<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Fri, 25 Jun 2021 02:06:41 -0400 Fri, 25 Jun 2021 02:06:41 -0400 SNworks CEO 2021 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Hopkins will provide additional COVID-19 relief funds to students]]> The University announced on June 16 that it will designate $10 million in funding in the form of grants to students across the University to help offset the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University estimates that these grants will be released to around 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students. This assistance is the result of the federal government's extension of over $76 million in aid to universities and colleges across the country to help respond to financial hardships caused by the pandemic.

Previously, the University designated $13.1 million to 2,600 students in institutional financial aid to alleviate unexpected changes due to the pandemic as well as $2.5 million in emergency grants and aid.

The email announcement, sent by University President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar, emphasized the University's goal to help students through burdens imposed by the pandemic.

"We are determined to make sure these difficulties do not prevent students from meeting their goals or continuing to make academic progress safely during the pandemic," they wrote. "You have done so much to pursue your work while advancing Johns Hopkins' mission and keeping yourselves and others safe, and we remain committed to supporting you during these difficult times."

All PhD and MD students enrolled in spring 2021 are eligible for a $1,000 grant, all full-time residential master's students enrolled in spring 2021 are eligible for a $500 grant and undergraduate students with an estimated family contribution of less than $22,100 who received need-based financial aid in fall 2021 are eligible for a $1,000 grant.

The Office of Financial Aid began notifying eligible students on June 16. All eligible students must attest that the pandemic financially affected them. The funds are additional aid to complement other stipends, grants and awards.

Senior Jordan Adams was glad to receive funds to assist with the cost of living but questioned why master's students will receive less funding than undergraduate or PhD and MD students.

"I'm glad Hopkins is giving more funds. It will definitely help me with my cost of living since I've had a rent increase," he said in an interview with The News-Letter. "I wonder why master's students are only eligible for half of what PhD, MD and eligible undergraduate students receive. I read The News-Letter's article published in March about the University's mistreatment toward graduate students and it seems that that same lack of regard continues."

As Adams noted, the University has faced criticism for failing to adequately support graduate students financially during the pandemic.

In an email to The News-Letter, Peter Weck, head of the communications team for the independent graduate student union Teachers and Researchers United (TRU), expressed appreciation for the assistance but critical of the time it took for it to be granted to students.

"We are glad to see new relief for grad workers, because the money is sorely needed by some of us," he wrote. "It should not have taken [15] months and millions of dollars in [f]ederal relief for grad workers to see some direct financial support."

In an email to members that was shared with The News-Letter, the organizing committee of TRU noted how aid could have been distributed sooner.

"Disbursement of the new funds via simple attestation also demonstrates how easy it would have been for the University to go ahead and provide the universal relief grad workers have been asking for since our first petition in March last year," they wrote. "Instead it has taken a year of campaigning - op-eds, testimonials, protests - to at least win 200-300 dissertation completion fellowships."

Laura Wadsten contributed reporting to this article.


Graduate student organizations expressed relief for the additional aid but asked why it took so long for the University to address their needs.

<![CDATA[Baltimore to lift citywide mask mandate]]> Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott announced on June 16 that the citywide mask mandate and state of emergency will be lifted as of July 1. Scott noted that businesses and workplaces will be allowed to continue their own mask mandates. These new mask guidelines came the day after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan did the same for the state.

Rising sophomore Jabari Lawrence agreed with the decision to lift the mandate but was unsure why July 1 was the chosen date.

"It seems like decisions to lift mandates recently have been a bit arbitrary," he said. "I just wish they would explain why they decide these particular dates. I think people would be much less confused and taken aback if they did."

Rising sophomore Ilana Chalom does not plan on changing her masking behavior.

"I still wear my mask everywhere," she said.

In the past, city officials stated that they would keep the mandate in place until at least 65% of the adult population had been given at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. As of June 19, about 57% of adult Baltimoreans were at least partially vaccinated.

Even though 65% of the population is not vaccinated, Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa cited improving trends in the city's COVID-19 situation as reasons to lift the mandate. Over the last month, cases have been reduced by 82% and deaths by 73%; Dzirasa stated that effective vaccinations have caused the downward trend.

Rising sophomore Harvey McGuinness, who is currently living in New Mexico, was shocked by Scott's decision.

McGuinness plans to continue wearing his mask in the future.

"I know that where I am - here in Santa Fe - the majority of people are no longer wearing masks, and while that is their choice and is in keeping with recent CDC guidelines, I continue to wear mine," he said.

The News-Letter reached out to University administrators for information about the University's masking policies going forward but did not receive a response by press time.


Students had mixed reactions to Baltimore city lifting its mask mandate.

<![CDATA[Smita Ruzicka reflects on her tenure as dean of student life]]> The University announced in an email that Smita Ruzicka will be leaving her post as dean of student life on July 16 to work for Middlebury College. Allison Avolio, current deputy to the dean of student life, will serve as interim dean.

Ruzicka outlined in an interview with The News-Letter what her role encompassed.

"My portfolio these past three years has included health and well-being," she said. "I also oversaw our Student Engagement units, our four centers for Diversity and Inclusion, Residential Life and Student Conduct."

Ruzicka also mentioned her role in advising the Student Government Association and the Graduate Representative Organization, offering resources to students who have fallen on hard times, and dealing with student crises, issues and protests.

She took particular pride in spending time with students on campus.

"Pre-pandemic, I made it a point to always walk around campus, talk to students, join them with my family, whether it was a meal in the FFC or for student organization events," she said. "So I am proud of the fact that I was a visible and friendly face to students and made myself really accessible."

The email noted that she helped create dedicated resources as part of Student Outreach and Support for first-generation, low-income students dealing with the leave process. Ruzicka also championed initiatives like the R.A.C.E. Matters Series and the Black and Latinx Student Experience Workgroup.

Ruzicka noted that, as a woman of color, lifting up the voices of marginalized peoples was very important to her.

"It has been important for me, as a woman of color, to be in spaces and to not speak for students, but to speak about the importance of representation and equity on a campus that has a history and systems in place that have oftentimes not been welcoming," she said.

When asked about some of the greatest challenges she faced, Ruzicka mentioned that the pandemic was one of the most difficult.

"Having to be constantly nimble in plans and having lots of different plans depending on public health guidance and what the city and state were thinking posed a lot of challenges and uncertainty for our students," Ruzicka said.

She did add that many of the student online events she and her team helped create were successful in terms of engagement and turnout.

When asked about what she wants to see in how the University chooses her successor, Ruzicka hopes the University will review current policies and Identify goals for the new dean.

"Whenever someone leaves, it's really important to honor their legacy, but it's also important to really review and explore if there could be something that can be done differently or could there be changes," she said. "So I would hope that the leadership would ask what kind of dean of student life we need."

She emphasized the need for her successor to be willing to develop strong relationships with students, be highly visible and listen to student concerns.

In an email to The News-Letter, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar pledged that the University will appoint a replacement who will fulfill Ruzicka's wishes.

"We will prioritize candidates who will strengthen relationships with students, increase the vibrancy of programs and activities, enhance affinity and connectedness of students in creative ways and create an even more inclusive campus environment for all students," he wrote.

Kumar added that the search for a new dean of student life will take place after a new vice provost for student affairs has been found, as the latter will need to approve Ruzicka's replacement.


Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka takes pride in the relationships she formed with students.

<![CDATA[Alanna W. Shanahan looks back at her time as vice provost]]> The University announced on June 2 that Alanna W. Shanahan will be stepping down as the vice provost for student affairs on July 9 to work for her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, as the athletics director. Kevin Shollenberger, the current vice provost of student health and well-being, will serve as interim provost.

In an email to The News-Letter Shanahan described her career at the University, where she also worked as director of athletics and recreation from 2016 to 2019.

As athletics director, she led the University's sports program to various achievements, such as 37 conference titles and three successive top-10 finishes in the Learfield IMG College Directors' Cup. She took particular pride in that from 2018 to 2019, six teams finished in the top four of the country.

She noted that she also supervised the creation of the Blue Jays LEAD leadership development program for student athletes, as well as the redesign and expansion of the Ralph S. O'Connor Center for Recreation and Well-Being.

When writing about her time as vice provost, Shanahan reflected on the collaborative effort she led to craft the design and programming for the upcoming Homewood student center, with construction expected to begin this summer.

She and her Student Affairs team also worked to create the health protocols for student life and the Hopkins Social Compact in response to the pandemic.

Resident Advisor Shreya Narayan praised Shanahan in an email to The News-Letter for her willingness to address student concerns regarding University health restrictions.

"Vice Provost Shanahan gave very helpful suggestions and we discussed changes in policy and activities on campus that could help freshmen feel less lonely and interact more with their peers," she wrote.

Narayan hopes that Shanahan's successor will be open to dialogue with students and capable of understanding the student experience. She believes this will allow the next vice provost to solve problems productively.

Shanahan herself wrote that she hopes for a successor who will work to improve the undergraduate experience, increase diversity, continue to provide support for first-generation students and ensure that the Hopkins Student Center is operational by fall of 2024 and that the expansion and renovation of the Recreation Center is successful.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar wrote in an email to The News-Letter that the University is seeking a replacement who will honor Shanahan's wishes regarding diversity and equity initiatives, first-generation and low-income students and the Hopkins Student Center.

Kumar also detailed how the University will choose Shanahan's replacement, as well as the timetable for the search.

"We intend to conduct a national search over the summer to identify an outstanding leader to succeed Vice Provost Shanahan," he wrote. "We will use an inclusive consultative process to ensure that student input is given appropriate weight in the selection of the candidate. We expect to complete the search by early fall."


Vice Provost of Student Affairs Alanna W. Shanahan worked to craft the University's COVID-19 guidelines.

<![CDATA[Kamala Harris on immigration: Same wine, new bottle]]> The Biden administration has taken the initiative to roll back cruel Trump-era policies, expedite the processing of migrants and make material conditions of the undocumented population more bearable. Nonetheless, the overwhelming approach laid out by the White House still endorses law and order deterrence: The proposed budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased for the fiscal year 2022 and a strategy to discourage immigration from the source is being pursued.

"Do not come," warned Vice President Kamala Harris in early June to migrants in Guatemala. Harris' statement is eerily reminiscent of the previous administration's "Remain in Mexico" Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) rhetoric. As per MPP policy, asylum seekers arriving at the southern border could be sent back home to await their turn in immigration courts.

The recycling of this approach is often seen, but deterrence has ultimately proven itself ineffective time and time again.

In April 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enacted a pilot program authorizing the separation of families attempting to cross the southern border. The White House chief of staff at the time, John Kelly, stated that this change was considered "to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network." Contrary to the administration's intentions, there was an increase in the number of families apprehended by authorities in the beginning months of this program.

If these policies were intended to discourage migration, the numbers tell a different story. Surprisingly, CBP reported an uptick in encounters from 2016 to 2018 during the Trump term. Even when considering the possibility that more aggressive tactics may have been employed to apprehend migrants, it is telling to see the number of encounters doubled from 526,901 to 1,148,024 during the transition to and first two years of the Trump administration.

In other words, regardless of the Trump administration's employment of MPP and strict protocols, the fortification of the southern border did not deter migrants from attempting passage: It just made the trek more dangerous.

However, deterrence policy is not exclusive to physical passage. Since migrants are able to endure the trek, administrations have resorted to guarding refugee status more harshly. During the Trump presidency, quotas for asylum seekers were lowered, despite more migrants filing for defensive asylum. Consequently, as the number of applicants increased, the number of admitted refugees only declined.

Of course, this does not mean a deterrent policy is responsible for promoting border crossing. Rather, these statistics show that even the strictest, most inhumane treatment was unsuccessful in mitigating unauthorized immigration. Both the push and pull factors for migration outweigh the injury caused by deterrence policy.

Therefore, we must view the border crisis from a different reference frame if we recognize the current status quo as unacceptable. The U.S., itself, is inarguably and understandably an extremely strong, constant pull factor. The U.S. should reform the current immigration system to account for this by providing more accessible paths to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status.

Legalization is by no means "radical." We've done this before through the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986, signed by President Ronald Reagan. IRCA, through a general legalization program, gave undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. between 1982 and 1986 a path to legal permanent residence. 2.7 million people were granted LPR status, 1.6 million of which were originally undocumented.

In the 21st century, the narrative guiding immigration policy and the way American society views migrants has been incredibly divisive. Many U.S. officials, most notably President Donald Trump and other Republicans who ran during the 2016 primary, have campaigned on the premise that all undocumented immigrants should be deported.

Ironically, fulfilling their campaign promises would actually hurt the economy. Swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction, the deportation of all undocumented immigrants would cost somewhere between $400 to $600 billion to facilitate, reduce the real Gross Domestic Product by $1 trillion and cause a labor decline due to a shortage of workers.

Undocumented immigrants already contribute 8% of their incomes, more than $11 billion total, to state and local taxes per year, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. If granted legal status under an immigration reform plan, they could contribute up to a total of $13.1 billion, with states like Texas, California and Georgia reaping increases over $100 million.

In the long term, immigrants stimulate the economy and do not cause wage stagnation, nor do they steal jobs. The repeated claim that undocumented migrants are criminals is also fictitious, considering their conviction rate is 45% lower than native-born Americans.

So the question remains: Why is America so resistant to giving those who desperately want to be American an easier means to do so? Why is deterrence our accepted default? The answer gives light to a clear, unspoken definition of who is considered acceptable in America.

It's a rather uncomfortable reality, but an unavoidable lived experience for many immigrants and children of immigrants in the U.S., including Vice President Harris. The Biden administration must re-engineer America's immigration system to recognize this in-built perception that affects all immigrants, rather than simply re-bottling the broken status quo.

Anju Felix is a junior from Port Murray, N.J. studying Neuroscience, Political Science and Harp Performance. She is the Opinions Editor forThe News-Letter.


Felix reviews the qualms of American immigration politics and explores new ways the Biden administration could change the status quo.

<![CDATA[Baltimore Wood Project reclaims urban wood and fights climate change ]]> Max Pollock was pleasantly surprised when he noticed increased demand for reclaimed wood during the pandemic. He is the director of Brick + Board, an enterprise which processes wood salvaged from deconstructed vacant homes. This reclaimed wood is pricier than new lumber, so when states imposed lockdowns, Pollock expected his consumer base to dry up.

"There was so much uncertainty about the fate of the economy that we thought people wouldn't be buying expensive wood," Pollock said in an interview with The News-Letter. "But I think that the increased demand for lumber may have closed the price gap, if not fully, then by a lot."

A combination of increased demand as more people renovate their homes and constricted supply exacerbated by harmful environmental conditions has markedly increased the price of lumber. It was reported last week that the price of a thousand board feet of lumber is approximately $1,300, much higher than the pre-pandemic price of $350 to $500.

Since price has become less of a differentiating factor, it seems that more consumers are opting for wood that offers not only a unique aesthetic, but also positive environmental and social impacts.

'A Coalition of the Willing'

The story of Brick + Board began in 2012 with the Baltimore Wood Project and the idea that wood collected from deconstructed abandoned buildings, or fresh-cut wood from felled or fallen trees in Baltimore, can be reused rather than dumped in a landfill.

Research from the U.S. Forest Service indicated that in some years, more wood was generated from urban areas than was harvested from national forests. Baltimore City, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), generated approximately 76,000 tons of urban wood waste.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Morgan Grove, a research scientist and team leader for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Baltimore Field Station, described the many intricacies of the Baltimore Wood Project.

"In complex systems, you have lots of parts, but you also have feedback loops that are positive or negative and you have emergent qualities in the interactions among the parts that are not predictable," Grove said.

It's a complex system because the Baltimore Wood Project was not founded simply for reusing wood. It created jobs for people with barriers to employment and began to tackle the blight of abandoned houses. Working toward addressing those problems required a partnership between the Baltimore City government, the nonprofit Humanim, the USDA Forest Service and a host of governmental, private and nonprofit entities.

Estimates suggest that there are 16,000 vacant houses in Baltimore City, although the true number may be as high as 40,000. Mike Galvin, the director of SavATree Consulting Group, told The News-Letter that the partners involved in the Baltimore Wood Project first needed to evaluate if deconstruction would yield materials that, when sold, would offset the costs of the program.

"So the first question for us was, 'Does it make any sense to deconstruct buildings rather than demolish them? Is there any value?'" Galvin said.

An analysis by scientists in the Baltimore Field Station helped to discover that the wood used to construct most of the abandoned row houses were harvested from southern yellow pine forests. The wood was "old-growth" - taken from trees that were 300 to 500 years old when they were harvested. This wood is invaluable, according to Galvin.

"The yellow pine material has virtually all been cut over; it hardly exists anymore in nature. The only place we can find it is by pulling it out of these buildings," Galvin said.

There were also environmental benefits. According to data from Climate Matters, carbon dioxide emissions generated by human activity in the past several decades are unrivaled. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, traps heat in the atmosphere and its levels of emissions closely track with global temperatures. When reclaimed wood is converted into furniture, flooring or trimwork, carbon remains stored in the wood.

Jeff Carroll, the director of a division of Humanim called Details Deconstruction, highlighted the long term benefits of using reclaimed wood in an interview with The News-Letter.

"When the wood from demolished houses are cut into firewood or taken to a landfill, all of that carbon that was captured in that tree is going to be lost. It's going to go back into the atmosphere," Carroll said. "We want to capture it in durable goods so that it stays sequestered for another 100 years."

Carroll's expertise was critical throughout the duration of the Baltimore Wood Project. Carroll entered the deconstruction field in 2008, when the economic downturn compelled him to expand his role as a commercial contractor. He was drawn to the deconstruction sector and founded Details Deconstruction in 2012.

Two years later, in 2014, Details Deconstruction was selected by the Baltimore City government to lead the first deconstruction pilot of abandoned homes in the city.

When the pilot began, Carroll hired Pollock to oversee the sales of the wood material that was salvaged. Eventually, the sales department of Details Deconstruction became its own enterprise - called Brick + Board - led by Pollock. In the two years of the pilot, the company deconstructed 100 houses. Then from 2016 to 2020, the operation expanded to a deconstruction rate of about 200 houses per year.

Compared to demolition, deconstructing an abandoned home is estimated to create six to eight more jobs. Of the approximately 200 people who were a part of the workforce of Details Deconstruction, about 75% were previously incarcerated, according to Carroll. Hiring individuals with a history of incarceration was a priority for the enterprise.

"We wanted to employ people who did not have a ramp to enter the 'employment highway.' The best way to build the 'on-ramp' is to build an enterprise that was designed from day one to be an employment vehicle for those individuals," Carroll said. "Deconstruction is labor-intensive work - there was a low barrier of entry to get in. A person could come in with minimal skills and then gain quite a bit of skills while they were working."

An evaluation of the Baltimore Wood Project estimated that the recidivism rate for people employed through Details Deconstruction is about 25%, which is half the estimated recidivism rate for the city.

'A Proof of Concept'

By the time the contract between Details Deconstruction and the Baltimore City government expired in 2020, wood and bricks from approximately 800 houses had been salvaged. The expiration of the contract coincided with rising COVID-19 infections, so the renewal of the contract was put on hiatus in March 2020 and has yet to be renewed.

Pollock saw potential in moving Brick + Board to the private sector, so he bought the enterprise from Humanim and converted it to a for-profit company.

"It's proof of concept that you can take something that was incubated in a nonprofit setting and with foundational funding, you can get it to a place where it can stand on its own two feet," Pollock said. "I think it's a success story."

Since 2012, Brick + Board has produced about 1.5 million board feet, of which approximately 70% is reclaimed wood, Pollock said. The company currently has partnerships with furniture makers in the Mid-Atlantic region. One of its biggest partners is Room & Board, a furniture manufacturer based in Minneapolis.

Since 2017, when Room & Board partnered with Brick + Board, Room & Board has used about 90,000 board feet of reclaimed wood from Baltimore. Based on estimates by Room & Board, 154 metric tons of carbon dioxide are stored in that many board feet and about 326 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided by using reclaimed wood. The total potential carbon benefit of using reclaimed materials - 480 metric tons of carbon dioxide - is the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road for a year.

According to Gene Wilson, the director of merchandising and vendor management at Room & Board, there are 11 collections of products created from urban wood in Baltimore, with over 8,500 products sold to customers since January 2018. He hopes that other cities will create a similarly robust urban wood economy.

"What's happened in Baltimore is just to hopefully inspire other municipalities to do something a little bit different than what they have done historically," Wilson said. "And that is really taking wood from the waste stream and turning it into something of value, storing the carbon and having a positive impact on the environment."

<![CDATA[University announces COVID-19 Guidelines for Fall Semester]]> University leaders announced updates to the University's fall semester COVID-19 policies in an email to constituents on Wednesday. The broadcast reiterated the vaccination requirement for students announced in April and extended the mandate to all faculty and staff.

Barring religious or medical exemptions, all Hopkins affiliates will be required to upload their proof of vaccination by August 1 through the University's COVID-19 vaccine registration system, which will be launched July 1. International students will be eligible for free vaccinations upon their arrival to Hopkins and have until September 30 to submit proof of vaccination.

As of June 12, Maryland's vaccination rate of 50.6% is seven percentage points ahead of the national rate. However, only 40.0% of Baltimore residents are fully vaccinated.

Hopkins is not alone in requiring vaccinations: Many peer institutions - including Stanford University, Emory University and all eight Ivy League schools - are also mandating vaccinations for all undergraduates returning to campus.

Vaccinated undergraduates will be required to complete a COVID-19 test once a week, and all unvaccinated students, faculty and staff will be required to to test twice a week. Additionally, the University will continue to require that students and faculty receive the influenza vaccine before participating in on-campus activities.

Rising sophomore and international student Juliana Marquez praised the University's decision to provide vaccines for international students, noting that vaccines are not nearly as easily accessible in other countries as in the United States.

Rising junior Tomisin Longe also agrees with the new guidelines.

"The guidelines have been well crafted and were along the lines of what I was expecting," Longe said. "At this point, everyone has been looking forward to returning to normal, so it's nice to see Hopkins address that."

Longe agreed that regardless of vaccination status, it is important for the University to continue regular testing for all undergraduates.

The administrators also announced that indoor and outdoor social distancing restrictions and occupancy limits will be lifted starting July 1. Unvaccinated individuals will be able to eat in socially distanced dining spaces and are still encouraged to socially distance elsewhere.

Affiliates will still be required to use Prodensity for daily health checks. Visitors and guests will be welcome on campus but held to the same health and safety guidelines as students and faculty.

In an interview with The News-Letter, incoming freshman Hannah Puhov expressed approval for stricter health measures for unvaccinated students and for the University's plans to return to more traditional ways of operating.

"It's good that even if there are people who are exempted from vaccination, they'll still have to wear masks and get tested more often, so either way it's safe," Puhov said.

Masking will still be required in all shared indoor spaces, including laboratories and classrooms, but the University may update those requirements if Baltimore City chooses to remove those restrictions.


The University will ease health restrictions for vaccinated students on campus.

<![CDATA[PETA protests Hopkins owl lab at commencement]]> Guests at the 2021 Commencement ceremony were greeted by several protesters representing the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on Thursday, May 27. The protesters gathered outside Homewood Field at 6:30 p.m. in opposition to research conducted by Shreesh Mysore, an assistant professor affiliated with the Department of Neuroscience and the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.

Mysore's lab performs procedures on barn owls to study human spatial selection and selective spatial attention.

PETA has been critical of Mysore's experiments for several years, and in April the organization filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) claiming that the research is unconstitutional. In May, PETA addressed a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), claiming that Mysore conducted his experiments without a proper permit despite the NIH's requirement that grant recipients comply with state laws.

PETA is now calling on the USDA to revoke his current permit and on the NIH to recoup his grant money and deny future requests. University representatives maintained the stance that all proper permits were obtained for the possession and breeding of the owls.

With a background of soon-to-be graduates on Homewood Field, protesters lined West University parkway. The protests started at 6:30 p.m. and lasted an hour, at which point the commencement ceremony began. Some protesters carried signs with sentiments such as "Owls caged while grads cross stage" and "JHU kills owls in painful brain experiments."

At the friends-and-family entrance, a mascot owl held the sign "Owls skulls cut open at JHU" as an actor wearing a lab coat poked and prodded its head. The protesters were seen distributing flyers and information about the Mysore lab to Class of 2021 graduates and their families.

Another aspect of the demonstration was a group of protesters holding screens and speakers, which played recordings of interviews with Mysore in which PETA argues Mysore admits the low translational capacity of his research. This recording is taken from a seminar Mysore spoke at, in which he stated that using head-fixed animals to study cognition may not be ideal.

"We might misinterpret what's happening or misunderstand if we do this in head-fixed animals," Mysore said in the recording.

Lana Weidgenant, a graduating senior, voiced her support for PETA with a decorated cap that read "Free the JHU Owls." In December, Weidgenant sent a Letter to the Editor condemning Mysore's laboratory practices. Weidgenant is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit PETA filed in April, along with former Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch and former state secretary of health Dr. Martin Wasserman.

PETA Vice President of International Laboratory Methods Shalin Gala released a statement detailing the event and the motive for the protest.

"As JHU graduates go out into the world, owls remain caged in Mysore's laboratory, where they'll endure painful brain mutilation and death," Gala wrote. "PETA calls on the university to end this despicable treatment of beautiful, intelligent owls immediately."

Gala emphasized the support that their campaigns have received regarding the Mysore lab in an email to The News-Letter.

"Shreesh Mysore illegally cut into sensitive owls' skulls for 'years' by failing to get a mandatory permit, according to Maryland state officials, and he even admitted that the gruesome procedures he performs on the owls could cause him to 'misinterpret' his own data," Gala wrote. "The public deserves the truth and PETA -supported by JHU students and alumni, and more than 339,000 of our supporters who have written to the school - are demanding that the administration shut down this disastrous taxpayer-funded owl lab."

In an email to The News-Letter, Karen Lancaster, assistant vice president of external relations for the University, chose not to comment on the demonstration.

"Commencement was a joyous celebration of the accomplishments of the Class of 2021," Lancaster wrote in an email to The News-Letter. "We are so glad we were able to bring the undergraduates together, along with their friends and families, to mark this milestone in their lives.

This demonstration is the second year that PETA has protested the barn owl experiments at the Hopkins commencement ceremony. On last year's virtual commencement day, PETA representatives circled the University with their cars, making stops at University President Ronald J. Daniels' home and Mysore's home in Towson.

Despite these protests, Mysore has yet to respond to allegations of ethics and permit violations.


PETA protesters, including an owl mascot, lined the entrance to the University's commencement celebration on Thursday evening.

<![CDATA[A taste of home in Baltimore: on friendship and hot pot]]> Located in Towson among many other shops and restaurants is a small, Chinese all-you-can-eat hot pot place called New Generation. It is a familiar location to many Hopkins students, but for me, it's something even more special.

Hot pot, the literal translation of which from Chinese is "fire pot" (火锅), is a traditional cuisine originating from the Sichuan province. With a history of over 2000 years, it has spread across the entire nation and now even the whole world, gaining popularity and love.

However, I never liked hot pot when I was growing up. It was always too loud and warm; the taste became monotonous after everything was dipped in the same sauce and there always was an aftertaste from the soup full of additives that just made me scream "WATER."

Shortly after coming to Hopkins, one of my Chinese friends suggested going to New Generation in Towson. I was reluctant at first, thinking back on the hot pot memories that I was not so fond of. But as a freshman who had only had three FFC meals per day for a few months straight, I was yearning for anything but. All the traditional cuisine that I wanted while hanging out with friends sounded like the perfect break I needed.

When I stepped into the door, I immediately saw busy waiters cruising through the aisle and passing out plates full of food, the steam coming from the hot pots and people anxiously waiting for their food to be ready.

I heard voices, discussions and laughter that together formed into a white noise and joyfully hummed in my mind. I smelled the most wonderful combination of sesame paste, a variety of pot soups including seafood, spicy, mushroom and bones and all the different sauces people had concocted based on their own special preferences. I felt a wave of heat coming towards me that eventually engulfed me in its welcoming embrace.

To my utmost surprise, it was such an amazing feeling.

I sat down at a table with my friends, still overwhelmed by this weird yet delightful sensation which revealed everything I previously disliked in a new light.

The warmth brought comfort to my soul and the loud noises reminded me of home. The sauce allowed freedom for my culinary artistry and became the most scrumptious taste I have had in a long time. And even the aftertaste was reminiscent of the delicious restaurant food sprinkled with a splash of MSG.

Ever since that time, I have made multiple visits to this little restaurant with many different people. Even when I was the busiest with my school work and extracurricular activities, I still tried to join our monthly hot pot indulgence with my suitemates.

I remember that we would always follow a strict sequence when ordering and eating food. The first few rounds were always meat since it is the highlight of the entire meal. Then came vegetables so that we would get a little bit of healthy in our diet. Finally, we ordered a plate or two of dumplings and ended the meal on a complete and satisfying note.

On our way out, we would each take an ice cream cup or sandwich as dessert. Honestly, the creamy taste of ice cream does bring down the aftertaste of the soup and sauce. All is carefully calibrated - a system designed to bring the most happiness.

I remember eating so much food that my stomach almost exploded. Eating with others, especially those who seem like food is the only thing on their minds, can be so appetizing. It's a simple repetition of "I look around, I eat, I look around and I eat more."

I remember my suitemates jokingly mocking my sauce and how weird it tasted.

"Who puts vinegar with sesame paste?" They would laugh.

And I would argue that they knew nothing and that vinegar went with everything. But secretly, I knew my sauce was awful and would copy my suitemates' ingredients when I made my sauce the next time.

Hot pot is no place for elegance or table etiquette. No wiping your mouth with a napkin after every bite and no sipping wine while waiting for the next course. In order to enjoy it, you have to let yourself free.

"You want some shrimp? I'll put some in your pot."

"Can I try the meat in your soup?"

"Let me dip into your sauce. Hmm! What did you put in there?"

I never liked hot pot because I thought it was too unconventional. Why would a group of people gather around a pot and boil things in soups? But I appreciate it now.

Hot pot is an art. It's an exchange among individuals in regard to their eating habits, interests, culture and backgrounds. No matter who you are or where you come from, you are now a group of people gathering around a pot and boiling things in soups.

Afterwards, I tried hot pot again in China with my family, but something just didn't feel right. I missed my friends, the unlimited amounts of food and a piece of home on a foreign land.

New Generation is my favorite restaurant to go to in Baltimore and my most special hot pot spot in the whole wide world. I love it there because of the memories I have - the laughing, mockery, quarrels, gossip and the sense of belonging. Even writing about it now puts a smile on my face.

So here's a suggestion: After things are more open, take your friends to New Generation, try the traditional Chinese cuisine that will make you drool just thinking about it and make those wonderful memories to cherish forever.


Meals at New Generation, like the one pictured above, were Gu's favorite part of living in Baltimore.

<![CDATA[The #1 school of public health has a long way to go]]> Editor's Note: The original title of this piece failed to accurately reflect the author's sentiments and has been updated accordingly.

When I was a freshman at Hopkins, I used to wander through different dorms at night looking for new people. Before COVID-19, this was how I made a lot of friends: having meaningful late-night conversations over Insomnia cookies or fruit snacks. One evening, I met a few fellow freshman Public Health majors. We started discussing what areas of study we were interested in and I mentioned maternal and child health.

When asked what drew me to this subject, I said that I mainly wanted to protect Black women, especially after what happened to Serena Williams. They gave me a puzzled look and asked what I was talking about. While I was a little surprised they were unaware of the story, I briefly recounted tennis legend Serena Williams' terrifying experience giving birth to her daughter Olympia. Because her doctors ignored her reports of severe pain, she nearly lost her life to blood clotting.

My new friends were understandably enraged when I told them this story, and even more so when I explained that this sort of thing happens all the time. I also added that, while what happened to her was awful, she is one of the most inspiring people and went on to continue dominating the tennis world just ten months after giving birth.

Looking back on my four years at Hopkins, this interaction still stands out to me. I was glad to have the chance to educate some future doctors on the kind of medical racism that is often ignored. However, I still feel a sense of worry over what these students are missing out on. Not only an ugly truth about the medical field, but also the truth about Black people and our experiences. Not all good, but certainly not all bad, much like Serena Williams' birth story.

In my own house, being Black was synonymous with excellence. Excellence in athletics, academics and any challenge life would throw my way. It meant having strong family, religious and social ties. I had role models everywhere, from Simone Biles to my own father. Still, I saw problems too. I saw friends and family abused or ignored by medical professionals. I couldn't understand why so many people I knew had fibroid cancer, childbirth complications or horrendous experiences with the health-care system. I wanted to learn how to change these problems, and what better way to do so than to study public health at Hopkins?

I learned a lot in my coursework at Homewood and the School of Public Health. I learned how to read and write scientific literature and to conduct research. I even got the chance to volunteer at different community organizations. But the attitudes towards Blackness and Black people were very different from what I knew.

For the past four years I have sat in lecture halls being told that being Black is a "risk factor" for so many deadly diseases and conditions when, in reality, race is never a risk factor. Racism is. Even when the appropriate language was used, I was always taught that being Black and being poor were synonymous, or that being Black meant being at risk for diabetes, HIV and poor health care. Conversely, I was taught that being white was synonymous with wealth, regular doctor's visits and "better" health behaviors.

Not once did a professor mention how African Americans have one of the lowest suicide rates despite the current mental health crisis we are witnessing. I was never taught about the high college education rates for Black women. Many classes discussed drug use in the Black community as if it were rampant when, in reality, Black undergraduates have lower rates of drug use than their white peers.

At a university where I was encouraged to ask questions and research, no one was able to explain the social determinants of Black excellence, only Black suffering. And even the explanations of Black suffering seemed to miss the fact that doctors and other health professionals, the very people so many of my peers were striving to be, were the direct cause of so much neglect, abuse and death.

I have been able to fill these gaps in my education through firsthand and secondhand experiences, but I didn't stop there. I read books, papers and the current literature on the reality of African American health. I would encourage all my fellow students to do the same.

I don't write this to tear down or diminish the good work being done by the faculty at Hopkins and the School of Public Health. I have learned invaluable information from these schools and I look forward to applying in my future career. However, educating the future doctors of America means being honest about anti-Blackness in the health-care system beyond just a single lecture on the Tuskegee Study. It also means putting as much effort into studying Black achievement as you do Black adversity.


While she appreciates her time at Hopkins, Nelson is concerned that public health coursework fails to meaningfully address anti-Blackness in health care.

<![CDATA[Saying goodbye to Hopkins after two years]]> This is the last piece I will write for The News-Letter. In my two years of involvement, I have written about international tensions and public health issues, how much I dislike Mulan (2020) and how much I appreciate Taylor Swift's two recent albums. So it is hard to decide what to include in my final piece as a proper tribute and closure to my time at Hopkins.

I don't want to write a cliche article about my departure from Hopkins or the pandemic (and how it has ruthlessly wrecked all my plans). Nor do I want to brag about something positive the struggling has brought me - some eureka moments that have shown me what really matters, possibly. I have every right to pat myself on the back for such extraordinary growth, which stems from loneliness and grief, shattered ideals and broken dreams and self-acceptance with a dose of self-love and the firm belief in a ceaseless pursuit of happiness.

But no, not today. My farewell article should be something more epic, more extraordinary, more eccentric.

For a graduating senior like me, no words, expressions or prose could be sufficiently organized to summarize my undergraduate odyssey: two years at Boston University, one semester at Hopkins, followed by three semesters at Zoom University.

I will soon be leaving Hopkins, putting a hesitant, unprepared period at the end of my undergraduate academic life. But the thing is, this realization didn't hit me until I received the email invite to write for The News-Letter's commencement magazine. I guess time slips by more fugaciously when all my interpersonal connections are through a laptop camera, 12 hours away from all the cautiously masked yet wildly celebratory events on campus.

As a transfer student, my time at Hopkins has already been shorter than that of a lot of my peers. Since my arrival in Baltimore, I've been rapaciously collecting memories like a Scrooge with a stashed safe or an enchanted dream catcher hanging above a 10-year-old. Picnics at the beach and carnivals at Keyser Quad with friends; career fairs and club fairs with totes upon totes given away; a field trip to the local wastewater treatment plant; Meatless Monday tofu with all its protean protein cousins; club meetings and bake sales to sweeten things up; friendships and, in some way, survivorship.

I remember the dinner with my transfer mentors and fellow transfer students at a small, elegant restaurant in Inner Harbor, during which we shared both laughter and flavor. I remember the exam seasons (which are all weeks excluding the first two of a given semester) and cramming in Brody (where everyone crams at) with Taylor Swift blasting in my earphones and a stressed, caffeinated heart thumping with enthusiasm.

I remember Rec-Center sweat sessions on an elliptical with a classic Stephen King paperback positioned on the rack because girl gotta find time to read... I remember the Blue Jay statue in front of the FFC that seemed to have different apparel every couple of days.

My heart has become an overflowing sink with too many things to address and too many people to thank at commencement, a speech that has been planned out and rehearsed thousands of times in my head. Yet the pandemic changed everything: The sink became stuffed with used masks and cancelled flight tickets, stifled frustration and resurfaced anti-Asian hostility. Long story short, I cannot be at the ceremony that commemorates my hard work and invaluable struggles.

That's why I cannot easily write this article, as I don't know how to feel about an uncrowned ending. It's not the lack of thoughts, but rather the overwhelming abundance of them that intertwine rampantly in my head like a ball of wool that has entered my cat's territory.

But one thing I am certain of is that the only good ending to a difficult story is an open ending, like Monica and Chandler moving out of their signature apartment and each of the six friends setting foot into their new lives. I don't know how I want my story at Hopkins to end, but I'm dead sure I don't want a How I Met Your Mother or Game of Thrones type of unresolved, forced finale. Unfortunately, the storyline follows a strict logical sequence and temporal schedule, and my show at Hopkins is inching into its final season.

I don't want my graduation to be the end of some transient moments of joy, youthful audacity with adequate foolishness and the right to explore and err fearlessly. Rather, I hope it to be the beginning of something destined for greatness and uniqueness.

What matters and stays with me, likely for the rest of my life, is the knowledge of the earth and humans around me; the willingness to work hard for something I truly want, be it an A, a diploma or an amelioration of climate change; the passion and compassion for those around me; the confidence that "what can't a brave Blue Jay do, now that I survived Hopkins?"

Instead of the princess and the Blue Jay living happily ever after, the princess learns from struggles and confusion, leaves her boring comfort zone and excessive complacency and leaps into her lifelong pursuit of truth and happiness.

I'm ready to graduate and see what her sequel looks like.


After transferring into Hopkins and spending three semesters online, Tie acknowledges her unorthodox route to graduation.

<![CDATA[What it meant to have a virtual senior year]]> Two years ago, a friend of mine from my hometown asked me how it felt to be halfway done with college. Did I feel old? Had the time gone by too fast? Was I happy to be (somewhat) almost done with school for good?

I had to think about it for a second. I was 20 years old; no longer being a teen was pretty scary. I stopped feeling nostalgic for my high school days after freshman year and, after two years, I finally felt like I had gotten into the swing of being a Southern California girl on the East Coast, thousands of miles from family and childhood friends.

It felt weird, sure, but honestly, I didn't feel too old yet. For me, so much had changed in my first two years that I knew I would be in for some adventures my last two years as well. That freshman feeling, that this world of opportunity lay in front of me, wasn't quite gone - I still had things to do, people to see and a long list of things to finish before it was my turn to wave goodbye to Baltimore, and I had two full years to finish.

And, with that, you probably know where this is going. Senior year (and a fourth of junior year) during a pandemic. I, like the rest of my classmates, didn't have quite as much time to finish as we thought.

Sure, we finished the important things: We were fortunate enough to have the technology available to finish our classes online and earn our degrees. During a time of pain and suffering for many, I know I'm one of the lucky ones that the end of college being weird was one of the biggest hardships I had to face during this objectively terrible time.

But I'd be lying if I said that it didn't break my heart that I missed out on the objectively "less important" parts of college. The long nights writing code in my friends' apartments, hosting game nights for my clubs on campus, losing intramural basketball games and TA-ing my sophomores in Clark Hall. Even studying in the UTL, eating the turkey burger at Levering, taking the JHMI to Peabody and picking up a copy of The News-Letter on the Breezeway just to find my story published that week. That stuff won't matter for graduate school resumes or future employers, but it matters to me.

Those are the things that kept a mundane life of midterms, problem sets and Python code meaningful - that gave me the motivation to get out of bed every morning and keep studying and working hard day after day after day. I wanted to keep making these memories during my last two years of college; I wanted to finish this roller coaster of a story I started.

In the context of college students, we could go on and on and on about who had it the worst. Was it the current freshmen, who missed out on the end of their senior year of high school and their freshman year of college? The Class of 2020, who left campus with no closure, no goodbyes and little certainty in their first year in the "real" world? Or was it us, the Class of 2021, who thought we missed a bullet when graduation got cancelled last year only to realize that, for the rest of our time here, the Hopkins we had known for the past 3 years was gone?

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't change anything, but even that doesn't keep us from arguing over these trivial things. Many of my younger and older friends have told me that the Class of 2021 won the "Most Screwed Over" prize. But despite the sadness I've felt through this whole situation, I think I have to respectfully disagree on this one.

My freshman and sophomore years were not all rainbows and butterflies, nor was my pre-COVID-19 junior year. There was always a midterm, always a deadline, always something on my calendar that kept me in focus mode. But despite the nights of insomnia, imposter syndrome and course-related stress episodes, I still felt like I was coming into my own.

Things were never great, but they got easier over time. I began sleeping more and stressing a little bit less. I started finding groups of people that I felt I could trust and rely on, and even though I'm still not a Baltimore expert after four years, I began to find myself wandering outside of the Hopkins bubble a little bit more every semester.

Senior year being (basically) online was heartbreaking to me because I felt like I had been making slow but steady progress in finding my place. After nearly three years on campus, I finally felt like I had built something to miss, something meaningful outside of schoolwork to finish up on and enjoy for my remaining time at Hopkins.

I don't think my story got the ending it deserved, not even close. But through all the angst, stress and bitterness of our pandemic school year, I can still find some comfort in the fact that I was able to experience pre-pandemic college as much as I did to even have a meaningful college story to begin with.

I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't change the past to experience college as every other class pre-2020 did if I could. It hurts that I'll never be able to finish the story I had started as I began to come into my own during my time at Hopkins. But I'd rather have the last chapter of this story I built for myself at Hopkins ripped out than have the regret of never starting any story worth reading at all.

And none of that is to say that my senior year was a complete wasteland. Sure, I am 1000% tired and Zoomed out, but I was able to find some joy through all the weirdness with reunion Zoom calls and a couple of good friends/roommates. The timeline of the vaccine let me branch out a little more in the last few weeks, and I'm beginning to feel some closure that I didn't really think I'd get to experience through some final Baltimore outings and lunches with those I haven't seen in over a year.

So yes, senior year was not even remotely close to being ideal. But I did my best with what I was given, and I can honestly say that I'll have some pretty good memories of my senior year to reflect on, just maybe not the ones I had previously envisioned.

My college story will never not feel incomplete. But I'll jot down the best ending I possibly can to replace the ripped out pages I'll never read, close that book shut and place it on the shelf. It's disappointing, but although it's hard to see it now, I know there'll be plenty of other books for me to read and write in the future. My life as an author is just beginning, and my library is nowhere near full.

My sincerest congratulations to you, the Class of 2021. Thank you all for being a part of my Hopkins story.


Despite her dissatisfaction with her virtual senior year, Kasamoto is excited to see what comes next.

<![CDATA[Making the most of senior year during quarantine]]> I remember the very first day of move-in like it was yesterday. After two days of driving across the country, my family and I pulled up to the large marble sign that read "Wolman Hall." It was exactly 7:00 a.m., and the Gilman clock tower rang just as we unloaded the car. My Cuban parents were bossing everyone around in their boisterous Spanish, trying to move through this process as efficiently as possible. It was all so rushed and we were totally unprepared for it.

I was the very first student to move into Wolman that day, and I was also the first in my family to go away for college. As a first-generation student, I had no idea what to expect from those first few days of college. It's as if every time the clock tower rang I was questioning something new. *Ding* What is this "orientation" thing everyone keeps mentioning? *Ding* What are sororities and why do they keep asking me if I'm planning to rush? *Ding* Hold up, I can't greet strangers with a pop kiss on the cheek?

Everything was a big question mark. I was excited to meet new people, but it felt like I was quickly whisked away from my old life. It took a while for me to realize that orientation was meant for people like me who struggled to navigate a new space and new social sphere.

This year, the Class of 2021 was similarly thrown into the unknown. The clock tower rings the same way it did when we first set foot on campus, yet our society couldn't be more different.

With our senior year seemingly stripped away from us, it's easy to get fixated on everything that went wrong. I could mull over the misfortunes and leave Hopkins more disgruntled and lost than when I first arrived, or I could talk about the knowledge I've gained as a student at the University. But is it really productive or meaningful to do so?

For me, the quality of college is rooted less in the concepts we learn and more in the connections we make. The students at Hopkins make Hopkins, otherwise it would just be a number of empty brick structures void of life. Ironically, the buildings were indeed mostly empty during quarantine, yet the spirit of Hopkins never left. The Hopkins identity ultimately brought us together, even amid a global pandemic.

Many of my fellow seniors came to terms with our new social reality over the past two semesters. When faced with limited opportunities to socialize, we found creative ways to engage with each other and explore Baltimore at the same time.

My friends and I spent more time than ever outside of the so-called "Hopkins bubble." When we couldn't freely socialize on the Quad, we arranged our own picnics at neighboring parks. When the Recreation Center was demolished, we traded it for the Druid Hill Park and Hopkins tennis courts, opting to exercise outside. With a more lax grading scheme in place, we gave ourselves more mental breaks and walked around the spaces we previously rushed across.

For many, social groups became vital sources of support. I, for one, am forever grateful for the network of women in my life that helped me get through senior year. My sorority sisters were there for me along every step of the way. Even though the pandemic cancelled all of the social events we were looking forward to, it hardly changed the bond I had with my sisters.

We exchanged formals and frat parties for weekend hikes in Baltimore County. Our study sessions in Brody became study hours over Zoom. Our volunteer events even took on virtual formats. In sum, we adapted and tried to make the most of a bad situation using the resources at hand.

It's also important to realize that the experiences expressed here are a series of positive events situated in a greater story of collective grief, loss and hardship. It was a really tough year and I am lucky to have my life, my family, my friends and my future all intact. The past couple of months were made easier, in part, by my access to the University's resources. I was connected to financial assistance, a licensed mental health professional, tri-weekly COVID-19 testing appointments and corporate-level Zoom among other things. It wasn't until my senior year that I realized the privilege one gains once enrolled at Hopkins.

The pandemic really brought some perspective to my time at this university. I never thought I would spend my senior year online or explore various parks and trails with my friends in Maryland. Life has a way of throwing unexpected situations at us and making us explore alternative plans. Starting college for the first time is one big social transition and getting through a pandemic is another.

With graduation on the horizon, I've realized it's important for people to be flexible and adapt to situations. Since that move-in day I've become much better at interacting with different people. Now I pick and choose who to greet with a kiss, understanding that a Latinx hello isn't for everyone - which, by the way, is a great strategy to avoid COVID-19, too.


Despite her senior year being almost entirely virtual, Paulet still made valuable memories.

<![CDATA[An outgoing senior's advice to incoming freshmen]]> The summer before my freshman year, I combed the internet trying to find ways to have an unforgettable college experience (why not? I only got one chance). I wanted one simple recipe: Do X, then do Y, but make sure you maintain Z. I talked to my friends' older siblings to hear what they had to say, but they were all very different: One loved their ballet group and another enjoyed their research in antiferromagnetism.

Just as there are many interpretations to a single story, there is no one way to enjoy college. During my time at Hopkins, I have meandered through majors, friends, clubs and homes, and each one had its own unique satisfaction.

However, there are a few ways that you can actively augment your college experience. Frank Bruni suggests that students work alongside their university to help each other rather than consume resources. It's easy to complete Hopkins by only enrolling in the courses required and completing the graduation requirements, but that overlooks a major aspect of Hopkins: the people.

The students at Hopkins come from all walks of life, and the conversations you'll have - in the library, waiting in line at FFC, walking between classes - will shape your undergraduate years. Conversations with people bring us closer together and define the Hopkins experience. Looking back as a senior, I seldom recall the midterm of a class or the contents of a paper, but the conversations on the beach or at C-level remain clear in my head.

Apart from talking to students, take the opportunity during college to speak with your professors during their office hours. Professors can often seem distant and it can feel intimidating to ask questions, especially ones that you think might make you look stupid. However, whenever I asked questions during office hours, I came back less stressed and more curious.

In an essay called "Empty chairs," then-Princeton-student Azza Cohen explored the predicament of vacant office hours.

"Our professors open their doors and offer us their undivided attention for about two hours a week, two hours that too often fall to the bottom of my list of priorities," Cohen wrote.

When I read this essay during my sophomore year, I had never been to any office hours, let alone a professor's. I tried it out a few times since then, going to their office hours after writing a midterm or submitting a paper so I didn't feel like our time was bounded.

And the conversations were remarkable: I learnt how D. H. Lawrence's novels inspired my Expos professor to write her dissertation on him or why another professor dropped her Chemistry major to become an art historian. One professor bought me Burger King and stayed back as we solved a math problem.

These experiences are not ones that can be learned in a lecture hall or crammed the night before an exam. These conversations never affected my grade, but these mentorships are one of the things I cherish most about my time at Hopkins.

Grades are another thing that is an overarching aspect of the university experience, and this feeling is not restricted to Hopkins. A quantifiable metric allows students to be benchmarked and compared, creating a linear scale that conceals qualities like creativity, grit and leadership potential. At college, grades seem to have omnipotent powers: They can make or break futures. Yet, their significance decreases precipitously a few years after college.

In a New York Times Opinion, Adam Grant provided his thoughts on his college grades.

"Looking back, I don't wish my grades had been higher. If I could do it over again, I'd study less. The hours I wasted memorizing the inner workings of the eye would have been better spent trying out improv comedy and having more midnight conversations about the meaning of life," Grant wrote.

Of course, this cannot apply to everyone. Some commitments - grad school, med school and others - have placed systematic GPA cutoffs to distinguish thousands of applicants. Nevertheless, you should not allow this to restrict you from socializing or taking a few courses outside your comfort zone. The key is balance, and maintaining that during undergrad can be a difficult, albeit rewarding, feat.

Four years of college seem like a lot as a freshman, but they fly by incredibly quickly. It seems like yesterday I was walking into the Rec Center to be assigned my Pre-O Hiking group. And now I'm here, waiting for my name to be called on the Homewood Field and get my diploma.

But my Hopkins experience is not defined by that piece of paper and my transcript: It is the serendipitous chats with friends while procrastinating on my school work, the decisions to join certain clubs last minute for which I am forever grateful and the seemingly unrelated courses that surprisingly intersected with my computer science coursework.

So my advice to you, my dear freshmen, is to make a stronger relationship with the University and its people: Doing so will help you have a rewarding undergraduate experience. You only get one shot, right?


From attending office hours to making new friendships, Srinivasan reminds new students to make the most of their college experience.

<![CDATA[How Hopkins has changed since freshman year]]> There were moments this year that seemed to go on forever, from the last couple minutes of a two-hour Zoom class to waiting for my advisor to triple-check that I would graduate on time to the brief lag between texts with my parents after asking them to reread my graduate school acceptance letter to ensure I wasn't misinterpreting the offer.

Yet, somehow, my senior year is over in what could have been the blink of an eye.

Sitting in the bedroom that has served as the command center for a year's worth of studying, online school and a ridiculous number of conference calls and meetings, it's strange to see the majority of my bags packed and the rest of my belongings strewn across the floor. After a year of sitting in front of a screen in my newfound uniform of a somewhat decent sweater and a pair of pajama pants, I feel like I have finally closed my laptop and taken a deep breath.

For the first time in a long time, I've stopped to think about how I truly feel about the fact that I am about to graduate. Aside from the wonderful people who have provided an incomprehensibly wonderful support system over the past four years and - of course - The News-Letter, I've finally started to question what has most shaped my college experience. In 20 years, will I look back at my time at Hopkins with the rose-colored glasses I've already started to see things through, or will I solely recollect the long nights in a B-level cubicle?

Personally, it's helpful to think about the ways the University has evolved over the course of the past four years to best assess what I will remember. Some changes have been small, such as Hopkins gracing all dorms with air conditioning units or Blue Jay Shuttles finally ferrying students all the way to the Inner Harbor. Other changes have been quite drastic, particularly as a result of the pandemic, such as the introduction of online learning, a new 10 p.m. library curfew and the widely popular banishment of AMR triples.

More importantly, many changes over the past four years are a result of the much-needed increase in campus activism, particularly regarding the conversation about racial injustice within Baltimore and across college campuses nationwide. Finally, the process to rename Homewood buildings has commenced, administrators are attempting to have open discourses about student needs and, most impressively, student activism has become a part of life at Hopkins.

In a year of unpredictable change, it is this shift in campus culture that will make a lasting impact. For four years, I have been endlessly impressed by my peers' initiatives to help morph the University into an institution we can be proud to attend. I will never forget the pure passion and simultaneous chaos of the Garland Sit-In, the determined efforts of Teachers and Researchers United to improve working conditions for graduate students or the countless students who have dedicated their free time to research to better both Hopkins and the surrounding community.

And I am in awe of the News-Letter staff for skillfully and diligently documenting all these changes.

I know that in 20 years I will still be reading this newspaper, which is in a constant state of wonderful, confusing, promising transformation. Perhaps I will still relate to the newspaper's coverage of the Hopkins scene when I am in my 40s, and perhaps I will still understand some of the obscure News-Letter lingo. No matter what, I am sure that, decades from now, I will still be reading about the students who will inevitably and continuously push for campus culture to change for the better.


Wilner, pictured here with other graduating editors of The News-Letter, spent much of her undergraduate experience working for the paper.

<![CDATA[What's your favorite memory at Hopkins?]]> "Rushing from class to class, or midnight sessions at Brody. Basically everyone stressing together in unity."
-Shizheng "JJ" Tie, Environmental Health and Engineering

"Spending time with friends on the last day of classes in any spring semester pre-COVID[-19] times!"
-Brandon Park, Psychological & Brain Sciences

"Meeting my girlfriend."
-Nicholas Malloy, Neuroscience

"I don't have one specific memory, but I loved being a part of Adoremus, which is an a capella group on campus. Extracurriculars were an integral part of my experience as a Hopkins undergrad, and I don't know if I would be the same person without them."
-Lillian Kim, English and Writing Seminars

"Making dinner with friends in the Wolman kitchen!"
-Benjamin Straus, Biomedical Engineering

"Stargazing with my friends."
-Angel Zhao, History and International Studies

"Spring [F]air freshman year."
-Collete Chang, Public Health

"All the random adventures thrown together at the last minute. Hopkins made me more spontaneous and taught me to live in the moment as much as possible."
-Olivia Brown, Computer Science and International Studies

<![CDATA[What advice do you have for next year's incoming freshmen?]]> "You will get to where you need to be in your own time! Don't compare yourself with others, which is often easier said than done as Hopkins students love to keep busy and get involved in many clubs. But rather accept where you are and realize you are at Hopkins for a reason."
-Angel Zhao, History and International Studies

"Don't panic. You have a whole dang load of time to figure it all out."
-Nicholas Malloy, Neuroscience

"I was really scared to put myself out there, and I really regret not making use of the resources that Hopkins has to offer sooner. Don't be scared! Everyone wants you to succeed and is there to help you. Your RAs, TAs, professors, advisors and counselors are your greatest resource!"
-Lillian Kim, English and Writing Seminars

"Do not compare yourself with others and don't follow other people's footsteps. Be you."
-Yanni Gu, Neuroscience and German

"Challenge yourself to meet people and form connections, even if you are an introvert. It will pay off later."
-Diego Tanton, Molecular Biology and Philosophy

"Do activities that you're interested in with others. It's a great way to meet people. For example, cooking, sports, biking, hiking..."
-Ben Straus, Biomedical Engineering

"Learn how to say no, but say yes as often as you can."
-Olivia Brown, Computer Science and International Studies

"Everyone looks like they're having more fun than you freshman year, but they're not. It's a tough time for everyone!"
-Cate Turner, Psychology and Writing Seminars

"You can still have fun and meet friends without being stupid and breaking the University's COVID safety guidelines."
-Brandon Park, Psychological & Brain Sciences

<![CDATA[What was the best class you took at Hopkins?]]> "Structure of the Nervous System, because Dr. Hendry is an absolute legend and an amazing teacher who really cares about his students."
-Nicholas Malloy, Neuroscience

"I loved Prof. Jilene Chua's Power and Pleasure in Asian America: Race and Law in Culture because she is an amazing and caring instructor, and the course content was really engaging and relevant! I had never taken a course on Asian American history before."
-Angel Zhao, History and International Studies

"Introduction to Moral Philosophy, with Dr. Bok. Definitely made me think about what it means to be a "good person," without necessarily ascribing to an established moral standard."
-Brandon Park, Psychological & Brain Sciences

"Oral Presentations. You had to give a presentation every single week to develop your public speaking skills. Honestly it was like hell sometimes and so stressful but the professor was amazing and I greatly improved my public speaking skills by giving lots of presentations and reflecting on them. It's probably the class from which I've gotten the most practical value."
-Diego Tanton, Molecular Biology and Philosophy

"Any course in the program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality! In my minor courses, I was able to place my literature and writing courses in concert with other disciplines such as sociology, history and philosophy, to name a few."
-Lillian Kim, English and Writing Seminars

"Community-Based Learning: Teaching Creative Writing in Baltimore Schools because it applied creative writing to real life and taught me about the history and legacies of structural racism in the city."
-Rudy Malcom, Writing Seminars

"Human Sexuality with Dr. Kraft because we talked about real life and relevant topics and he was always willing to listen to students."
-Cate Turner, Psychology and Writing Seminars

<![CDATA[Where's your favorite place to go in Baltimore?]]> "Hampden! It's got all the best shops - think Charmery, Hunting Ground, The Food Market. Plus, it has great memories for me: late-night ice cream runs, first tattoo, shopping trips... It's one of Baltimore's many charms."
-Lillian Kim, English and Writing Seminars

"The hot pot place in Towson."
-Yanni Gu, Neuroscience and German

"Baltimore Museum of Art! I used to go once a semester!"
-Brandon Park, Psychological & Brain Sciences

"I love food... so Ekiben (and Hampden area is really nice in general)."
-Angel Zhao, History and International Studies

"I just went to Rawlings Conservatory the other day and I really liked it. Highly recommend for any plant lovers. Besides this, probably Hampden or Fell's."
-Diego Tanton, Molecular & Cellular Biology and Philosophy

"Anywhere in Harbor East."
-Collete Chang, Public Health

"Stony Run."
-Rudy Malcom, Writing Seminars

"Anywhere my friends are! I really enjoyed sailing in the Inner Harbor through Outdoor Pursuits."
-Olivia Brown, Computer Science and International Studies

"Fell's Point."
-Nicholas Malloy, Neuroscience