Concerned Faculty

Letter to President Daniels...

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Concerned Faculty
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Dear President Daniels, Provost Kumar, and Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University:

In his letter of April 21, 2020 announcing the university’s response to the “substantial financial challenges” posed by COVID-19, President Daniels outlined a set of “principles for mitigation and recovery.” He stated that any financial response “must be informed by our core values: our commitment to the welfare of our community of faculty, staff, and students; our commitment to the broader communities of which we are a part.”

As faculty, we fully subscribe to these principles, which is precisely why we are alarmed by the measures the administration has chosen to implement, which perpetuate a pattern of unilateral decision-making. Their main savings come from the suspension of employee retirement contributions, salary freezes, restrictions on hiring, and furloughs and layoffs of salaried and contract employees. These austerity measures disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of the Hopkins and Baltimore communities and threaten the university’s long-term ability to maintain a standard of excellence in teaching and research.

Across the university, faculty and staff have been confronting the crisis — some scrambling to adapt to a new reality, others even putting their lives on the line. Meanwhile, the administration has been making decisions that jeopardize the very work they are doing. It is now essential that we come together to chart a better course forward.

We insist that you:

1. Provide the faculty a frank report on the status of the university’s finances, and a full menu of financial options. This report would include current detailed information on present and projected shortfalls of revenue as well as information on the endowment and on current liabilities, including those related to capital projects and deferred compensation. It would also include an explanation of the relationship among the budgets and revenue streams of our nine individual schools, and longitudinal fiscal assessments of Johns Hopkins University and Medicine. We believe that the extraordinary conditions in which we find ourselves more than justify immediate recourse to unrestricted funds in our endowment, to loans, and the sale of dispensable assets.

2. Impose an immediate moratorium on cuts to staffing, compensation, and research funding and identify alternative solutions. The university-wide suspension of pension contributions must be reversed. Contracts for faculty outside the tenure stream must be renewed before the fiscal year ends. Support of graduate students must be extended so that research interrupted by the crisis can be completed. Staff who directly support the university’s central mission and who sustain our local communities must keep their jobs. We believe the university’s financial health can be maintained without undermining the work it was created to enable.

3. Take immediate steps to include elected faculty voices at all levels of university decision-making. The university administration cannot confront a crisis of this magnitude alone and should embrace the expertise of its own faculty. Faculty at all schools are uniquely invested in teaching and research, and as such have primary responsibility over the university’s core academic mission. Elected faculty members should immediately be included in all bodies that set the university’s direction and that approve major financial commitments. We ask that you work with faculty to undertake a collegial comprehensive review and reform of university finances. In no future crisis should we find ourselves in such a precarious state. Only by recommitting to principles of shared governance can we preserve and protect Johns Hopkins’ historic mission.

Respectfully submitted,

The Undersigned Members of the University Faculty

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