. The plan is intended to go into effect when the spring semester begins on Jan. 25 and will replace the Phase One plans implemented during the fall semester.

The release of the draft guide, however, does not signify that Hopkins has determined whether to carry out the proposed hybrid reopening plans. The final decision will be made during the week of Jan. 4.

Stephen Gange, executive vice provost for academic affairs, and Jane Schlegel, vice president and chief administrative officer, emphasized in the email that ensuring the health and safety of all affiliates requires a community effort.

"Moving to an expanded operating posture at the appropriate time is a challenge that will require the help of every member of our community, but our experience so far gives us confidence that it is one we can meet," they wrote. "Our success in resuming research and clinical operations shows that with careful preparation and diligent adherence to our guidelines, we can safely conduct in-person activities in furtherance of our mission even amid the pandemic."

Despite their optimism, Gange and Schlegel stressed that the administration may still change its current plans if the public health situation worsens.

Sophomore Melody Lei does not believe that the University will be able to reopen with a hybrid plan in the spring regardless of its ability to implement various health and safety protocols.

"A lot of students are really skeptical about if we are going to actually be able to return because we are all aware that cases are on the rise," she said. "It is very weird and ironic for Hopkins to tell us we can come back even though they are the ones tracking all the cases and telling us how bad the virus is."

The Phase Two guidelines will maintain many of the Phase One rules, including mandatory mask-wearing both indoors and outdoors, daily health check-ins through the Prodensity app and restrictions on gatherings.

Hopkins affiliates can schedule testing appointments and receive results through MyChart, and the University will also set up nine testing locations across all of its campuses, five of which will be on Homewood Campus.

All undergraduates in Baltimore must be tested twice a week starting on Jan. 14, and all students returning to campus must be tested upon arrival and quarantine until they receive a negative result. Undergraduate students will also receive a wellness kit, which includes a face mask, hand sanitizer, a digital thermometer and cleansing wipes, upon move-in.

Faculty, staff, graduate students and other personnel who participate in in-person activities or are exposed to undergraduates are also required to be tested once a week.

Once a residential student tests positive for COVID-19, the student will be moved into isolation housing. Similar measures will be taken for undergraduate and graduate students in off-campus housing who test positive based on need and availability. Employees who test positive must secure clearance from the Occupational Health office before returning to campus.

Lei, a first-generation, limited-income (FLI) stated, said that the University has helped FLI students financially throughout the pandemic. However, she noted that Hopkins needs to improve on communicating its plans.

"They're doing the bare minimum. It's no different from seeing what other schools have done," she said. "Over the summer, there were a lot of broken promises."

She voiced concerns that the University's current schedule to release its final reopening plans would give students only three weeks to prepare in case the University reverts to online-only plans, as it did in the fall.

Freshman Isabella Lelis echoed Lei's sentiments in an email to The News-Letter.

"While I understand and appreciate the administration's desire to make a final decision based on the public health situation right before we would go to campus in the spring, I know many first-year students, along with myself, who are upset with their lack of transparency and just want to know if we will finally be able to be a part of the Johns Hopkins community," she wrote.

However, junior Marissa McDonald, a member of the COVID-19 student advisory committee, believes the University has improved its communication to the student body about ongoing deliberations. She also feels safer about her decision to return for the spring, given the University's mandatory testing policies.

McDonald noted, however, that members of the committee have pointed out that there were still instances of gatherings over the summer and during the fall that resulted in positive cases among students.

"We encouraged them to put together a more comprehensive guide for students in popular living conditions to provide a process for students who observe a large gathering and feel uncomfortable reporting it," she said. "Currently, all they have is the calling service for reporting in real time. But for people like me, I get anxious reporting something like that, so implementing a service in real time where it's a little less confrontational would be helpful to increase those reports in real time so those large gatherings can be monitored."

Although the University plans to to allow undergraduates to reside in on-campus housing at a limited capacity, students will not be required to be on campus, and all classes will have an online option. Dining facilities will be open for takeout, and food delivery will be provided to students in quarantine. For residence halls, students will have their own rooms and will not be permitted in other residential spaces.

Senior Noah Johnson believes that allowing students to live in University housing may prove unsafe.

"Even if everyone has their own bedroom and sharing of bathrooms is limited, the freshman dorms, specifically the AMRs, only have so many bedrooms and bathrooms. People are still gonna be at increased risk," they said. "If people want to come back to campus and they have the means to rent an apartment or house, they should do that instead."

The University's recreational facilities, including the Recreation Center on the Homewood Campus and Cooley Center at the East Baltimore Campus, will be open at a limited capacity. Laboratories, libraries and other academic facilities will continue to operate under the Phase One guidelines.

McDonald emphasized that the hybrid reopening plans, though detailed, are not finalized.

"This is all assuming that we're good to go for the spring. People have a tendency to assume that it's an automatic 'yes' now, but that's still very much not the case," she said.

As the task force continues to plan for the spring semester, the group encourages students to submit their comments and suggestions through the 2020 Planning feedback form.

Leela Gebo, Gabriel Lesser and Rudy Malcom contributed reporting to this article.


Beginning Jan. 14, all undergraduates in Baltimore will be required to be tested twice a week.

<![CDATA[A letter to Bradlee]]> Dear Bradlee,

I remember you asked me a couple of weeks ago how I write poems because you couldn't think of what to write for your IFP assignment. I told you that I draw inspiration from whatever is happening in my life. I wish so badly that this wasn't happening in my life right now, but this is how I write a poem goob:

The sky just got a lot more light

You're there now, you shine bright

I can feel your rays from here.

The water seems more at ease

You're free now, in the breeze

I can't see you but I know you're near.

Thank you for making every conversation so meaningful by introducing the most insightful opinions on the most random topics and making me reconsider so many things I wouldn't think to question before. Thank you for being caring, compassionate, understanding and respectful. Thank you for sharing my love of paneer and roti; for calling me out on my pathetic roti-making skills; and for tagging me in videos of people making roti skillfully - I appreciated the gentle reminders.

Thank you for putting your people first and teaching me to recognize the importance of prioritizing living life above stressing about academics. Thank you for being the best study partner a stressy girl could ask for - I will always be grateful for our study breaks in Mudd debating everything from abortion and parenthood to the difference between biscuits and crackers. Thank you for giving me some amazing songs to remember you with.

Thank you for confirming my distaste of dolmas and discovering my newfound love for ice cream with me. Thank you for sharing my love of British slang, for putting up with my nonsense whims like Top Hat Tuesday and for speaking with me in a British accent. Thank you for recommending my phone case brand - I swear I drop it like 10 times a day and think damn Bradlee was right, my phone is never going to break with this case.

Thank you for answering the silliest questions I had about everything from school to working out and never making me feel like I was being annoying. Thank you for being as proud of my accomplishments as I was of yours. Thank you for sitting through an hour of my high school friends talking about things you had no connection to and not once seeming uninterested. Thank you for always making me feel comfortable and introducing me to your friends, who are protective and intimidating and loud but also goofy and supportive and funny and kind and never fail to make me smile. Thank you for making me smile every single day.

Thank you for introducing me to a new sport and rekindling my love for another one - I've followed those weird sea creature accounts on Instagram now because I'll miss having pictures of octopi in my DMs from you. Thank you for sending me videos of babies and dogs to lift my spirits when you knew I was upset. Thank you for being as dedicated and committed to your passions as you were; you gave the world one of its best wrestlers and divers.

Thank you for being so unflinchingly yourself. Thank you for never holding back on your emotions, for saying what you were thinking and for letting the people around you know that you missed them and loved them. Thank you for saying to me what I wanted to but was too afraid to say to you. Thank you for giving me the courage to say it back. Thank you for giving me nothing but happy memories.

I'm sorry I never made you a perfect roti. I'm sorry we never got to watch a Bollywood movie together. I'm sorry I never did a dive with you or got to watch you wrestle in person. I was really looking forward to that. I'm sorry you weren't able to take me to that new tea place in Hampden and that I wasn't able to take you to Cloudy Donuts so you could once again remind me that donuts are a "subpar pastry." I'm sorry I never beat you at Sequence - we'll just have to assume I'm better. I'm sorry I didn't hug you one last time.

I miss our Indian food nights. I miss our debates. I miss your cuddles and tickle attacks. I miss baking for you and with you. I miss having to wake up at 7 a.m. with you. I miss your smile and your contagiously loud laugh. I miss your teasing jabs and ready retorts. I miss you complaining about your endless cycle of "I hate eating" and "I ate too much." I miss your fun facts about biology and sea creatures. I miss your silly faces and eye rolls. I miss the smell of your hoodie. I miss you annoying me. I miss you.

I've known you just a year and a half now, but I can't imagine a life or a world without you. And I don't want to. You continue to live in us. Your strength, your worries, your hopes, your laughter, your joy, your passion, your candor, your dedication. Through our memories, thoughts, keepsakes, pictures and videos, you continue to live in me and in the lives of every single person you touched. And however much you'd deny it, Bradlee, it was a lot of people. You don't understand the impact you had on this world.

Bradlee was not, Bradlee still is.

I cannot and do not want to move on from you.

Today and every day I will move forward with you, with what you taught me, with the person you have made me and toward the person you inspire me to be every single day.

I am thankful for having you. I love you. I miss you. I gotchu always.




Aashna's last text exchange with Bradlee.

<![CDATA[Hopkins community remembers Bradlee LaMontagne]]> The Hopkins community is mourning the death of Bradlee LaMontagne, who passed away on Dec. 10. He was a junior studying Biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, as well as a PILOT leader, NextOneUp tutor in Baltimore, First-Year Mentor and 2020 captain of the Hopkins wrestling team.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Alanna Shanahan and Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka sent an email on Sunday, Dec. 13 informing the Hopkins community of LaMontagne's death.

"Bradlee will long be remembered as a valued and loved member of our Hopkins family," they wrote. "We will miss the bright light he brought to the lives of those who had the honor to know him."

Keith Norris, the head coach of the wrestling team, honored LaMontagne's legacy in a post on Instagram.

"As I recruited Bradlee every person I spoke to shared comments such as, you are going to love this kid, he is the hardest worker I have ever coached and a leader," he wrote. "Bradlee surpassed all of these accolades and expectations."

Norris emphasized the positive impact LaMontagne had on the team.

"Bradlee attacked everything he did with a passion that was contagious to the people around him. He was a strong leader on the team and was loved and admired by all of his teammates. Bradlee never gave up on himself, and he always believed that he would find a way," he wrote. "He lived his life with a passion and fire that we were able to witness every time he stepped on the mat."

Shanahan and Ruzicka called on students to support each other in their mourning. They emphasized that, while most students are not on campus, University support services are being offered virtually.

Students can address their condolences to "The Family of Bradlee LaMontagne" and send them to the Office of the Dean of Student Life in Mattin Center Suite 210 or by email.

The Counseling Center staff may be contacted Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m, by calling 410-516-8278. Outside of normal hours, a counselor on call is available.

Student Outreach and Support staff are answering phone calls, voicemails and emails. To schedule a phone appointment, please call 410-516-7857 to do so. If you have concerns about another student, please fill out the referral form.

Religious and Spiritual Life may be reached at 410-516-1880 or by email.

<![CDATA[Hopkins barn owl lab faces scrutiny from PETA]]> In September of 2018, National Public Radio (NPR) published a story about a Hopkins team of researchers studying barn owls in an attempt to understand why people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder struggled to focus.

The story focused on the lab of Shreesh Mysore, an assistant professor affiliated with the Department of Neuroscience and the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.

The NPR article and studies published by the lab gained the attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which questioned whether the barn owls were being treated ethically and if the experiments done would truly reveal information that could help humans.

Since then, PETA has held several protests and published multiple articles calling for the end of the experiments.

Mysore's lab experiments on barn owls over the course of six to 18 months to better understand how the human brain works, seeking specifically to understand spatial selection and selective spatial attention. Mysore hopes that this information will shed light on various disorders involving attention difficulties in humans.

In an email to The News-Letter, Mysore stated that his research has made it possible to better understand the human brain by understanding circuits found in vertebrates.

"Conclusions from studies in birds can significantly advance our understanding of the function of the analogous neural circuits across vertebrates, including humans, and as well, of their dysfunction in disorders," he wrote.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Katherine Roe, a neuroscientist and PETA laboratory investigator, explained how PETA came to evaluate the studies done in the Mysore lab.

As part of their investigation, the PETA team submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in order to view Mysore's grant application and better understand the experiments. They reviewed papers from the lab and contacted animal researchers outside of PETA.

"We consult outside experts in the fields of attention, psychiatry, neurology to get their assessment on the scientific value, as well as the ethical concerns associated with the procedures," she said. "Ultimately, we write a review and send it to the university and explain what our concerns are and hope that they will contact us back for a discussion. That does happen often, but in this case it did not."

One of the concerns noted by Roe was the nature of experiments conducted on the owls, which involve the use of head-fixing and craniotomy. Mysore noted that these kinds of experiments have credibility in the field.

"A long history of work in head-fixed animals has established the scientific value of this approach," he wrote. "It allows for careful experimental control of sensory stimuli and for targeting multiple sites within brain areas, thereby minimizing confounds in the interpretation of the results."

Roe expressed her concerns that the owls in the Mysore lab were suffering unnecessarily because they were subjected to these experiments in a laboratory environment that does not mimic the real world.

"[Barn owls are] used to flying freely in space, and in this case, they're being born and raised in a laboratory where they do not have the opportunity to enjoy the natural environment," she said. "The procedures themselves involve brain surgery, the insertion of electrodes into specific brain regions and the movement of electrodes from one brain region to another, which causes brain damage."

Roe further questioned if responses observed in barn owls could actually be transferred to humans, who sense the environment in a different way.

"Owls have evolved to be able to see and hear in the dark and localize prey when they're moving. Their eyes are structurally different than humans," she said. "They're 'rod-dominated,' so they can barely move their eyes. They have to turn their head. Their ears are asymmetric, and they actually have feathers that help them hear in space much better than humans can."

Mysore, however, argued that the results of their research are still applicable to humans because of key similarities.

"The midbrain areas critical for spatial selection and selective attention are found across all vertebrates (for instance, superior colliculus in mammals including primates, vs. optic tectum in birds), as are critical forebrain areas (frontal eye field in humans and monkeys, vs. arcopallial gaze field in owls)," he wrote.

Mysore further noted that there were several advantages to using barn owls, noting that their brains could provide valuable insight on research that attempts to understand how the brain prioritizes different stimuli.

"Birds have an extremely well organized midbrain, with functional and anatomical specializations that are most well-defined among vertebrates (Knudsen 2011, Eur Journal Neurosci)," he wrote. "Specifically, barn owls are multisensory specialists, with excellent auditory as well as visual capabilities, giving us insights into multisensory competition and selection across space - questions that lie at the heart of selective attention."

Nevertheless, Roe still noted that she was skeptical that Mysore's research could truly lead to advancements applicable to humans with attentional difficulties, because of how few animal studies are actually transferable.

"We know that animal studies fail to translate to humans 90 to 95% of the time, and this will be true for owls," she said.

This statement is reflective of an analysis published in The British Medical Journal entitled "Is animal research sufficiently evidence based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research?"

The review states, "Several studies have shown that even the most promising findings from animal research often fail in human trials and are rarely adopted into clinical practice. For example, one study found that fewer than 10% of highly promising basic science discoveries enter routine clinical use within 20 years."

Roe believed that for studies that are federally funded, this should be more transparent.

"I think the public trusts scientists to only use their money and only use animals when there's a clear trajectory from the experiments to something that might benefit humans, and that's not the case here," she said.

In an email to The News-Letter, Karen Lancaster, the assistant vice president of external relations for University communications, noted that Mysore's lab provides veterinary care to animals being used for research and that studies are reviewed to ensure that they adhere to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

"Full-time specialist veterinarians provide round-the-clock care to ensure the wellbeing of our animals and that they are properly housed in environments that meet and exceed rigorous standards," she wrote. "Each study is carefully and repeatedly reviewed to ensure adherence to requirements of both the federal Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals administered by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the NIH and the Animal Welfare Act Regulations enforced by the USDA [United States Department of Agriculture]. Our program is accredited by AAALAC [American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care] International based on our adherence to these requirements."

Roe acknowledged the lab's adherence to the AWA and the fact that the grant application had been reviewed. However, she stressed that communication between each institution's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and grant reviewers is not streamlined and that the AWA only requires basic levels of care.

"The Animal Welfare Act is basically the barest minimum that you can provide animals," she said. "It's not taken into consideration at the grant review level. The IACUC will make sure that any given experimenters are following those guidelines, and if they're not, that they justify it somehow, but the people who reviewed the grant have no idea what the animals are going through."

She further posed that animal studies should undergo evaluations similar to those conducted for human studies.

"If you're doing research with human subjects, there's something called an internal review board or an IRB, and those people are tasked with comparing what potential harms the experiments might cost to humans relative to the benefits," she said, "but for animal experiments, this does not happen."

Roe stated that the ultimate goal of PETA's campaign was to stop the experiments in favor of other methods.

"I think a favorable resolution would be that Dr. Mysore terminate his ineffective, costly and harmful experiments on owls in favor of more modern, more humane research methods like those that can be conducted in human volunteers," she said.


The lab conducts experiments on barn owls which has raised concerns with PETA.

<![CDATA[Opposing Viewpoints: Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine is wrong for the Hopkins community]]> This article is part of our series Opposing Viewpoints, where students with diverse perspectives answer pertinent questions in conversation with each other. You can find the opposing piece for this article here.

With final exams, holidays and celebration right around the corner, something that unavoidably looms over all of us is COVID-19. Is it safe to travel and share meals? What will spring semester look like? Fortunately, recent news has been dominated by breakthroughs related to a vaccine for the virus.

Two types of vaccines show promise. The mRNA vaccines are less likely to provoke adverse reactions, but they may be hard to deliver to tropical regions due to the requirement of storage at incredibly low temperatures. The other type of vaccine consists of the inactivated virus, like Russia's Sputnik V, China's Sinovac and China National Biotec Group vaccines. They do not require subzero storage but are slightly more likely to cause minor side effects in some patients.

This week, the U.K. became the first country to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine for clinical use. Yesterday the first American health-care workers received the newly-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19. Moderna has also applied for emergency approval of its COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was shown to be 94% effective in a report from Nov. 30. These developments provide hope in light of the grim reality that the U.S. just surpassed 16 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Earlier this semester, Hopkins mandated flu shots for anyone spending time on a Hopkins campus, including contractors and vendors working on Hopkins property temporarily. Though news stories like the announcement from three former U.S. presidents that they will film themselves getting vaccinated seek to inspire enthusiasm, many uncertainties remain. I generally stand with vaccines and choose science over skepticism; however, I don't think it is a good idea to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all members of the Hopkins community. It would be far more effective to provide comprehensive education on the risks and benefits of vaccination so individuals receive a vaccine willingly and enthusiastically.

The main reason is that we will not be able to conclusively guarantee the long-term safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Uncertainty regarding the virus, vaccine and the pandemic still persists, and studies have been limited due to ethics and time constraints. Anomalous data in vaccine trials at Oxford University, where an unintended lower dosage by error resulted in greater percent efficacy, puzzled the scientific community. Additionally, we don't know yet whether the vaccine prevents you from spreading COVID-19 to others. Much more data needs to be collected before such a broad mandate would be reasonable and responsible.

The World Health Organization recommends against requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, and President-elect Joe Biden has explained that he will not make the vaccine mandatory for Americans. These decisions are rooted in concerns over the likelihood of widespread public objection - not unlike the anti-mask opposition we've seen - that could have a counterproductive effect on public health.

The trial which FDA approval was based on included relatively small proportions of some high-risk populations, such as those with serious underlying medical conditions and minority ethnic groups. As an international student from China, I am worried that Moderna or Pfizer vaccines may not have covered my physiological type in their clinical trials. According to the FDA briefing report for Pfizer's vaccine, only 4.4% of the subjects were reported to be of any Asian descent.

Among trial participants, side effects ranged from mild symptoms like sore arm or fatigue to more severe ones, like localized pain and low-grade fever with chills. Additionally, Pfizer vaccines should not be given to individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions after two health workers with a history of severe allergic reactions "responded adversely" to the vaccine after its mass rollout in the United Kingdom. This incident is also alarming because it points to a potential downside of health-care workers receiving the vaccine first. If many of these front line employees experience adverse effects, it could deplete our already low supply of health-care workers when we need them most.

Due to the uncertainty of efficacy and potential for adverse reactions, it is highly unlikely that U.S. employers and private companies would mandate vaccination for their employees to avoid backlash if the mandate proved to harm workers and/or customers. Historically, America has a deep-seated skepticism about vaccination, and the best way to increase public confidence in vaccines is a long-term educational campaign - not a mandate.

Evidence that vaccines are safe and effective alone is not enough to settle the trust issue between the people and the public health officials. In Mark Largent's book Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America, Largent argues that the controversy involving vaccination cannot be settled by educating "ignorant" or "hysterical" parents and that some policy proposals, like strengthening laws to compel vaccine compliance, might actually make people trust vaccinations less.

Who receives the vaccine first also presents some ethical problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that the first group prioritized to receive vaccination should include health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. A similar proposal was suggested by 19 global public health experts - the Fair Priority Model aims to mitigate irreversible negative consequences of the pandemic and recommends vaccines be prioritized for high-risk populations.

After the initial group of high-priority people is vaccinated, state officials have a difficult decision to make: Which essential workers are qualified to be vaccinated next, considering the limited vaccine supply in the near future? This begs the question: When is it acceptable to distribute the limited vaccines to Hopkins students, who are generally lower-risk and privileged in terms of access to sufficient health care?

The virus is mutating, and we cannot guarantee the current vaccines will be effective against new strains that emerge over time. Therefore, the best strategy for a Hopkins-wide effort to combat COVID-19 is concrete guidelines, holistic health resources, access to frequent testing and effort from each individual to ensure a safe reopening for all.

Shizheng "JJ" Tie is a senior studying Environmental Engineering from Luoyang, China. She is a senior class senator in the Student Government Association.

Correction: This article originally suggested that vaccines made in China may not be as effective in protecting against foreign strains of the virus that cause COVID-19. There are currently no conclusive data to support this, and scientists note that no peer-reviewed data have been published on any Chinese-developed vaccines yet.

The News-Letter regrets this error.


As vaccines for COVID-19 begin to roll out, Kasamoto and Abdel-Azim argue for Hopkins to mandate the shot for affiliates while Tie favors voluntary vaccination.

<![CDATA[Opposing Viewpoints: Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine at Hopkins will protect the freedom of high-risk individuals]]> This article is part of our series Opposing Viewpoints, where students with diverse perspectives answer pertinent questions in conversation with each other. You can find the opposing piece for this article here.

This year has been life-changing for every one of us. From lost loved ones to financial hardships to missed opportunities, we can all agree that this was not what we imagined when Hopkins sent us home last March. However, with the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna and many others on the horizon, normal life seems to be within reach - if and only if we as a society decide to take this vaccine. For this and for many other reasons, Hopkins should mandate the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available for us to take it.

Yes, it works, and yes, it is safe

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 11. This vaccine has about a 95% efficacy against contraction of COVID-19, which is remarkably high. For reference, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, a two-dose vaccine taken by 91.5% of children in the U.S., is 88% effective against mumps and 97% effective against measles. Rest assured, this vaccine works.

One of the main concerns about the new vaccine is that it is not safe. According to the FDA press release, the emergency use authorization issued by the FDA was given after it was ensured that "this vaccine met FDA's rigorous, scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality..." Before emergency approval, the FDA evaluated safety data from an ongoing study of this vaccine, which included 37,586 participants, 18,801 of whom received the vaccine. These participants were followed for a median of two months after receiving the second dose.

The most commonly reported side effects during the study were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. These symptoms typically lasted for several days -not permanent, like death from COVID-19. These side effects are not unlike those from other vaccines. The most common side effects from the MMR vaccine are fever, mild rash, sore arm from the shot and temporary pain and stiffness in the joints.

While this mRNA vaccine concept may seem new, it has actually been studied for decades by scientists, including for the flu, rabies and Zika. In previous cancer research, mRNA has even been used to target cancer cells. The general concept of an mRNA vaccine was not invented over spring break.

No, autonomy does not apply here

"I should be able to choose what I do and put in my body. This is America, isn't it?" This autonomy argument would be more valid if this was a vaccine against a non-communicable disease, like cancer. If there was a preventative treatment for cancer, it should be your choice to take this treatment because that choice does not affect anyone but yourself. However, for a disease that is incredibly communicable and one that has killed hundreds of thousands of people in this country, not so much.

If there is a viable, effective option, it should be mandated that we all take it to be able to attend Hopkins. Making this vaccine mandatory would actually ensure the freedom of every student: The freedom to obtain an education without fear of death or severe illness. The freedom to have dinner at a restaurant with friends, buy overpriced food from CharMar, study at Brody and attend events like the Lighting of the Quads. Mandatory vaccination ensures both the safety of others and the liberty of returning to a normal life. People, especially the elderly and immunocompromised, should have this right. The lack of a mandatory vaccination policy would inhibit their right to live safely and freely.

This is not the only situation in our lives where autonomy does not apply. We follow traffic laws even though we buy cars with our own money and pay for roads with our taxes. Public health professionals and our government have decided that a lot fewer people die when they follow traffic laws. We are not allowed to hurt the people around us under the premise of personal freedom. A vaccine ensures that those around us are not harmed or killed by COVID-19.

This is far from the first time mandatory vaccination has been an issue in the United States. There is judicial precedent for mandatory vaccination. In 1905, the Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that residents of Cambridge, Mass. could be fined for refusing to take the smallpox vaccine. The argument that Henning Jacobson used was that "compulsion to introduce disease into a healthy system is a violation of liberty," referring to the smallpox vaccine, which is made of live vaccinia, a virus similar but less harmful than the smallpox virus. Justice John Harlan rejected this argument, saying, "A community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members."

Our responsibility

Hopkins, as one of the world leaders in this pandemic, should be setting an example for the rest of the world. If experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA believe that the vaccine is safe and necessary for stopping the pandemic, then Hopkins should be following suit. The country's number one institute for public health should completely demonstrate trust towards these public health experts, and the best way to do this would be mandatory vaccination.

Furthermore, Hopkins is a part of the Baltimore community - our actions, good or bad, will undoubtedly have a direct impact on the health and safety of the people around us. Currently, experts believe that the vaccine could prevent severe outcomes from COVID-19, and although it has not been proven yet, many more are "optimistic that vaccines would suppress the virus enough even in the nose and throat to prevent immunized people from spreading it to others." Therefore, complete vaccination of all Hopkins affiliates could potentially help to prevent further loss of life and outbreaks and help to get the local economy back on its feet. Hopkins has the ability to make this happen, so they should; to do anything else would be harmful for society and arguably unethical.

This point is even more crucial when it comes to the undergraduate population since we are the age group that is largely responsible for the spread of COVID-19. Studies have shown that the death rate in college towns rose faster than the rest of the nation when many schools welcomed back college students this fall. Yet the college students weren't the ones dying - it was the older people in the communities around them. The undergrad population could very well contribute to death in the community around us if we resume in-person classes and activities without vaccination.

This vaccine holds the key to the preservation of our right to live freely without fear of illness and death. This vaccine holds the key to a return to our normal lives and an end to a nightmare that has cost the world over 1.6 million deaths. It's the right thing to do.

Jessica Kasamoto is a senior from Diamond Bar, Calif. studying Biomedical Engineering. She is a staff writer and columnist for the SciTech section of The News-Letter.

Salma Abdel-Azim is a sophomore from Appleton, Wis. double majoring in Public Health Studies and Molecular and Cellular Biology.


As vaccines for COVID-19 begin to roll out, Kasamoto and Abdel-Azim argue for Hopkins to mandate the shot for affiliates while Tie favors voluntary vaccination.

<![CDATA[TRU calls on Hopkins to better support the graduate community]]> Teachers and Researchers United (TRU), the University's unofficial graduate student union, held a rally on Dec. 11 to demand that Hopkins improve its treatment of graduate students.

The rally, titled Uniting on Wheels, began with a car caravan through the streets surrounding Homewood Campus and ended at Homewood's East Gate. About 30 protesters listened to graduate students Caleb Andrews and Ronay Bakan read student testimonials criticizing the University.

TRU outlined four demands during the rally: a universal one-year funding extension for all PhD students; free access to the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, along with proper personal protective equipment, masks and sanitizers; decision-making power in laboratory and classroom safety, especially if the University reopens for the spring semester; and official recognition as a union by Hopkins.

Andrews, a third-year student in the Materials Science and Engineering Department and liaison for TRU, transferred to Hopkins shortly before the University moved online in March. He argued that Hopkins prioritizes its productivity over the safety and security of its graduate students.

Andrews read an anonymous testimonial by a student citing unsafe lab conditions. The student noted that cleaning protocol violations were unaddressed by their faculty advisor. Their lab also filed a plan with workplace densities three times above the University threshold. Other anonymous testimonials are posted on TRU's Facebook page.

First-year PhD student Alexander Peeples, a member of the TRU Organizing Committee, explained in an interview with The News-Letter that the union felt it had no choice but to take to the streets. The rally came months after TRU circulated a petition condemning the University's regulations regarding student conduct throughout the pandemic.

"We were at one point directly negotiating with the University, and they unilaterally pulled out," he said. "In effect, because the University has chosen not to listen to us at any other venue, we have chosen to take it to this point of having a car caravan and a rally."

TRU harshly criticized Hopkins for its austerity measures. The University adopted several tactics in an effort to keep from losing over $100 million during the 2020 fiscal year, including hiring freezes and layoffs. The University expected a loss of $73 million due to the pandemic, citing the austerity measures as a way to keep the deficit from increasing.

However, TRU noted that the University ultimately reported a $75 million surplus during the 2020 fiscal year. Andrews questioned why the University is not using more of its $970 million unrestricted emergency reserves to support students.

"Providing one year of health care, tuition remissions and full stipends for all PhD students through the length of this crisis would cost no more than $41 million," he said. "Comprehensive COVID relief for us would require accessing no more than 4.3% of that reserve."

Many graduate students have reported a loss of funding due to the pandemic. Student groups, including the Graduate Representative Organization, Graduate Student Association and TRU, united to petition the University for a one-year extension of funding for all PhD students in March.

In response, Nancy Kass, vice provost for graduate and professional education, affirmed the University's mission in an email to The News-Letter to support graduate students financially by having departments work directly with their students.

"These are handled on a case-by-case basis; granted requests may come in the form of waived tuition or fees, the extension of a stipend, additional teaching and/or fellowship opportunities, payment of student health plan premiums for additional semesters of enrollment or additional short-term funds," she wrote.

However, many graduate students were unsatisfied with the financial aid. The University only granted select students small amounts of money and directed others to apply to the emergency relief fund, which was not sufficient to aid the majority.

TRU members Alex Parry and Kristin Brig-Ortiz, both fourth-year History of Medicine PhD students, stressed that different departments do not have the same financial means in an email to The News-Letter.

"Some departments have provided relief to at least some of their graduate students, but this support remains inconsistent across the university and has deepened the inequalities between well-funded and underfunded programs," they wrote.

Kass also explained that the University established the COVID-19 Caregiving Relief Fund in September to grant financial assistance to employees and doctoral students who have incurred losses, including caregiving, educational and technological expenses, as a result of the pandemic.

However, TRU testimonials suggested that these efforts are not enough.

Bakan, a Political Science graduate student and member of the TRU Organizing Committee, read a statement by Celia Litovsky, a sixth-year PhD student in the Cognitive Science Department. The pandemic affected both her mental health and access to campus resources, slowing down her research as a result. She was concerned that she would not receive more than her guaranteed five years of funding to complete her degree.

"In my efforts to secure funding for the semester, I had to write a letter to the [Krieger School of Arts & Sciences] dean, in which I detailed very personal mental health issues and expressed why my research has slowed down due to COVID," Bakan read. "Not only did I never hear back from the administration about this request, but I should never have had to reveal such personal information to the University."

Litovsky wound up moving out of state due to financial concerns. She urged the University to support its community, noting that the world has looked to Hopkins as a model since the start of the pandemic.

Kass expressed her gratitude for the work and many responsibilities that graduate students have accomplished.

"We appreciate the many challenges our graduate students are currently facing through this period as they juggle their research, academic, and teaching responsibilities with being temporarily displaced from their usual work/study locations, navigating the shift to virtual activities and pausing essential field work and internships, and also, for many, balancing additional caregiving duties due to the pandemic," she wrote.

Despite this statement of support, TRU feels that graduate students are not receiving enough from the University.

"We've been essential to operating in the University in the midst of this pandemic, and we are simply asking that Hopkins treat us like human beings and provides us with what we need to do our jobs safely," Andrews said.

Bakan also spoke about a Black female graduate student who started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for rent, food and bills. According to her campaign page, she was academically dismissed from "a leading School of Public Health" after reporting her advisor for sexual harassment. JHToo, a group consisting of Hopkins community members who organize against sexual misconduct, also began circulating a petition to garner funds for the student. The student has a part-time job, but it does not cover her monthly expenses.

Peeples encouraged the protesters to donate.

"Students continue to be in precarious situations. Students have faced backlash and lost funding and been put in deadly situations because of COVID during the current conditions the University is enforcing. It's obviously not enough - for students now, for the students in years to come," he said. "We demand more because Hopkins can afford it."

Michelle Limpe contributed reporting to this article.


TRU believes that the University has the means to provide health care and full stipends for all graduate students throughout the pandemic.

<![CDATA[Seniors share stories of navigating struggles at TEDxJHU]]> TEDxJHU hosted its salon 2020 event, "Business as (Un)usual," on Dec. 11. Four students - seniors Anjali Kashyap, John Min, Isabel Rios-Pulgar and senior Serena Wang - gave talks on topics ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the immigrant experience over the course of the night. The event was organized independently from TED Talks.

Co-organizer Trent Dilka described the purpose of the event as uplifting previously silenced voices.

"Within the Baltimore and Hopkins communities, especially considering the events of the recent years, months and days, we acknowledge that there are stories, even and especially within our university's own history, that are being voiced," he said. "While it may be uncomfortable, we have a responsibility to listen to and engage with this discourse."

In an email to The News-Letter, junior Honor Zetzer stated that the event helped her reevaluate academic stressors.

"A lot of the talks were from students who had navigated some major shift in their perspective on life, themselves and overcoming challenges," she wrote. "It helped put things into perspective right as we are entering finals."

During his talk, Min highlighted the importance of failure, citing his experience trying out Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. According to Min, the sport was the first thing in his life he allowed himself to fail at. Through those failures, he found support and self-improvement.

Min called on audience members to try something they expected to fail in.

"Find something small that you think you'll fail, and try and prove yourself right. After all, what's the worst that could happen? You prove yourself wrong?" he said. "If you start approaching life with the idea that failures are investments in your future self, a gain instead of a loss, there's no way you can lose."

Kashyap, the second speaker, told a story about finding her identity as an Indian American. Growing up, Kashyap's peers in Cleveland pronounced her name Ann-jali, while her family members pronounced it Uhn-jali.

Kashyap did not mind this until she arrived at Hopkins, where she encountered a greater population of South Asian students than in her high school. According to Kashyap, she was accused of whitewashing herself when she asked to be called Ann-jali.

It took Kashyap lot of Googling - including a deep dive into the struggles Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has had with her name's pronunciation - before she realized that her identity can be whatever she wants it to be.

"I had forgotten about the single most important thing about my own identity,: my own voice," she said.

Kashyap challenged her listeners to become more inclusive in their ideas about belonging.

"I want you all to think of a time when someone has said to you, 'you're not Black enough,' 'you're not rich enough,' 'you're not queer enough,' 'you're not feminine enough,'" she said. "I am here today to say you are enough and I am enough."

The third speaker, Rios-Pulgar, shared how struggling with her lupus diagnosis led her to rethink the definition of success.

Caring for oneself, Rios-Pulgar said, should be considered crucial to any accomplishment.

"If success is just little pockets of bliss, then why do we never include self-care in the little conversations about success? When we take care of ourselves, we are giving our minds and our bodies permission to temporarily alleviate life's pressures," she said. "We are giving ourselves momentary bliss. So then why is it that self=care is not the first thing that we think of when we think about success?"

Hopkins students are known for taking their academic work seriously. Rios-Pulgar encouraged her audience to listen to their bodies' cues when striving for academic perfection.

"No one ever teaches you that in order to be successful in the long term, to maintain that grind, you must take time for yourself," she said. "No one ever tells you to care as much about yourself as you do about your goals. This is what's wrong with your academic culture and our definition of success today."

The theme of changing one's outlook on their academic responsibilities resonated with Zetzer.

"[The event was] a reminder of how rich and complex our lives are, how much we have yet to learn about ourselves and others and to value the things we teach ourselves as we navigate life as much as we value the things our professors teach us," she wrote.

Wang explored how her experiences volunteering at Baltimore's Health Care for the Homeless changed her views surrounding those experiencing homelessness.

She emphasized that homelessness is not the fault of the person experiencing it.

"There are structural inequalities that drive people into poverty and homelessness and perpetuate these inescapable cycles. In 2018, 8 million people fell into poverty due to health-care costs," she said. "Right now, there are almost 13 million people unemployed due to the pandemic. Nobody chooses to get sick and have an expensive, unaffordable medical bill. Nobody chooses to lose their job. Nobody chooses to get their wallet stolen."

While volunteering, Wang noticed that many patients experiencing homelessness had lots of questions about the pandemic, such as what social distancing measures are or what COVID-19 symptoms entail. She realized that because COVID-19 restrictions closed down libraries and spaces with public wifi, many people experiencing homelessness had no access to the answers to these questions.

To solve this problem, she came up with the idea for CovidSMS, a text messaging system that sends people experiencing homelessness updates about COVID-19 via text message, which Wang said is the most accessible form of communication.

Wang asked the audience to address their own privileges when thinking about people experiencing homelessness. She implored listeners to treat those experiencing homelessness with basic respect.

"Next time an individual experiencing homelessness asks you for food or money, consider giving them a minute of your day," she said. "Ask them how they are doing, what they need or simply look them in the eye."

Isabel Rios-Pulgar is a contributing writer for The News-Letter. She did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.


Four students gave talks at TEDxJHU's annual salon event.

<![CDATA[When it comes to slavery, the truth won't set you free]]> The news that the founder of your centuries-old research university has an unsavory past, while not surprising, does warrant some sober reflection and a plan to move forward. A name change will never fly. The immense legacy-building done over the past 250 years (and especially the newfound pandemic clout) will never be sacrificed for the sake of Black people.

However, upon reading and listening to the University's response, I was a little dumbfounded by the lack of acknowledgement of just how bad these revelations really are. The video posted by the University stated that Johns Hopkins' family had "a relationship to slaveholding." An email sent by the administration said he was "involved in the insidious institution of slavery." This language is extremely deflective and does not own up to the fact that a man you have built statues of and told us to celebrate owned Black people as property.

In a town hall on Friday discussing the implications of the recent news, several panelists, including University President Ronald J. Daniels, expressed that this news had "distressed them and caused them great pain" and that they knew this news was "devastating" for those who admired Johns Hopkins.

Let me be clear: No one cares. The conversation we have about these revelations should have nothing to do with the feelings of Hopkins' admirers.

The last thing any Black Hopkins student wants to hear right now is how upset a white person was about finding out that another white person wasn't a nice guy. It's called white fragility, and it helps no one. Apologize for the slavery; then, apologize again with money.

This news has been used as an attempt by the University to celebrate their prestigious research department and re-introduce every hollow effort that has been made to "diversify" Hopkins. Johns Hopkins, as a white man, has enjoyed over a century of misplaced admiration and an institution working tirelessly to sanitize his legacy in order to keep him on the "good side" of history.

The fact that the school proposed town halls and task forces, rather than investment in Baltimore or a platform for Black affiliates, is extremely telling. Now that this evil has nowhere to hide, the University wants to make this a research effort, not a social justice one.

Hopkins is attempting to fold a disgusting legacy of enslavement into the aesthetic of the University when the only humane response is complete rejection of the false legacy of Johns Hopkins and a fundamental change in its support of Black students, staff, faculty and residents of Baltimore. You don't have to go looking for Black people to support; they are in your backyard, and you are destroying their homes. Instead of celebrating your own research and "how far we've come," take a moment to seriously consider the things actual Black people have been asking you to do for years.

My disappointment is not, however, solely with the administration. Within a day of this news being announced, a student posted the video from the University on their Instagram story, criticizing the response to the news by saying it was "such a long time ago" and asking, "What about the other races? Let the past die please."

The post was shared in a group chat made up of Black students at Johns Hopkins and later shared on Twitter. Black students, including myself, criticized the post both publicly online and privately in the group chat for asking us to leave behind the legacy of slavery. These public and private messages were later shared on Reddit by someone who has remained anonymous.

Bringing up "other races" when discussing slavery and other Black issues is the same rhetoric as "All Lives Matter." It minimizes our experience and is a gaslighting tactic to convince Black people that their feelings about their ancestors or those who look like them being bought and sold like animals for centuries is invalid or unimportant.

Black students' personal feelings about public comments on slavery were met with anonymous postings on both r/jhu and hopcrushes.com of "fuck the Blackjays." Many posts were made accusing Black students of attempting to "cancel" the student who made the Instagram post (one of which received over 4,000 likes). When the person making the comments was accused of being racist, they responded by saying that they were upset with "that particular group of toxic people," which just so happens to be a group chat of over 500 Black students at Hopkins.

Several more posts were made claiming "affirmative actioners mad" and "basketball Americans mad." These kinds of attacks are nothing new to Black students, and they are never about educating, understanding or starting a conversation; rather, they are pathetic attempts to hurt Black people.

Despite numerous anonymous claims to the contrary: No Black students calling for the University to be renamed. No Black students were calling for the student who posted on Instagram to be punished. No Black students asked them to delete their entire Instagram account. And no Black students were surprised by the news that a rich white man in the 1800s owned enslaved people.

To go on an anonymous site and attack one of the already most marginalized groups at an elite university is cowardly and hateful. The fact that students chose to only share racist and hateful comments on websites where they can be anonymous only speaks to their cowardice and hate.

Lastly, I want to address an argument made in several online posts attempting to defend the student who made the Instagram post. They claimed that many who were criticizing them were African immigrants, not descendants of American slavery, and therefore, had benefited from the very system they were critiquing and have no more of a right to address Johns Hopkins' legacy than anyone else.

This argument is yet another attempt to divide our already marginalized community. While it is true that the majority of Black people in elite education are descended from African immigrants and the University's failure to disaggregate this data is another example of avoiding a hard conversation about how "diverse" it really is, that does not mean you get to invalidate what they have to say about racism at Hopkins.

Why? Because to an armed campus police officer or noose-carrying racist we are all the same. African students at Hopkins have displayed far more solidarity with African American students than any other group and have had a much more similar experience in America than the average student of color. We face the same danger, gaslighting and ignorance - which is why the Blackjays group chat exists. It is a safe space for us to just be Black, and this week people violated that space. So yes, we are angry, we are going to criticize and we are going to disagree.

My great-great-great-grandmother, Easter Nelson, was enslaved in Virginia. She herded cattle and worked as a "breeder" for her master (I don't know his name). I have photographs of her and her descendants after they were freed. That is not something that happened "so long ago" that it has no effect on me. The ramifications of American slavery are incalculable, and the systemic racism that persists in this country is real, so take it seriously. Grandma Easter is a reminder of who I am, who my people are and how proud she is of me now. That is not a past I can "let die."

Amani Nelson is a senior studying Public Health and Medicine Science & the Humanities from Washington, D.C. She is a member of the Black Student Union and the Blackjays group chat.


The University and some non-Black students' response to news that Johns Hopkins was a slaveowner prove they don't truly value Black people.

<![CDATA[Hopkins alum works to support Baltimore businesses]]> Emergence Baltimore, a non-profit that promotes local stores, is working to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on Baltimore's small businesses. The News-Letter sat down with Emergence Baltimore's President Kevin Carter and Social Media Lead Ali Rachidi to hear about its programs.

According to Rachidi, who graduated from Hopkins in 2019, Emergence Baltimore is currently working on three projects: the Buy Local Business Navigator, a database of Baltimore businesses where consumers can search by business type and product; A Force for Local, which pairs volunteers with small businesses looking for help with marketing and web development; and BMore Baskets, which allows customers to purchase themed baskets full of goods from various Baltimorean businesses.

Carter stressed the importance of promoting these programs during the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, sales in November and December alone account for nearly 20% of most stores' annual profits. Additionally, a growing number of these sales are being made online.

The goal of Emergence Baltimore, Carter emphasized, is to support small businesses during a time of great need.

"Emergence Baltimore now is really dedicated to being a digital support service for our local businesses in this really crucial time," he said. "We realized that if businesses are going to make it to 2021, they have to really be able to thrive and make the most of the November and December big sales months."

A Force for Local allows small businesses owners to utilize volunteer expertise in bolstering their internet presence. According to Carter, Emergence Baltimore has already matched 17 volunteers with small businesses looking for help with social media marketing, web design and content creation.

Carter noted that Emergence Baltimore's model has been adapting to the constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions. Most recently, the team has modified its strategy to account for the fact that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called for the end of indoor and outdoor dining.

"We quickly scrambled to create an explore local restaurants section on Buy Local Baltimore, so now people can say 'I'm looking to eat Mediterranean food in Hampden' and they can see 'these are the three restaurants I can take-out from,'" he said. "So even though they can't dine there, they can still support the restaurant during its biggest time of need."

The Buy Local Business Navigator currently has 327 restaurants and 233 small businesses in its database and the platform allows businesses to add themselves to the website. As of Dec. 14, the website has had over 1,000 unique visits.

Although Emergence Baltimore's current initiatives are focused on holiday shopping, Rachidi is confident that the organization will continue to support Baltimore businesses come January.

"We actually just got our 501(c)(3) status confirmed, so we are now an official nonprofit," he said. "Ultimately three months, six months from now, even if we're not working on these exact initiatives, we're still going to be fulfilling our mission of helping small businesses in whatever capacity we can."


Emergence Baltimore initiatives are supporting local businesses in Baltimore as holiday shopping commences.

<![CDATA[Public health experts and biostatisticians weigh in on "COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data" webinar]]> The News-Letter published "A closer look at U.S. deaths due to COVID-19" on Nov. 22. The article was written to recap a webinar held on Nov. 13, where Genevieve Briand, the assistant director for the Master's in Applied Economics program at Hopkins, presented data she had downloaded from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and plotted independently. The analysis presented in the webinar was not a published, peer-reviewed study; it contradicted data published by Hopkins, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC.

The Editors-in-Chief took down the article on Nov. 26 because the piece was being used to spread dangerous misinformation. The following day, they published an Editor's Note and an accompanying PDF link to the original article to explain the inaccuracies of Briand's research. On Dec. 3, the Editorial Board published an editorial regarding the decision to retract the article.

We, the editors of the Science & Technology section, note that the original article included figures with unreadable legends and axes, as well as incomplete explanations of the methods used. In addition, the article failed to include the voices of public health professionals.

In this article, we contextualize Briand's findings with the perspectives of epidemiologists and biostatisticians.

Regarding the statements about excess deaths due to COVID-19

In the concluding statements of her talk, Briand commented on the nature of excess deaths due to COVID-19.

"All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers. We found no evidence to the contrary," Briand said.

However, Emily Gurley, an associate scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, noted in an email to The News-Letter that because Briand's presentation does not specifically examine excess deaths, her conclusions are flawed.

"Researchers (from both within the CDC and outside) have already analyzed data on vital statistics to show that >300,000 deaths have occurred in 2020 than occurred during the same time in other recent years (after accounting for changes in the size and age of the population)," Gurley wrote.

Sourya Shrestha, a research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, elaborated on the standard method used to calculate excess deaths. He asserted that comparing death counts week-to-week as Briand did fails to account for two important considerations: random fluctuations and seasonal trends.

"A more robust way [to calculate excess deaths] is to construct a baseline of expected deaths using trends from past data and compare that to the observed deaths," he said in an interview with The News-Letter.

As Shrestha described, in its calculation of excess deaths the CDC first sets a threshold of expected deaths based on historical trends from 2013 to the present. It then compares counts of deaths in 2020 to the average expected count. The difference between the expected count and the observed number of deaths determines the numbers of excess deaths.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published on Oct. 23, reported that 299,028 excess deaths occurred from Jan. 26 to Oct. 3. About two-thirds of those deaths were attributed to COVID-19. Other peer-reviewed papers have reported similar findings.

Gurley noted that the data presented in the webinar failed to address these statistics and did not demonstrate that officially reported numbers were wrong.

"There are no data in this presentation that show that previous reports on the magnitude of deaths from COVID-19 are incorrect," Gurley wrote.

Regarding the toll of COVID-19 on death in the U.S.

Briand opened the webinar by asking the audience to compare death counts by all causes to COVID-19 death counts from March 15 to Sept. 19.

"The all deaths count was 1.7 million, and the U.S. COVID-19 deaths count was 200,000 deaths in that time period, which means we have 1.5 million other deaths, deaths due to other causes. I think it is important to put the COVID numbers in perspective," she said.

Shrestha appreciated Briand's point but emphasized that deaths due to COVID-19 still represent a worrying fraction of all deaths in the United States.

"I respect that she attempted to put COVID deaths in the perspective of deaths due to other causes. That is important, and that point has to be made. But that doesn't mean we need to undermine what is actually happening due to COVID," he said. "The number of deaths that we have seen are concerning."

Briand described her reasoning for presenting those numbers, stating that the toll of the pandemic should be assessed in light of deaths due to other causes in the United States.

"We are all familiar with COVID-19 death numbers but not necessarily with U.S. all death numbers," she said. "How can we say that COVID death numbers are concerning if we don't compare them with total death numbers, numbers that we should expect every year?"

Justin Lessler, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, argued that the percentage of deaths due to COVID-19 is alarming in part because it is a new disease. He co-wrote an op-ed for USA Today entitled "Why the 'COVID-19 killed only 6%' argument is wrong," in which he argued against the idea that comorbidities invalidate deaths due to COVID-19.

"COVID-19 accounts for around 10% of deaths that occurred [from March 15 to Sept. 19]. This is massive, especially when you think about the fact that the other two leading causes, cancer and heart disease, were things people would have coming into this time, while COVID-19 was not," he wrote in a statement to The News-Letter.

Regarding the age distribution of COVID-19 deaths

In the webinar, Briand displayed a 100% stacked column graph (Figure One) which showed the age distribution of U.S. deaths from February to early September.

Briand explained that to create Figure One, she downloaded provisional, weekly death counts by demographic and geographic characteristics from the CDC website. Provisional death counts consider the information found on death certificates, which is coded by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The weekly death counts are continuously updated as death certificates are received by NCHS.

She then created the graph to compare the age distribution of deaths from Feb. 1 to Sept. 5. (Note: The data used in the creation of the graph was consulted Oct. 15. Since the webinar, the data have been updated. According to the CDC website, the last update was made on Dec. 9.)

Briand stated that her primary point of interest in the graph was the seemingly unchanged age distribution of deaths of older people in weeks 11, 12 and 13.

"We have been told that COVID-19 has been taking a toll specifically on older people, so I was expecting that percentage of people to go up during the weeks of peak COVID-19 deaths, which are weeks 11 to 13," she said.

However, Gurley did not expect a pronounced shift in the age distribution of U.S. deaths during the pandemic for two reasons.

"[Figure One] shows the age distribution of people who have died in 2020, which has not shifted dramatically over the course of the pandemic. This is expected, for a few reasons: 1) most deaths are not COVID-19 related, and the age distribution of non-COVID-19 related deaths remains constant over time, and 2) the ages of people at highest risk for death from COVID-19 are similar to the ages at highest risk for other causes," she wrote.

While a dramatic shift in age distribution is not expected, Gurley added that in April, which is represented by weeks 10-14 in Figure One, the oldest age groups do represent slightly higher percentages of weekly deaths in the United States.

"There is a slight shift in increasing mortality among the oldest age groups during the weeks when COVID-19 deaths peaked in April - again consistent with the spike of excess deaths seen during that month," she wrote.

According to the CDC, "Excess deaths reached their highest points to date during the weeks ending April 11 (40.4% excess) and August 8, 2020 (23.5% excess)."

During the recap of the webinar, Briand stated her hypothesis about the age distribution of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The reason that we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S., older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals," she said. "The data don't show older individuals are dying in higher proportions to total deaths than usual."

However, Lessler argued that Figure One clearly demonstrates that the mortality of all age groups, not only older age groups, increased amid the pandemic. Lessler also pointed out that age is the strongest predictor for all causes of mortality, except for deaths due to accidents, drug use or suicide. Like Gurley, he stated that the relative death rate due to COVID-19 is similar to other causes of mortality.

"I see that the proportion [in Figure One] has not changed as evidence that we should not be seeing COVID-19 as a disease of just the very old because, in terms of relative risk of death, it is impacting all ages (or at least all adults) fairly equally... just what that raw number is, is quite different for each age," he wrote. "If anything, I think [Figure One] is just a stark illustration that COVID-19 raises mortality risk in all age groups."

Lessler added that analyzing the age distribution of total deaths in the U.S. pre-pandemic and during the pandemic, as Briand did, does not indicate the severity of the pandemic's toll. Weekly excess deaths, which have been high during the pandemic, are the best indicator.

"While the ratios have not changed much, total deaths have increased substantially from previous years," Lessler wrote. "[If] you can't explain the excess total mortality, your argument does not hold water."

Regarding the seasonality of deaths

In the webinar, Briand stated that Figure Two was made by downloading weekly counts of deaths by state and select causes from 2014-2018 and 2019-2020. (Note that the talk was given on Nov. 13. The last update of this provisional data was made on Dec. 9.)

Briand reduced the scale of the y-axis of Figure Two in order to better observe the trends at the bottom of the graph. She then focused on two time periods in 2018 and 2020. The first, in Figure Three, reflects data from December 2017 to March 2018, and the second, shown in Figure Four, reflects data from March 2020 to July 2020.

Briand then compared the time periods highlighted in Figure Three and Figure Four and offered her assessment of them.

"In 2017/18, corresponding to the spike of total death, we have corresponding spikes in all causes of death," she said. "In 2020, we not only have a lower than expected increase in heart attack rate but also a decrease in all other causes of death."

Gurley noted that the assessment in the webinar did not compare the same months in 2018 and 2020, leading to a flawed interpretation. Comparing winter months (Figure Three) to spring months (Figure Four), Gurley explained, does not account for seasonal variations; for instance, mortality due to most causes, including heart disease, declines in the spring.

"She compares specific cause of death data from 2018 to 2020, but instead of comparing the same months in 2018 to 2020, she compares the time period where total mortality peaked each year," she wrote. "In doing so, the presenter neglects the fact that COVID-19 deaths peaked in the spring, even though the usual seasonal patterns for other causes of death did not change."

Lessler added that 2018 was a year with excess mortality, as echoed by the CDC, and noted flaws in focusing on only the peak in mortality of that year.

"2018 was a bad flu year, so she is comparing with a year that we already had some excess mortality. 2020 peaks in deaths are far higher than pretty much every other year," he wrote. "Also, she makes a logical error in focusing only on the [2018 peak]. If you look at the CDC site you will notice [deaths in] 2018 exceeds the seasonally adjusted average for only 6 weeks, but [deaths in] 2020 exceeds the seasonal average for every week since March 28, 2020."

In an email to The News-Letter, Scott Zeger, a professor whose primary affiliation is with the Biostatistics Department at the School of Public Health, responded to the hypotheses made by Briand about these data, first writing generally about Briand's work.

"Dr. Briand's course materials and presentation style are admirable. She covers key details necessary for students to access and display the CDC mortality data," he wrote. "Her exploratory graphics and iterative approach to analysis are valuable for the students."

However, Zeger offered a different hypothesis he believed more likely explains the features Briand questioned.

"Based upon her graphical displays, Dr. Briand hypothesizes that non-COVID causes of death may have been incorrectly attributed as COVID deaths. But, her hypothesis is not as consistent with the observed data as the simpler alternative below," he wrote. "Recall, the scientific method does not prove a hypothesis to be true. It uses data to support some hypotheses relative to others."

Zeger acknowledged the pattern of deaths in Briand's presentation but said that the reduction in deaths viewed in the spring was also a part of this seasonal pattern and not likely a sign of misattribution.

"Dr. Briand correctly points out the winter peaks in most causes of mortality. These are associated with respiratory infections that exacerbate many chronic conditions," he wrote. "In the winter of 2019-2020, there is clear evidence of the expected seasonal peak that was then swamped by the COVID rise in the spring. The trough in non-COVID causes that Dr. Briand notes that spring is not a mis-attribution of non-COVID deaths to COVID. It is the natural spring abatement of the winter mortality rise that happens every year."

On the statement about misclassification of COVID-19 deaths

During the webinar, Briand explained why she selected the weeks displayed in the table.

"Those are the three weeks where we had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths," she said. "For those three weeks, the records show COVID-19 death numbers to be higher than the heart attacks death numbers."

In the selected weeks in April, the CDC shows a peak in COVID-19 deaths in the graph at the bottom of the Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics page.

Briand further identified the numbers in Figure Four she was interested in. She pointed out that in the column titled "Week Ending April 18," there are 2,540 fewer deaths due to select causes and 2,561 more deaths due to COVID-19 compared to the previous week. In the question and answer session following the webinar, she used this data to speak about the nature of death classification.

"If [the COVID-19 death toll] was not misleading at all, what we should have observed is an increased number of heart attacks and COVID-19 numbers. But a decreased number of heart attacks and all the other death causes that we saw doesn't give us a choice but to point to some misclassification - not all of them, but some reclassification of death [causes]," Briand said.

Shrestha described Briand's conclusion as incorrect, explaining that it is a coincidence that there is a slight resemblance between the seasonal reductions in deaths due to other causes and the increase in deaths due to COVID-19 in weeks ending April 11, April 18 and April 25 compared to the previous week. This does not provide evidence, he said, that deaths due to COVID-19 are misclassified.

"The concerning part is picking a week or two during a specific part of the calendar year and looking at week-to-week changes. E.g., deaths related to flu and health conditions are seasonally in decline around mid-April. The fact that it coincides with an increase in COVID cannot be taken as evidence for COVID leading to reduced deaths due to other causes. There is a standard way of calculating excess deaths," he said.

The calculation of excess deaths is explained in the section Regarding the statements about excess deaths due to COVID-19.

In her email to The News-Letter, Gurley echoed Shrestha's statements.

"If we compare the trend in deaths from heart disease in April of 2020 to April of previous years, we'll find a very similar pattern - namely, that deaths from heart disease have fallen, by about the same amount, in April every year," Gurley wrote. "This analysis does not provide any evidence for possible misclassification of deaths nor changes in usual trends of deaths from heart disease during the pandemic."

Gurley explained that the method used to classify deaths is a standardized process, making the misclassifications that Briand suggests unlikely.

"The U.S. has a vital registration system whereby all deaths are reviewed and classified by cause using the International Classification of Disease (ICD) system (we now use ICD-10)," she wrote. "These data are routinely collated and made publicly available on the CDC website."

According to the CDC, deaths are coded in accordance with the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). The WHO has established two main codes for COVID-19. The first code covers deaths with COVID-19 diagnoses that are confirmed by lab testing. The second code is used for COVID-19 diagnoses confirmed clinically or epidemiologically when conclusive tests are not available. The CDC also provides clinical guidelines on reporting deaths and prior conditions.

Despite the thoroughness of Briand's presentation, the commentary by public health professionals does not lend support to the hypothesis that deaths are misattributed to COVID-19.

We have all been affected by the pandemic. We have made considerable sacrifices to ensure the safety of our neighbors and communities, through research, healthcare, distancing, mask-wearing, online schooling and more. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so do fatalities caused by the disease. While a vaccine looms in our near future, the CDC encourages us all to "remain vigilant" in protecting ourselves and others.


Figure 1.This graph shows deaths in each age group listed in the legend on the right as percentages of total deaths by all causes. Each column represents one week of data from Week 1 ending Feb 1 to Week 32 ending Sept 5.

<![CDATA[Students criticize town hall about University founder's racist past]]> University leaders held a virtual town hall on Dec. 11 to discuss the recent discovery that University founder and namesake Johns Hopkins owned enslaved Black people. The event was moderated by Chief Diversity Officer Katrina Caldwell.

Prior to new evidence released last Wednesday, it was believed that Hopkins was a lifelong abolitionist. However, public records now reveal that he owned at least four enslaved people in the 1850s and one in the 1840s.

At the town hall, University President Ronald J. Daniels expressed his disappointment about the discovery.

"We have, for almost a hundred years, communicated a story about our origins which was not correct," he said. "How did we embrace so readily, with such gusto, this narrative that... was not born at the time that the institution was created?"

Senior Peggy-ita Obeng-Nyarkoh, who attended the town hall, was frustrated by the event.

"It was a really classic example of the ways that Hopkins likes to not take accountability for any actions pertaining to the institution," she said. "It was a lot of talking around things and not actually giving concrete answers."

Martha Jones, who has been leading the research on Hopkins' slaveholding, explained that her team has been relying on 1850s census records and other documents at the Maryland State Archives to uncover the truth about Hopkins' life since few private records still exist. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and a professor of history.

"Our process is one of assembling shards," she said. "It doesn't tell the whole story... We don't know enough about the relationships within that household... We don't know their fates after 1850. One of the cruel dimensions of these documents is that they don't name the enslaved persons themselves, and so our work is ongoing to learn who they were."

According to Jones, there is much work left to do. Although she explained that researchers still have plenty of sources to look through, she encouraged those in the community with information to step forward.

Jones hopes that this research will eventually give Baltimore a full picture of both Hopkins and the individual people enslaved under him.

This research, Daniels said, will also help the University moving forward.

"Learning this history is not a sterile intellectual enterprise. What we're really anxious to do is to see how that history has echoes and reverberations to our present time," he said. "I actually feel quite excited about what is possible from this moment and from the information we're addressing... From those learnings comes the possibility of real progress."

When asked how the University planned to recognize and memorialize those enslaved by Hopkins, Daniels suggested hosting an event after more information is collected.

"We want to know more before we go to that event because as we learn more about these individuals and maybe even can put names to them and names to their descendants, it will become that much more meaningful," he said.

Jones disagreed with Daniels.

"We already know enough about them to acknowledge them, to honor them, even if we never learn another thing about them," she said.

Sophomore Jayla Scott, who attended the town hall, told The News-Letter that she believes it is not the University's place to decide how to memorialize those enslaved.

"Once information is found about the descendants of these slaves who are probably still in Baltimore, you need to be asking those families what they want," she said. "Hopkins has a big problem doing things to rectify their past mistakes without actually asking the people they've harmed."

Scott also expressed her disappointment with the news as a whole.

"It's frustrating that they're just now releasing this news and that this wasn't discovered before," she said. "Why would you spread this legacy about your founder without looking at documents to confirm that this was true?"

In addition, Scott expressed her frustration with the town hall, which she found unproductive. She noted that many of her peers' questions remained unanswered since most of the questions were pre-screened.

Obeng-Nyarkoh criticized how students and community members were unable to directly participate in the conversation, which she felt was more of a panel than a town hall.

According to Obeng-Nyarkoh, the news that Hopkins owned slaves is not a surprise.

"Given the time period and given the fact that Johns Hopkins, the man, was wealthy enough to found and be the benefactor for an institution and a hospital, it's kind of indicative that, given the time period, he got his money through slavery," she said. "Black students on this campus have been saying this for a while."

Obeng-Nyarkoh also argued that it is time for the University to get serious about combating anti-Black racism.

"This is the same year that a noose was found in a Hopkins-associated building, and nothing was done about that," she said. "Hopkins needs to take a deep and serious look at this institution."

In a video shown at the beginning of the town hall, Jones explained that coming to terms with this newly revealed history may be hard for University affiliates. She also warned that there might not be easy answers.

"We really are obliged to dig further and to rethink the very foundational narrative that sits underneath our University today," she said. "We have to acknowledge that both things can be true. One can have been a slaveholder and then imagine oneself the benefactor. One does not negate the other. In the United States, both things can be true."


Recent research has revealed that Johns Hopkins owned at least four enslaved people in the 1850s and one in the 1840s.