Support Freedom of Expression at JHU

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To the Board of Trustees:

We are writing to ask the university community and the Board of Trustees to stand up to the egregious actions of President Ron Daniels’ administration. The university community has already sent you letters on the administration’s most recent targeting of students engaging in the political life of the university. We are in solidarity with students currently facing student conduct charges and students who have already been subject to these punitive hearings. We are in solidarity with faculty struggling against funding cuts, administrative micromanagement, and the culture of fear for speaking out at this university. We hope you share these concerns with and for our fellow students. It’s time to stand up and fight back. 

On February 3, the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs and the Homewood International Studies Program hosted a talk by Michael Morell, former Deputy Director of the CIA, titled “U.S. Intelligence and Foreign Policy in an Age of Turmoil.” This event, open to JH students, featured Morell in conversation with a faculty-member of SAIS to discuss his career and answer questions from the audience. 

A group of twelve graduate students attended the talk with the intention of expressing their dissent against the university’s decision to platform a noted defender of drone warfare and the CIA’s torture regime. After Morell was introduced, they interjected by chanting in protest. Within approximately 15 minutes, campus security arrived and students ultimately complied with their requests to leave. Students were escorted away and the talk continued. In this same event, a security guard racially-profiled a student by demanding they show ID and lied that he had asked the same of all other attendees. He had not.

Now the university is targeting these students with administrative hearings for alleged student conduct violations. On Friday, February 28, four graduate students involved in the disruptions received letters from Director of Student Conduct, Dana Broadnax, which charge them with the following violations: 

  • Disruptive Conduct - Conduct that disrupts or interferes with the orderly functioning of the University, the performance of the duties of University personnel or other University business or activities, including without limitation studying, teaching, research, administration.
  • Failure to Comply - The failure to comply with the directions of University officials, administrators, faculty, or staff, or law enforcement acting in the performance of their duties.
  • Condoning a Violation of Policy - Condoning, supporting or otherwise encouraging any violation of this Code; students who observe a violation of University policy are expected to remove themselves from participation and are encouraged to report the violation.

This continues a vindictive pattern of selective punishment and harassment that occurred after the Garland Sit-in and Occupation in April–May 2019. University administrators targeted four students out of the hundreds that participated in the Sit-in as a strategy to deter larger-scale opposition. During the conduct process, targeted students were advised to go through the process in good-faith. The experiences of those students have made it clear that university administrators have not been doing the same and seek to negatively affect their academic, personal, and professional lives while inflicting long-term psychological, mental, and emotional trauma on students that dare speak up.

Director of Student Conduct Dana Broadnax came to Johns Hopkins after her controversial tenure as Director and Chief Conduct Officer at Loyola University Chicago’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. After selectively targeting students at two different protests: one for fair wages and healthcare for Aramark workers and another against racism and in solidarity with anti-racist protests at University of Missouri (2015-2016), Broadnax has continued this punitive, draconian methodology in stifling student expressions of dissent and assembly at Johns Hopkins. We were also alarmed that a conduct officer was present at the Garland Sit-in. On April 4, 2019, Broadnax was caught filming student protestors (with her personal device) at the Garland Sit-in at approximately 4:45 AM while they were sleeping and sharing these videos in private chats.

In addition to our ongoing proposals, which the university continues to ignore, we propose: 

  1. a formal, written apology and acknowledgment to the student body for constraining students’ right to due process and the lack of a path to voice dissent and disagreements to university policy; and to residents of Baltimore, and all people globally affected by Johns Hopkins’ reach and connections to war and violence and militarization efforts;
  2. a moratorium on all Student Conduct cases related to protest activities;
  3. the termination of Dana Broadnax's employment at Johns Hopkins University;
  4. a third-party review of the Student Conduct Office, including other conduct officers involved in pursuing student protestors;
  5. a review of the Student Code of Conduct by a panel comprised of members of all affected parties. Adherence to any code should be based on informed consent and participation in a transparent process of revision and adoption. We propose such a review every three years and for amendments to be voted on by affected parties according to the terms set by this inaugural panel.

The university community should be alarmed by the continued erosion of speech, dissent, and political action on this campus. We have risked our jobs, our degrees, our livelihoods to fight the violences of this university and the injustices carried out in our names. We call on you, as the source of power at this university,  to stand up to this university’s anti-democratic practices and the silencing of student voices seeking to strengthen our community. The Homewood Faculty Assembly’s Fact-Finding Committee Report exposes a culture of fear and describes the personalized punishments and attacks on students who were visible, vocal participants of last year’s Garland Sit-in.

Enough is enough.

The undersigned



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