Statement of Support for TRU (10/30/2023)

Dear Homewood Graduate Students,

It is the role of the GRO to represent our graduate students and do what is best for their success and wellbeing. Here at Hopkins, graduate students often do not receive the working conditions they deserve despite their tireless research efforts. Stipends below the living wage, no guarantee of stipend increases to match inflation, late payments, opaque and one-sided grievance procedures, inadequate transportation to campus, and lack of protection for international students are just some of the myriad of issues we face. Why do we see this happen so often? The answer is simple – we are not seen and respected as graduate workers.

For far too long, grads have not had a seat at the table in making the decisions which impact their workplace and livelihoods, having to plead with university administration for help only for progress to move slowly, if it all. We now find ourselves with the opportunity to have to no longer plead for progress, but instead have it written in a lawfully binding contract. Teachers and Researchers United (TRU), the official graduate worker union of Johns Hopkins, has been making impressive strides in establishing a thoughtful and comprehensive contract in their negotiations with JHU administration.

When the vote to establish the union was taken, 97% of voters voted to approve the union with 64% of all eligible voters voting YES to the union. It was clear then and it is clear now that our graduate students want a union that fights for a contract to improve their labor conditions, and it is our job as the GRO to ensure their voice is being heard! We, the Graduate Representative Organization, unequivocally support the efforts of TRU in their contract negotiations! We as the GRO will work hand-in-hand with TRU to ensure our graduate students are legally protected and ensure fair labor standards.

We implore you all to be involved in the collective actions and bargaining process! You can track the current progress of the bargaining with TRU’s Bargaining Tracker or join the Contract Action Team (CAT) to be involved in department-level and school-wide organizing efforts. The way we win this fight is together so we hope you will join us and join TRU in fighting for better graduate worker conditions!

In solidarity,

The Graduate Representative Organization

Statement of Support for students of Iranian descent (4/19/2023)

GRO statement of support for students of Iranian descent [PDF] (text below)

Dear JHU Graduate Student Body,

Many students of Iranian descent on our campus, and worldwide, have been heavily impacted by the horrific events that have transpired in Iran since September 2022. We want to extend our condolences and amplify their call for awareness and help. Protests erupted after the death of Mahsa Jina Amini, a 22 year-old teacher who was kidnapped by Iran’s morality police for not wearing her compulsory hijab to their standards. She was soon pronounced dead after reported torture. The Iranian government has since responded to protesters with deadly force in streets, places of worship, and academic institutions. Unarmed civilians, professors, students, and children continue to be imprisoned, assaulted, and killed. Mahsa’s fate has been shared by other Iranians subjected to severe oppression for the past 44 years who continue to fight for basic human rights. These include rights in law, travel, education, and public dress code, where women and cultural groups face the most extreme discrimination.

We acknowledge that these events have taken an immense emotional toll on our Iranian community while they continue their day-to-day student obligations. We strongly stand behind students of Iranian descent at JHU and are in solidarity with the Iranian people who continue to fight for their basic human rights.

To our fellow Iranian students, we want to say that we are here for you, to listen and provide any form of support that we can. You are not alone.


In solidarity,

The Graduate Representative Organization

Turkey and Syria Earthquake relief (2/16/2023)

GRO statement regarding Turkey and Syria Earthquake relief [PDF] (text below)

Dear Homewood grads,

In light of the recent disastrous earthquake in Syria and Turkey, the GRO has received emails regarding relief and recovery efforts which we would like to share with you all. We encourage you to help and spread the word and share these with people who are looking to contribute to relief efforts on the ground. The GRO will also be soon releasing a statement of solidarity with the families and loved ones of the victims and those affected by this tragedy. Some of the resources shared with us have been listed below.

Syrian and Turkish relief efforts

And more if you would like to contribute to a different organization from abroad:

Following are the emails of solidarity that have been sent along with these resources.


Dear all,

As you know or might have read in the news by now, the disastrous earthquake and its aftermath in Turkey and Syria is pretty dire and heartbreaking. In Turkey only, there have been 10 provinces that faced immeasurable destruction. While the death toll is near 20,000 (now about 40,000 at the time of sending this email) according to official numbers, they are not including unidentified bodies in that number, and there are still people alive under the rubble after 3 days. Some villages, unfortunately, still don’t have rescue teams in place. On the one hand it’s quite heartwarming to see both local and international community come together with all they have, on the other hand, the trauma survived by both people rescued and volunteers doing the rescuing is unimaginable.

While donations and help has been pouring in from individuals and organizations from all over the world, there are still a lot of immediate needs that need to be addressed in the region. Moreover, financial and volunteer support will be needed in the weeks and months to come to rebuild the towns and cities, and more importantly, survivors’ lives.

If you want to contribute in any way and donate to the rescue efforts/ immediate necessities in the region, here are some trustworthy links below. Additionally, Turkish friends living in DC area are collecting (in coordination with their families in Turkey) donations to local NGOs for immediate action, such as trucks of medicine and hygienic product deliveries to the region. For transparency, we send you the receipts and videos of products delivered – if you want to go that route, my Venmo is @Ezgi-Ince.

Please feel free to share these links with friends and family who are interested in donating as well (links listed above)

Thank you again for your solidarity.


Ezgi Ince

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Comparative Thought and Literature

Johns Hopkins University


Dear JHU Students, Staff, Scholars, and Faculty,

I hope this email finds you well. As we are all aware, a powerful series of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria demolished thousands of buildings and has killed more than 12,000 people (this number has crossed 40,000 on the day this email is being sent). Thousands were left homeless amid the numbing winter cold, and more than 40,000 people were reported injured.

In light of these events, I would like to encourage you to donate to organizations that are working tirelessly to provide aid and support to those affected by the earthquakes. Your support, no matter how small, can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need. There are a number of reputable organizations that are providing critical support such as food, shelter, and medical care to those affected by the crisis.

It is important to note that these organizations rely on the generosity of people like you to continue their work. Professor Benjamin Schafer (Hackerman Professor at the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering, and the faculty advisor of Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, EERI, student chapter) will match first $500 from anyone towards donation of earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage each and every one of you to make a difference by donating to these organizations. Your support can help bring hope and comfort to those affected by this crisis.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Mohammed Eladly

PhD Candidate at the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering, and the president of Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) student chapter

Johns Hopkins University


GRO JHPD survery and statement (11/28/2022)

GRO JHPD survey and statement[PDF] (text below)

Hello everyone,

Thank you for filling out the recent JHPD and campus security survey. We had over 600 responses to the recent survey (with over 200 additional comments)! This is more responses than we have had on any survey previously. We have attached the results, filtering specifically for the Homewood graduate students which were 93% of respondents, in this email. Despite a rather split opinion on many of the points in the survey, there are certainly unresolved issues that had a majority consensus. After looking at the results we felt it was important that we spoke on these issues as well as what we as the GRO can and will do to address them:

  • Our Homewood graduate students feel unsafe on and around campus and believe the current system as it stands is not sufficient. Almost all were in support of other solutions we proposed such as:
    • Increased BlueJay shuttle availability and ride time improvement
    • Reinstating Lyft ride credits
    • Consistent and ample lighting
    • Better escort services

and students suggested some others such as:

  • More emergency blue lights around campus and better maintenance of those that currently exist
  • Greater accessibility to current security personnel on campus and in the surrounding community.
  • Better promotion of the Public Safety Hotline (410-516-4600)

The solutions we originally proposed are ones that we have been calling on Dr. Bard and the Office of Public Safety to implement. We plan on incorporating the suggestions given by students in this survey as well in our future requests of this office. The Office of Public Safety has the resources for these initiatives and it only serves the community to implement them, so we will keep pushing them on this front.

  • The transparency and ease of access to information about the JHPD is not at the level it needs to be. Current information about the JHPD can be found at the public safety website:, but this website alone is clearly not enough to ensure our graduates feel informed about the process and that their voices are being heard. This is something we will work on directly with Dr. Bard and the Public Safety Office. We want to make sure that any and all information is readily available, easily accessible, and understandable to all our students, and that there is a proper forum for grads to ask questions, give feedback, and raise concerns.

We as the GRO will always strive to be representative of the student body we serve and to do what is in the best interest of our students. The results of this survey elucidated how critical it is that we are truly taking the concerns of our students into account as we take steps towards improving the student experience and wellbeing here at Johns Hopkins. In reality, we are a group of graduate student representatives, so many of the changes we want implemented are not those we have the administrative authority to implement. Instead, we must continue to serve as advocates for our grads and speak out on their behalf given our more direct line to university officials. This often means calling upon administrative offices who have the power to directly implement these changes. That is why we have called on and are continuing to call on the Office of Public Safety to implement these measures!

We are extremely appreciative for everyone who filled out the survey and for those who left additional comments. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us and we look forward to the progress we can make towards these efforts.

Survey results


The GRO Co-Chairs

TRU Support Statement (10/31/2022)

TRU Support Statement[PDF] (text below)

Dear Homewood Graduate Students,

It is the role of the GRO to represent our graduate students and do what is best for their success and wellbeing. Here at Hopkins, graduate students often do not receive the working conditions they deserve despite their tireless research efforts. Stipends below the living wage, no guarantee of stipend increases to match inflation, late payments, opaque and one-sided grievance procedures, inadequate transportation to campus, and lack of protection for international students are just some of the myriad of issues we face. Why do we see this happen so often? The answer is simple – we are not seen and respected as graduate workers.

For far too long, grads have not had a seat at the table in making the decisions which impact their workplace and livelihoods, having to plead with university administration for help only for progress to move slowly, if it all. We now find ourselves with the opportunity to take that seat. Teachers and Researchers United (TRU) has been making impressive strides in establishing a union for graduate student workers at both Homewood and the East Baltimore campus and in gaining legal recognition [for this organization] from the National Labor Relations Board. What does a formally recognized graduate workers union get us? The ability to directly bargain with university administration and form a contract to improve our working conditions. Unionization campaigns have been successful at a number of peer universities like Columbia, MIT, Brown, and Harvard, and we have no doubt that it can be successful at Hopkins too.

Within the first day of releasing union cards for graduate students to sign, over 1500 grads across Johns Hopkins (>45%) have signed, with nearly 1000 of those being Homewood grads. That is half of all PhD students at Homewood who have signed cards. Therefore, it is clear that our graduate students want a union to improve their labor conditions, and it is our job as the GRO to ensure their voice is being heard! We, the Graduate Representative Organization, unequivocally support the efforts of TRU and endorse their campaign to unionize graduate students, and we encourage our Homewood grads to sign a union card and join them in support of having a union election.

Your advisor, department, or the University cannot see what information you fill out on this card or that you have filled out a card. Nor are they allowed to ask you if you filled out a card or what you filled out. This also applies to international students; you have the same labor and organizing rights as your domestic peers! Joining a union is legally protected and signing a card is confidential, and the mere fact that some of us have felt threatened or face confidentiality concerns shows you the state of the situation we are in. We hope that you join us in supporting TRU so that all of our voices can be heard.

In solidarity,



GRO Statement Regarding Sinophobia and Anti-Asian Racism (11/24/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Statement Regarding Sinophobia and Anti-Asian Racism [PDF] (text below)

Dear JHU Graduate Student Body,

We are writing today to share our thoughts regarding xenophobic attacks and discrimination towards the Asian community as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the U.S. During this past year, the Asian community has been faced with outright violence, bullying, and more insidious forms of social and political abuse, showing that ignorance about the pandemic is as potent as the illness itself. The GRO stands in solidarity with our Asian community and condemns discrimination and harassment based on race, national origin, or any other grounds.

Unfortunately, many have placed the blame for COVID-19 on the Asian community. US officials have repeatedly referred to this virus as the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung-flu’. Our engagement with China in trade wars, as well as human rights controversies, has also led people to wrongly form negative opinions towards Asians. As a result, a large number of Asians today experience feelings of being targeted and unfairly blamed. According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of US adults have an unfavorable view of China, up 26% from 2018. 78% of US adults place ‘a fair amount/great deal of the blame’ for the global spread of COVID-19 on China’s initial handling of the outbreak in Wuhan. The consequences for this include the Asian community having to deal with horrible treatment, such as being spat on and called racial slurs in public. Asians have also had to face outright physical abuse as a result of people’s xenophobic behavior. This does not begin to describe the emotional distress felt by those enduring or living in fear of such abhorrent treatment.

An example of a heinous act of racism and hatred happened right here at Johns Hopkins. On October 28, a Chinese graduate student from the Department of Chemistry (KSAS) was leading a seminar on Zoom when a person (identified as a non-affiliate by Hopkins IT) hacked the meeting and shouted racist, anti-Chinese slurs at the graduate student. A few moments later, another person hacked the meeting and shouted various racial slurs targeted towards Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. This despicable act leaves us incredibly saddened and angry. As a diverse community, we must be committed to confronting discrimination where we see it and be outspoken advocates for equality.

It is encouraging to see our government take steps to combat discrimination against Asians. The US House of Representatives passed a resolution this past September denouncing anti-Asian behavior and rhetoric, including President Trump’s use of the term “China virus” in reference to the pandemic. Even though this resolution helps with condemning racism and xenophobia, it is not enough. All efforts put forth by our government will be for naught if we as a community do not step up and do our part.

As the abuse faced by Asian individuals and communities intensifies across the country, the GRO Executive Board would like to encourage students to avoid being bystanders. There are plenty of ways to combat sinophobia and racism against Asians, including creating petitions, calling representatives and lawmakers, calling out racism in our community, and self-education. The GRO Executive Board will continue to urge the University to support future initiatives for collaboration and conversation on issues regarding race and justice, and take steps towards combating systems of oppression for minority groups. For instance, we will advocate for racial sensitivity training for our security personnel as well as town halls where members of our community can express their concerns to the administration. We will continue to advocate for our graduate community and we would like to invite students to provide input on what actions they would like to see as part of this effort.

We encourage everyone to seek out mental health and well-being resources offered by the University. We also want to share a list of resources recommended by the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) on the East Baltimore Campus that focuses on self-care in the wake of enduring racial trauma. We would like to share a collection of resources [1],[2],[3] for members of the university community looking to understand more about antiracism and how to strive for it in themselves and with others. Finally, please refer to this webpage in case you want to report inappropriate behavior during a Zoom meeting.

We hope the Homewood graduate community takes this opportunity to reflect on such matters and how we can collectively work to better ourselves, our community, and the world we share. We need each other. Regardless of our race, as long as we care for each other and are willing to contribute to the betterment of our community, we will be in good shape. Besides our dedication to research, it is our commitment to each other’s success and wellbeing that will make our university great. We must uphold our values of dignity and diversity. As the GRO, we stand resolute in our commitment to address racism in all forms within our community.

In solidarity,

Your GRO Executive Board

GRO Letter to Homewood Graduate Board Regarding the GRE (11/16/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Statement Regarding the GRE [PDF] (text below)

Dear Homewood Graduate Board,

We write today to call on you to advocate for, in the strongest possible terms, the permanent removal of the GRE as an admissions requirement for graduate programs on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University.

Johns Hopkins University is a recognized leader in higher education, especially in research. We are the nation’s leading investor in research as of 2018, as well as ranking #10 in global university rankings from the US News and World Report. This status is based on the collective efforts of our talented colleagues, who hail from across the nation and the world and contribute to our world class education and research. However, many would-be colleagues are deprived of the chance to join our community due to the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Research data over many years has suggested that not only does the GRE fail to perform as an objective metric to predict graduate student success, but it also acts as a significant barrier to entry for numerous students, negatively impacting both prospective students and universities. In particular, qualified women, minorities, and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are often overlooked, or are stopped from submitting an application by the GRE. These lost opportunities to diversify our community have negative impacts across the campus, and in the long term could significantly impact the university’s campus life, research output, and reputation.

The Effect of the GRE on Diversity and its Relationship to Academic Success

Recent research has made it clear that the GRE does not predict whether students will succeed in their degree programs, nor does it reliably predict how graduates will perform in the workforce. The GRE is instead an indicator of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. It has been an unrelenting obstacle that has prevented minorities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds from being recognized for their merit. In a column published in the journal Nature, Professors Miller and Stassun reported that women score 80 points lower on average in the GRE physical sciences exams than men do. Meanwhile, African Americans score 200 points lower than white Americans do [1]. Assessing applicants on these scores would therefore indicate that both of these groups are unprepared for the rigors of graduate school, yet research shows that such an assessment is unwarranted. Work published by Liane Moneta-Koehler, the Director of Research Development at Vanderbilt University, evaluated the performance of their nearly 500 life sciences students. The study reported that, while the GRE was a moderate predictor of first semester course grades, no correlation was found between higher GRE scores and reduced time-to-degree, number of publications, or pass rates in qualifying exams. The GRE was not reliable in predicting who would graduate with a Ph.D. or write successful grant applications [2]. A 2019 study of physics students conducted by C.W. Miller also found that GRE scores failed to predict doctoral completion [4]. Additionally, a multi-institutional study found that GRE scores did not predict time to degree or indicate who would leave during or after the first year. This study also found that in engineering, men in the lowest quartile for GRE Q scores completed their programs at a rate 25% higher than those in the highest quartile [3]. The effects of the GRE in unfairly limiting the admission of women is of particular concern in STEM fields, as women earn only 25% of STEM PhDs [3].

The GRE has contributed to the lack of diversity at universities across the country. As of 2019, only 24% of Engineering PhD students at JHU identified as female and only 11% of PhD students across all divisions of our university identified as an underrepresented minority based on the Provost’s PDF Document: 2020 Report on Graduate Student Composition. We are a university that prides itself on the diversity and academic success of our students. President Daniels and Provost Kumar emphasized in the Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, “Diversity of people, thought, experience, and background is fundamental to the mission of this university.” Requiring the GRE is inconsistent with these mission statements. We are aware that some preliminary research performed by Dr. Sri Sarma in the office of the Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering indicated that the GRE can be correlated to time-to-degree based on a dataset of around 180 students. However, the correlative value is relatively low for the GRE Q score, somewhat higher for GRE Analytical Writing, and negative for GRE Verbal Reasoning – meaning the model indicates that higher verbal scores in engineering students lead to longer time-to-degree. Further, the model gave significantly more weight to students’ gender, and whether they came from an international school – both of these factors dwarfed all of the GRE components in predicting time to degree. Whether this model could be validated with a larger dataset and a more accurate assessment of graduate student success (such as publications, fellowships, and post-graduate employment) is unknown, but studies across many other schools suggest it is unlikely. Regardless, at best the model indicates that GRE scores need to be read contextually in an application, with a holistic view of the candidate- something that can be challenging to enact or enforce. Simply removing it, as its predictive power is little at best (and discriminatory at worst), would provide a more inclusive and equitable admissions process.

Economic Consequences of GRE

The GRE not only discriminates based on race and gender, it discriminates against socioeconomically disadvantaged families [1], [5]. According to Peter Sacks in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, the ETS (the maker of the exam) self-reported that GRE test scores are highly associated with parental income and education levels [5], [6]. The exorbitant cost of the test and associated expenses can also be prohibitive for less privileged, but undoubtedly qualified, students. For example, the GRE registration fee is $205, which does not include test preparation (a typical course is $400) or the fees to send scores to your preferred institutions ($27 each after the first four). Additionally, exams are often only offered in major metropolitan areas. Many students have to undertake significant expenses just for travel and overnight lodging to take the exam. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to exams is even harder and more expensive. If a prospective student takes the GRE more than once and sends a composite score of best attempts, the cost is an additional $150. For students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and potentially deep in student loan debt, these expenses are insurmountable. There may be an untapped pool of academically prepared students whose applications would never be seen by an admissions committee because the expense deters them from submitting applications. By continuing to require the GRE for admissions, we are further damaging our diversity and promoting income inequality.

US News and World Report Rankings

We understand and acknowledge the importance of our rankings to our perception by others in the world. When prospective students are considering universities, the US News and World Report (USNWR) rankings are among the primary resources that they may consult. Performing well on these rankings is important to ensuring that the best and brightest students are encouraged and interested in applying to Johns Hopkins. There are also trends, at least for undergraduate programs, that higher rankings can inspire greater philanthropic support. We recognize that by eliminating the GRE as an admissions requirement, we run the risk of having a lower ranking in USNWR, specifically for engineering graduate programs.

However, the benefits of eliminating the GRE as an admissions requirement far outweigh these costs. When we turn away students based on test scores, we are often rejecting talented students not on the basis of their academic ability, but rather their race, gender, or socioeconomic background. We simply lose access to all that talent. Since the data shows that there is a weak correlation between the exam and success in graduate school, and the test contributes to sustained inequality in graduate education, we must question why USNWR still uses the exam to evaluate a program’s merit. We have the opportunity to be leaders in the field, to galvanize other top universities to remove the GRE as an admissions requirement, and push for change in the USNWR ranking metrics for the general betterment of higher education.

Programs That No Longer Require The GRE

Many of our academic peers and national funding agencies have already ceased using the GRE to evaluate programs for ranking and students for admissions. For example, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program application has not required GRE scores since 2010. Since 2015, the same has been true of the NIH T32 grants and F30 and F31 fellowship applications. These changes have encouraged biomedical programs here at JHU to eliminate the GRE requirement, and the results of this decision have been promising. For example, the graduate program of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at JHUSOM reported an increase in total number of applications by 43% after abolishing the exam requirement in 2018. They also observed an increase in the first-year GPA of matriculating students from 3.52 to 3.75. In the 2019-2020 application cycle, 50% of the life sciences programs at the 50 top-ranked U.S. research universities did not require the GRE, programs that include Harvard University, Columbia University, and Mayo Clinic [7]. Engineering programs across the country, unfortunately, have been more recalcitrant and the GRE is still required at many peer institutions, with the notable exception of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments at MIT, which removed the GRE and remained highly ranked departments. We have the opportunity to emerge as the leader among our peers in increasing diversity among graduate students by removing the GRE requirement.


We hope that you will reconsider requiring the GRE for admission into our university. We firmly believe that the GRE’s role in graduate admissions causes more harm than good for the university. The GRE is not an adequate indicator for academic performance and intellectual ability. The monetary cost of the exam disadvantages swathes of prospective students, thereby reducing diversity and diminishing the capabilities of our institution. Likewise, students from certain backgrounds are at a disadvantage when taking the exam due to the cultural biases inherent in standardized exams. Altogether, this exam deprives graduate students and faculty of the opportunity to collaborate with diverse and gifted colleagues, which is critical to success in our increasingly globalized society. Even for those students who were able to afford the time and money to take and perform well on the GRE, it fails in its core purpose of providing an objective and quantitative metric to predict success in graduate school. While we recognize the concern that our program rankings in US News and World Report depend in part on our GRE scores, we believe that these same programs would be substantively improved by abandoning the GRE.

We are at a pivotal moment in history as the disruption to normal admissions cycles due to COVID-19 has given us a clear pathway to a more equitable future for admissions. We can be leaders in this field by abandoning the GRE altogether and by encouraging peer institutions to follow our example. Through these actions, we can experience a wave of new, diverse, enthusiastic applicants who can bring our university to even greater heights.


The Graduate Representative Organization


[1] C. Miller and K. Stassun, “A test that fails,” Nature, vol. 510, no. 7504, pp. 303–304, Jun. 2014.

[2] Moneta-Koehler L, Brown AM, Petrie KA, Evans BJ, Chalkley R (2017) “The Limitations of the GRE in Predicting Success in Biomedical Graduate School.” PLoS ONE 12(1): e0166742

[3] S. L. Petersen, E. S. Erenrich, D. L. Levine, J. Vigoreaux, and K. Gile, “Multi-institutional study of GRE scores as predictors of STEM PhD degree completion: GRE gets a low mark,” PLoS One, vol. 13, no. 10, p. e0206570, Oct. 2018.

[4] C. W. Miller, B. M. Zwickl, J. R. Posselt, R. T. Silvestrini, and T. Hodapp, “Typical physics Ph.D. Admissions criteria limit access to underrepresented groups but fail to predict doctoral completion,” Sci. Adv., vol. 5, no. 1, p. eaat7550, Jan. 2019.

[5] P. Sacks, “ Standardized Testing: Meritocracy’s Crooked Yardstick ,” Chang. Mag. High. Learn., vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 24–31, Mar. 1997.

[6] M. Pennock-Roman, “Background Characteristics and Future Plans of High-Scoring GRE General Test Examinees,” 1994

[7] K. Langin, “A wave of graduate programs drops the GRE application requirement,” Science., May 2019.

GRO Executive Board Statement on COVID-19 Workplace Safety (10/21/2020)

PDF Document: Statement on COVID-19 Workplace Safety [PDF] (text below)

Dear Vice Provosts Nancy Kass, Stephen Gange, Alanna Shanahan, and Kevin Shollenberger,

We write today to express our concerns regarding the safety of graduate students on the Homewood campus in light of operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our key concerns include: 1) the lack of available testing for asymptomatic students who have possibly been exposed; 2) the lack of general population screening to detect asymptomatic individuals on campus (outside of the COVID-19 prevalence study); and 3) the inadequacy of the enforcement of the current guidelines, along with 4) the tendency of the burden of enforcement to fall on graduate students. Combined, these factors have engendered a feeling amongst many graduate students that there is a lack of concern regarding the well-being of graduate students at Johns Hopkins compared to some of our peer institutions. Over 60% of respondents to our “Return to Research Study” reported feeling unsafe, to varying degrees, working on campus with regard to the implemented COVID-19 precautions. Reports from our constituents regarding noncompliance, testing difficulties, and limited enforcement of safety guidelines have resulted in requests that the following concerns be addressed.

We feel that testing for COVID-19 at Johns Hopkins University is inadequate and falls short of the testing policies of our peer institutions across the country as well as other universities in Baltimore and the surrounding area. Towson University, Harvard University, UC Berkeley, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have all implemented screening policies for the general population to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 in their communities, either in the form of random testing or surveillance testing (e.g. once-per-week testing for all faculty, staff and students). Beyond the COVID-19 prevalence study that includes a number of JHU affiliates, there is no general population screening conducted by JHU at this time. This has created a situation where infected asymptomatic individuals could continue to spread COVID-19 without realizing it while in full compliance with all university guidelines. There has already been a case where infected individuals working at the Homewood campus only became aware of their infection because they went through mandatory testing at another university in Baltimore. This is not acceptable from a university that messages itself as a national leader in public health.

The university policy of only testing those who had close contact (defined currently as standing within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) with individuals who test positive fails to test all individuals identified by the CDC as being the highest priority for testing. Moreover, at points in the past the definition of “close contact” required individuals to be standing within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes without masks, meaning that to even qualify for testing an individual would need to announce non-compliance with the PDF Document: Return to Campus Guidelines. According to the CDC, anyone who works the same or overlapping shifts in the same area with an individual who tested positive should also be tested and isolation strategies should be adopted depending on the situation. Instead, many laboratory reopening plans require that individuals who work the same lab shift as an individual who tested positive isolate for a period of 14 days, but JHU will not order tests for those individuals so long as they remain asymptomatic. While this strategy should help curb transmission, it is not in line with CDC guidelines as it does not require testing of individuals at high risk of exposure and it does not account for possible spread through the roommates of those at risk of infection. In addition, by not testing, JHU places a burden on graduate students to either self-isolate for 14-days or pay to confirm that they are COVID-19 negative. The only testing options available for those students are to seek out free asymptomatic testing at facilities that are far from campus or to seek a test from an urgent care facility and pay the associated fee(s). These testing policies put certain community members, including graduate students and custodial staff, at significant additional risk compared to other community members. We find this lack of testing to be particularly disconcerting coming from a university that is one of the leading institutions in monitoring COVID-19 prevalence.

The rapid nature of the research restart resulted in the implementation of policies that were not fully developed, the ramifications of which continue to negatively impact graduate student safety. Rules between buildings are varied and determined by the departments in those buildings; for example, masks must be worn at all times in some buildings, but are permitted to be removed in single-occupancy spaces in others. Individual labs were left to create and implement reopening guidelines that fit within the rules for their building and division, with minimal guidance over issues such as eating and drinking areas and the cleaning of communal spaces. While these guidelines were subject to approval, there has been little follow-up to ensure that labs are adhering to their own guidelines or the general rules. Rapid changes in guidelines over the first four to six weeks, without clear communications, have also contributed to increased risk, confusion, and the inequitable application of the new guidelines. Loosening of the de-densification guidelines that have allowed the increase from 1 person per 400 square feet to 1 person per 200 square feet and the re-opening of office spaces for individuals who needed access for computational work or who needed a place to wait during experimental downtime were announced less than six weeks after the initial research restart. While it was prudent to first begin with more conservative safety guidelines, these changes occurred at a time when the university was awaiting the outcome of positive cases in Homewood laboratories. Consequently, the loosening of these restrictions should have been delayed until there was confirmation that the initial guidelines were effective in curtailing the spread. Certain laboratories have attained special permission to further densify the number of people allowed in the space to above 1 person per 200 square feet. This densification is in violation of the policies outlined in thePDF Document: Return to Research Guidelines, creates an unsafe environment for the graduate students working in these spaces, and also creates inequity between labs and between students. These exemptions call into question the devotion of the administration to the well-being of graduate students and suggest that concerns regarding research productivity are the main factor guiding policy.

The University guidelines are not adequately enforced, and too often the burden of enforcement falls on graduate students. While it is now officially required that everyone complete the health check on the Prodensity app prior to entering campus, there is no system on the Homewood campus to verify that people entering buildings on campus have a valid campus pass. Violations of the mask policy are rampant and unaddressed. Faculty, staff, visiting prospective undergraduate students, and current students have regularly been seen on campus without masks. From the Return to Lab Survey conducted by the Provosts’ Office, 26%, 11%, and 50% of respondents (consisting of graduate students and postdocs from KSAS, WSE, BSPH, and SOM) reported occasional to frequent violations of shift, mask, and distancing guidelines, respectively, in their lab spaces. 27% and 45% of respondents also reported seeing occasional to frequent violations of mask and distancing guidelines in shared spaces of their lab building by lab and non-lab personnel respectively. Both the survey issued by the Provosts’ Office and the GRO showed a lack of familiarity and comfort with the Speak2Us hotline. Graduate students who have called the Speak2Us hotline report feeling as though their concerns have gone unaddressed. Indeed, the online platform for the Speak2Us hotline did not include the Whiting School of Engineering as an option in the dropdown menu for the location of a policy violation until this week, despite this issue being brought to the administration’s attention on September 22nd. Furthermore, the entire system is dependent on individuals being symptomatic and honest about their symptoms. While we hope that all JHU community members abide by public health guidelines, and strive to protect others in their community, we understand that this is not always the case. Pressure from advisors, lack of symptoms, misinterpretation of mild symptoms, and other external pressures can lead an individual to make a decision that puts other JHU community members at risk. Students should not be put in a situation where they must physically vacate their workspace to avoid possible exposure, even temporarily, because of someone else’s failure to follow the guidelines. Nor should they be required to enforce regulations, especially at a time when people are resorting to violence in response to being asked to follow public health guidelines such as masking requirements.

Consequently, we call on the university administration to take the following actions:

1) Make on-demand asymptomatic testing available for university community members, including students, who fall under the Tier 1 designation for testing priority, as defined by the CDC.

2) Implement surveillance testing for everyone who is working on campus, including faculty, staff, students, and contracted workers.

3) Immediately make the guidelines clear and consistent between buildings and departments, while maintaining flexibility within the standards for individual labs, to avoid confusion and ensure that the guidelines are implemented more uniformly across the Homewood campus. Do not implement changes to the guidelines without a formal announcement and a definitive plan for adoption that is clearly communicated to faculty, staff, and students.

4) Employ well-trained staff to enforce the existing on-campus guidelines, including having people stationed at building entrances to ensure that everyone who enters has completed the health check on the Prodensity app and is properly wearing a mask. To limit discrimination and inequitable enforcement, these employees should undergo rigorous bias training and be exclusively focused on preventing violations inside campus buildings and on the main quads, rather than around the periphery of campus.



GRO Public Comment Submitted to Department of Homeland Security (10/20/2020)

GRO Public Comment Submitted to Department of Homeland Security [PDF] (text below)

Dear Grads,

The GRO is aware and concerned about the new rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, regarding graduate students. The executive board has drafted a comment opposing this proposal and affirming our support for international students. You can view more information on this proposal and submit a comment of your own here.


The GRO E-Board


Public Comment:

We are writing to express our concerns regarding objection to the new rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, which has the potential to fundamentally undermine the educational freedoms and humanitarian values associated with the US higher education system, values that attract the most accomplished and talented students around the world to our country.

International students in the US

International students are a critical source of talent and contribute significantly to our country. In 2019, the total number of international students enrolled in US colleges was 1,095,299, making up 5.5% of the total US student body. Foreign students generate an estimated $45 billion in revenue annually and support more than 458,000 jobs, while nearly one-quarter of the founders of $1 billion U.S. start-up companies first came to America as international students. In 2018, according to the US Department of Commerce, they contributed $45 billion to the economy. Moreover, international students strengthen our scientific and technical research and also bring international perspectives into U.S. classrooms. According to NAFSA, institutions continued to report that the U.S. social and political environment (57.9%) and feeling unwelcome in the United States (48.6%) were factors contributing to decline in international student enrollment. The new rule has the potential to further discourage international students from enrolling in US universities, which are already experiencing a decline in foreign student enrollment.

Time to completion

According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, the median amount of time required for completion of a Ph.D. program is 5.8 years, while for humanities and art doctorates the median time is 7.1 years. The proposed rule only grants students 2 or 4 years of student status. Therefore, under the new policy, international Ph.D. candidates would have to apply multiple times for extension to complete their degree. These extensions however, would not necessarily be guaranteed. Currently, the Designated School Officials (DSO’s), which are familiar with the specifics of higher education, are responsible for approving extension requests. Immigration officials will not be able to properly determine which extensions are justifiable.

National security / impact overstay rates

The new proposal argues that unmonitored students pose a risk to national security. International students are already the most highly monitored group of non-immigrant visa holders and they are required to report any changes to addresses and phone numbers within 10 days of any change. Every university’s DSOs are required to confirm every F-1 and J-1 visa holder has enrolled full-time every term. If a student drops below full-time enrollment, or is unable to enroll, their F-1 or J-1 status is terminated. SEVIS is continuously updated by DHS agencies and by colleges and universities. SEVIS data includes dates of entry, periods of authorized study, optional practical training, and other detailed information.

Regarding the overstay rates concerns, a report by the National Foundation for American Policy in which the Department of Homeland Security reports were examined, found that the overstay rate for F-1 international students is not an actual overstay rate but only an upper-bound estimate of individuals who DHS could not positively identify as leaving the United States. This means that the DHS data represent actual overstays plus arrivals whose departure could not be verified. Therefore, the rule relies on inflated flawed measurements to limit the admission periods for students from specific countries. It shouldn’t be used as a reliable measure for how many students overstay. Lastly, it is concerning that the 2-year limitation applies to countries that have been named as having an overstay rate of over 10 percent or are on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, including most countries in Africa but also Vietnam, Philippines and other countries. The proposed rule feeds into xenophobic and racist fears regarding international students.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the new rule will cause additional burdens, imposing uncertainty and fear on international students whose academic program and research might be significantly interrupted or delayed. Our economy will be damaged further if we lose the critical talent and skills international students bring to our shores. Our domestic students will further be at a disadvantage if they are deprived of the opportunity to collaborate with international colleagues. For the above reasons, we ask that you withdraw this harmful proposal.

The Executive Board of the Graduate Representative Organization

Johns Hopkins University

GRO Statement Regarding Johns Hopkins Police Department (07/08/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Statement Regarding a Johns Hopkins Police Department [PDF] (text below)

Dear Homewood Graduate Students,

On June 12th, Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels, Johns Hopkins Hospital President Kevin Sowers, and Dean of the Medical Faculty Paul Rothman announced a two-year pause on implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD). The context for this announcement is unmistakable: there is currently a massive national upheaval over the extent of police powers and the long line of police killings of Black people and people of color more broadly in this country. While we appreciate the leadership of JHU acknowledging the political moment, a pause on the implementation of JHPD does not go far enough. The GRO opposes any implementation of a JHPD and calls on Johns Hopkins to abandon its pursuit of a private police force once and for all.

JHU’s ambition to start a JHPD has been marked by a singular focus on lobbying Maryland and Baltimore officials, while spurring vociferous protest and opposition from students, faculty, and community members, culminating in a month-long sit-in and occupation of Garland Hall last year. Widely publicized community engagement efforts did not seem to meaningfully shift the University’s approach in any way, and appeared to be more of an attempt at selling an already decided program rather than good-faith engagement in understanding the concerns of people opposed to the private police force. While putting a pause on implementing the police force is a necessary first step, Johns Hopkins has so far not shown a meaningful capacity for community engagement or listening to input from various stakeholders at our university, and it is difficult to imagine Johns Hopkins dramatically improving these practices during the two-year pause. Another two years of the same inadequate channels for public discussion and continued disregard of dissenting viewpoints will only exacerbate concerns and mistrust of JHPD and Johns Hopkins more generally.

At this crucial historical juncture, Johns Hopkins has recognized that the prevailing winds are not in its favor for developing a private police force. What happens now that the two-year pause has been announced will define Johns Hopkins as an institution and how it understands its role in Baltimore’s civic life. Either this pause will be used to try to generate better PR for an already decided private police force, or Johns Hopkins will do the right thing and abandon these plans altogether. A two-year pause will not allow Johns Hopkins to somehow invent technical fixes to the endemic and persistent problems with policing in this country. It will not undo past disregard of dissenting Black and minority voices across the University. It will not give the University time to restore decades of broken trust with its neighbors. If Johns Hopkins is to live up to the ideals it espouses, it must cease its efforts to develop a private police force and envision new ways of giving back to the Baltimore community it depends on. While far from an exhaustive list, these efforts could include: donating funds originally intended for the police department to YouthWorks and other programs to support the community and youth of Baltimore; expanding resources for offices and departments that focus on diversity, inclusion, and supporting minorities on campus; and engaging in open-minded discussion with students, faculty, staff, and community members about fair and equitable campus safety programs.


Approved by vote of the GRO General Council, July 8th 2020

GRO Statement Regarding Noose Found at Stieff Silver (07/08/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Statement Regarding Noose Found at Stieff Silver [PDF] (text below)

Dear Homewood Graduate Students,

Like you, we were appalled to learn of the abhorrent, racist display of a noose at the construction site of an Engineering lab in JHU’s Stieff Silver building.

In America, the noose is one of the most potent symbols of racist violence against African Americans. Between 1882 and 1968, there are records that more than 4,700 people were lynched in the US with an incredibly disproportionate 73% of them being Black during a time when Black Americans accounted for less than 14% of the total US population. For those who want to learn more about why the noose is such a potent symbol of racial hatred, we share the following resources [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] (content warning: depictions of racist violence). That such a heinous act of racism and hatred happened in one of our buildings, within a short walk of the main Homewood campus, leaves us incredibly saddened and frightened. This act was carried out between Homewood Campus and Hampden, and both of these areas bear the weight of white supremacist histories, reminding us that such experiences are not neatly left in the past. It reminds us that the fight against racism is long and never-ending. As graduate students, we are also angry and outraged, and we cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this despicable act.

As an institution of higher education, we must be committed to building an inclusive and anti-racist environment for people of color. We must utilize our resources, knowledge, and skills to confront racism, both systemic and acute, and not be silent about injustice. The administration must continue to take strong and unambiguous positions, and change current policies in order to support the inclusion of underrepresented minority populations. Now more than ever, we must intensify our work to fight against discrimination on our campus, in our communities, and across the nation.

We encourage all graduate students to reach out to their departments and inquire about what programs, initiatives, and committees exist within their department whose focus is building and enhancing diversity, fighting discrimination, and serving the underrepresented minorities. We further encourage students, to whatever extent possible, to assist those efforts. Through the concerted action of the graduate student body, we can demonstrate that these are matters of grave importance to graduate students, thereby promoting change on campus.

As the investigation of this horrendous act evolves, we will advocate that the perpetrators be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law. We will advocate that the OIE investigation be transparent and that OIE provide regular updates to JHU affiliates and community members about the progress of its investigation. It must be made abundantly and unquestionably clear that our campus will not tolerate this kind of hate.

During this trying time, we want to remind everyone that there are a number of resources available to you through, including resources specifically dedicated to racial trauma. We are also sharing again this independently collected page of resources on racial trauma developed by the Graduate Student Association at the School of Medicine.



Approved by vote of the GRO General Council, July 7th 2020

GRO Executive Board Statement on Racial Justice and the Killing of George Floyd (06/04/2020)

Dear JHU Grads,
The past few months have been extremely challenging. The uncertainty, fear, and hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic are now accompanied by tragic reminders that racial inequality is an enduring feature of American life and it is present in the criminal justice system, in police practices, and beyond.
Over the past few days, millions of people across the country have expressed their deep frustration and raised their voices in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and many other Black Americans. Protestors have also rallied against the abiding structural violence and inequality that continues to affect Black Americans and other racial minorities in a staggeringly disproportionate manner relative to white Americans.
The Johns Hopkins community is not immune to such racism. Several groups under the administration at Johns Hopkins have released statements acknowledging the existence of such problems, supporting students involved in peaceful protests, and providing lists of resources for students. Other institutions, such as the University of Minnesota, have taken more direct action and cut ties with the local police department as a response to police violence. In February of 2019, the GRO General Council voted against supporting the creation of a JHU Police Department. Given the current climate, and active protests of police power across the nation, we write to remind you of that opposition today. We also urge the Johns Hopkins administration to proactively engage in more advocacy work to move towards justice and equality for our Black community members.
During this incredibly important moment, the GRO stands in solidarity with those most vulnerable. As the brutality faced by Black individuals and communities intensifies across the country, the GRO Executive Board would like to encourage students to not sit back and be silent. The participation of students in demonstrations against racism and police culture can be very significant, and, as history has shown, students’ actions can grow in scale and mobilize with off-campus activists and organizations. It is in our hands to be looking for ways we can contribute to the fight against this deep-rooted systemic racism, and all of us have a role to play in this process.
Not everyone can physically participate in the protests occurring across the country. Therefore, we want to call attention to the other ways one can make an impactful contribution, including: signing petitions, calling representatives and lawmakers, and self-education. This Black Lives Matter resource page can serve as a directory, listing several ways that you can help nationwide efforts.
The GRO Executive Board will urge the University to support future initiatives for collaboration and conversation on issues regarding race and justice, and take steps towards combating systems of oppression for minority groups. We will continue to advocate for our graduate community and we encourage students to participate in these open conversations.
We encourage everyone to seek out mental health and well-being resources offered by the University. We also want to share a list of resources recommended by the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) on the Medical Campus that focuses on self-care in the wake of enduring racial trauma. Finally we would like to share a collection of resources [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] for members of the university community looking to understand more about antiracism and how to strive for it in themselves and with others.
We hope the Homewood grad community takes this opportunity to reflect on such matters and how we can collectively work to better ourselves, our community, and the world we share.
In solidarity,
Your GRO Executive Board

Internship Resources During COVID-19 (04/13/2020)

PDF Document: Internship Resources During COVID-19 [PDF] (text below)


Many internships, summer programs, and experiential learning opportunities (including those providing
income) have been canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. We recognize the hardships this may cause and have compiled a list of available resources that may provide alternate opportunities, update you on the status of various companies, and connect you with others who may help further. This list is below.

  1. The ​all-grads​ and ​gro-careers​ list-servs commonly have internships and funding opportunities sent out through it. Sign up for these list-servs at the links provided (hit subscribe).
  2. The PDCO office has a page on internships reserved exclusively for graduate students: ​Internships – For Students | BCI (Biomedical Careers Initiative)
  3. Handshake ​also has internship offerings (hit Jobs, then filter by internships). There is also a helpful module on ​500 companies that are hiring on Handshake​ right now.
  4. LinkedIn​ also has internship offerings (hit Jobs, then filter by internships).
  5. The ​PeopleGrove alumni mentoring platform​ is launched and functional right now. It would helpstudents connect with Alumni who may have opportunities to hire paid/unpaid interns. JHU Students are encouraged to get on PeopleGrove if not already as more grad alums are being added to the platform.
  6. SMILE​ is the new campus experiential learning platform that connects current students to paid internships and employment opportunities across Johns Hopkins University. This platform includes on-campus paid internships and a variety of student jobs.
  7. A comprehensive list of companies that are either still providing internships, hiring, or in a hiring freeze due to COVID-19 (in addition to the hiring websites) can be found at the following sites:​, ​

Homewood Grads: For Masters students with concerns about internships (or lost internship opportunities) and co-ops, questions can be directed to Mark Savage (​[email protected]​) and Christine Kavanaugh (​[email protected]​). A variety of experiential learning information is also listed on the ​WSE COVID-19 FAQ page​.

East Baltimore Grads: Please reach out to the ​PDCO​ to discuss internship and experiential learning opportunities.

The GRO General Council & Roshni Rao, Director of PHutures

Update on COVID-19 Actions & GRO Advocacy (04/10/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Update COVID-19 Advocacy (text below)

To the Homewood Campus,

As the COVID-19 situation has developed, we have continued to advocate on behalf of all graduate students on a variety of concerns and issues. Here, we wanted to give you a brief update about what our actions have included thus far.

Over the last two weeks the GRO has been building a broad coalition of graduate student groups, including our own organization, Teachers and Researchers United (TRU), and the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA, Medical School), in order to advocate for the concerns that COVID-19 has raised, including all of those listed in our previous correspondence to you on March 25th, 2020. Our approach has been three-fold: we have worked with this graduate student group coalition to advocate for a list of fundamental principles that Hopkins as a university should uphold in response to COVID-19 (top-down advocacy). Such principles could serve as a guiding document to the various schools to use as a template for their response moving forward. Second, we continue to meet regularly with administration from both WSE and KSAS in order to advocate from within the schools themselves about issues we have been hearing that are school-specific (lateral advocacy). Finally, we have supported the recent TRU petition, as written by your fellow graduate students, and have shepherded many questions to the administration that we have received directly in our inbox (bottom-up advocacy). We have been successful in finding resolution to some of the points we have raised with the administration, who have been understanding and receptive to our concerns, particularly regarding academic issues such as optional pass/fail, etc.

The main points we are currently pushing with the administration are related to the following fields:

  1. Extending financial support for graduate students affected by COVID-19. This is a complex issue which will become more complex the longer the COVID-19 shutdown continues. We have been pushing for extensions of stipends and healthcare coverage, particularly for PhD students.
  2. Ensuring no student faces departmental or institutional penalty for research delays connected to the COVID-19. This would include no retribution for missed research deadlines and leniency for students who are currently on probation.
  1. Providing options to delay graduation or support PhD and masters students who are graduating, including advocating for waiving (or ideally eliminating) non-resident tuition, prioritizing hiring of current students for postgraduate research and non-research positions, and pushing for the dissemination of information regarding or internships and co-op programs to replace those that were delayed or canceled.
  2. Eliminating the GRE as an entrance requirement for this upcoming year (and hopefully beyond).
  3. Integrating graduate students more deeply into the decision-making process of the university, particularly for those decisions related to COVID-19. This could include feedback mechanisms for new policies or funding decisions with current graduate students before they are finalized and published.
  4. Pushing for continued mental health and wellbeing resources and their transition to a remote environment. This includes the counseling center and how the associated translation to an online interface can be optimized and reach the most students possible.
  5. Development of online social programming to help graduate students continue to feel a sense of community and connection.

The FAQ pages for ​KSAS​ and ​WSE​ students and for ​general graduate student​ information have been regularly updated with responses to questions like the ones that you have been forwarding to us, and we recommend browsing through them for your information. We will continue to provide updates on our efforts in the days to come.

Respectfully yours,

The GRO Executive Board

Statement on the COVID-19 Advocacy and Support of the TRU Petition (03/24/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Statement on the TRU COVID-19 Petition (text below)

To the Homewood Campus,

On Thursday, March 19th, we were made aware of a petition (​found here​) which was drafted by Teachers & Researchers United (TRU) regarding needs from the administration in regard to the security and wellbeing of graduate students on campus in light of the COVID-19 situation.

The GRO General Council (GC) has voted to endorse the petition and to express support for the items and spirit of the issues raised therein. We believe that many of the points raised in the petition complement our own advocacy efforts and the issues we have been hearing from graduate students. It is imperative that the administration continue to construct clear, concise, and decisive action regarding the needs of its graduate students in light of COVID-19. For those seeking available guidance and information, the university currently has FAQ pages for ​KSAS​ and ​WSE​ students and for ​general graduate student​ information, which are updated regularly.

We echo many of the needs raised in the TRU petition, including the need for extension of time to degree, funding security, modifications and support in non-resident tuition, and a shift to an option pass/fail grading system for the remainder of this semester.

In addition, the GRO Executive Board has been meeting regularly with the WSE and KSAS administration and has been advocating on issues such as those raised above and also including:

1. Regarding graduate students who have been marked as “essential” and are still on campus:

  1. Adequate biohazard material pickup.
  2. Continuation of security on campus.
  3. Continuation of JHU shuttles and buses.
  4. Continuation of facilities coverage (cleaning of bathrooms, common spaces, and labs) during the shutdown.
  5. Continuation of access to campus buildings and details regarding further restricted access to buildings.
  6. Guidance on how to appeal if you have been designated as “essential” personnel but you do not want to come to campus.
  7. Alternative transportation options (either parking on campus or Lyft/Uber payment) for students who would ordinarily be required to travel using the Maryland mass-transit system and can no longer do so.


2. Regarding all graduate students:

  1. Clear guidance and leniency on academic issues such as: grades, incompletes,withdrawals, probations, time to degree, etc.
  2. Reporting graduate classes that were still taking place after the ​mandate​ to cancel classes two weeks ago and to move all future classes online.
  3. Reporting lab/group meetings that were still taking place in person last week.
  4. Establishing reporting procedures for students who were being pressured to continue to come to campus by their PI’s despite not being essential personnel.
  5. Advocating for school-wide and university-wide statements on being more understanding and lenient towards graduate students as they are adapting to this “new normal”.
  6. Pushing for continued mental health and wellbeing resources and their transition to a remote environment.
  7. Support and guidance for Masters students regarding finishing their degree on both essay and non-essay tracks.
  8. Development on online social programming to help graduate students continue to feel a sense of community and connection.

Please feel free to sign and distribute the TRU petition, as desired. Information is developing rapidly at this time and we will keep you as informed as possible as the days progress.

Respectfully yours, The GRO

Statement on Free Speech and Amnesty in Support of Sit-In Graduate Students (03/10/2020)

PDF Document: GRO Statement on Free Speech and Amnesty (text below)

JHU Grads,

On March 9th, a group of graduate students from the organization “The Garland Sit-in and Occupation” attended our General Council (GC) meeting and presented some concerning information involving the student code of conduct and its selective application toward acts of free-speech, protest, and activism on campus.

Several years ago the GRO Executive Board participated in editing and providing feedback on the the JHU ​Free Expression Guidelines​ and in particular advocated for the following clause:

“Accordingly, these guidelines are designed to support the right to engage in acts of public expression and the right of an audience to receive that expression. Any negative short-term effects of airing controversial views – provided those views are expressed in ways that do not threaten, incite violence or raise demonstrable health or safety concerns – are outweighed by the long-term benefits to our community of a robust exchange of ideas.”

With this context, we have been informed that specific graduate students who were involved with the The Garland Sit-in and Occupation, and were granted amnesty, have also participated in other, non-violent, protests on campus and have been specifically targeted from within a group of participants for disciplinary action. In addition, the threat of revocation of said amnesty has been used as a weapon towards these students by preventing them from participating in any further political action, regardless of whether said action fits within the clause stated above.

The GRO has voted to express that we expect that students’ right to free speech is protected and that no punitive action is taken against any student based on any previous political action, regardless of whether it is related to the sit-in. We expect that this right is protected particularly in the case wherein said action ended with amnesty from the university. This vote is in line with our previous statement on amnesty and free expression which were voted on in April of 2019, which read:

“The GRO wishes to ensure all members of the Hopkins community are allowed to exercise their constitutional right to free speech without fear of punitive action or retribution from any other member or organizational body within the Hopkins community.”

The GRO has voted to support the spirit of an initiative constructed by the JHU Sit-In, which can be found attached to this letter. Further, we stress that administrative practices of equity and uniformity in the execution and interpretation of the student code of conduct are of the utmost importance in relation to said matters.

Sincerely, The GRO


Concerns Regarding WGS Funding – Letter to KSAS Admins (12/09/2019)

PDF Document: Concerns Regarding WGS Funding – Letter to KSAS Admins (text below)

Dean Roller,

We realize that the issue of cutting the WGS fellowships is very much on your radar, but wanted to formalize and make you aware of some decisions that the GRO has made recently regarding the issue:

At the GRO GC meeting on Monday 11/18/2019 the GC passed the following motion: “​There is a motion that we circulate the [WGS] petition, open letter, and JH Newsletter article ASAP; that the Advocacy Chairs draft a letter to Dean Matt Roller on this matter, and that the chairs raise this issue with Dean Matt Roller at their next meeting.”

This letter was summarily sent on 12/2/2019 and a response was provided by you, which we appreciated. However, there are several specific questions that went unanswered in that response.

At the GRO GC meeting this past Monday 12/9/2019 the GC passed the following motion: “​There is a motion that the e-board and GC members who have been highly involved in assessing [the WGS] issue and preparing letters for the GRO aid in providing talking points and information [to the Co-Chairs], with direct responses to Dean Roller’s comments and how they are inadequate in addressing the relevant issues.”

We have been hearing repeated reports from across our constituency regarding the WGS fellowship cuts and the subsequent town hall that the electronic responses to the concerns raised therein are inadequate in satiating the concerns, fears, and other questions posed by graduate students. As a result, it is incumbent on us Co-Chairs to continue to raise these issues to you and continue the conversation in our forthcoming meeting(s).

Below is an enumerated list of concerns which have been generated based off your response to the GRO via email on 12/4/2019. We hope to work through them with you point-by-point in person at our meeting on 12/17/2019 and beyond, if needed.

● The future of the program is not in jeopardy. The Dean’s Office recognizes and values the intellectual contributions of the program, and has made large investments in recent years to build and sustain the program.

○ Would it be possible to include representation from graduate students (i.e., the GRO or other organizations and student stakeholders) in these discussions and meeting before such decisions are made? We, the GRO, feel that if graduate students had been involved in the planning and discussions regarding all of the changes that many of these issues and concerns may have been


● Besides hiring a number of faculty whose work contributes to the mission of WGS, the School is currently conducting a search for a tenure-stream faculty member to be shared between WGS and History, whose teaching and research is explicitly to support the program.

○ We have been informed that the job posting, as it currently reads, states that while someone with some specialty in WGS related issues is desired, the job posting does not ​explicitly state that this position is for a WGS faculty member. Can this be modified to reflect the intent of the position?

○ It is our understanding that this search happened three years ago and failed, and that this faculty member would, in practice, only be part of the History department and WGS would have no sovereignty or control over that faculty member and therefore there is no guarantee that such an appointment would ensure that WGS courses are taught. Thus, is there a way to guarantee​ that the host departments provide an adequate number of faculty required to teach the 5 courses currently offered each semester?

● The structure of the WGS Teaching Fellows Program does not provide support to its fellows at the baseline level that the School requires. It is standard practice in the School of Arts and Sciences that full-time faculty, not doctoral students, deliver the core undergraduate courses for our majors and minors. There is now a sufficient number of full-time faculty involved in WGS that faculty should resume leadership in this regard.

○ While it is good that there is faculty available to spearhead the coursework, this change limits and potentially removes funding opportunities for graduate students. At this point, the only way these courses could be taught is if both the WGS program and a graduate student’s home department approve of a course application to a DTF (doubling the requirements and hurdles) and​ that it is funded. Will there be any changes in the DTF to account for these difficulties?

○ This may particularly affect students beyond their 5th year in KSAS which have no guaranteed source of funding. What are the current and planned selection criteria and priorities for DTF selection w/r/t WGS courses? We would like to see pathways unique to WGS courses in particular.

○ In addition, because WGS is not a department, there is no required teaching load for faculty. Without the personal will and commitment of certain faculty, the courses would not be taught. Is there way to require faculty to engage with this program?

● Doctoral students have robust opportunities to teach WGS-related courses at equitable stipends, with full tuition remission and health insurance, through the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship and Dean’s Prize Fellowship programs.

○ It is our understanding that DTF’s can only be awarded to a single graduate student a single time. Thus, with a finite amount of graduate students in this relatively small program the ability for them to participate multiple times is limited, which dampens the ability to re-teach popular courses and puts the long-term viability of the program at risk.

○ Further, many people want to be specifically associated with and supportive of the WGS program.

● The budget for programming and all non-teaching activities in WGS is unaffected by this change


Other concerns that have been raised are:

● We have received reports that the group​ ​TRU has gathered data that fewer than 50% of DTF applicants receive the fellowship, despite your statement that all applicants were funded. A presentation of data on these acceptance rates and other DTF statistics would be helpful.

● Would it be possible to have the DTF program guarantee that some number of grants would be set aside for WGS? When this question was raised previous is was noted that the DTF program could not be modified in this way. Why is this the case?

● What is the timetable of these changes coming into effect?

We look forward to continuing the conversation with you. Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,


NLRB Ruling Regarding Graduate Students (10/28/2019)

PDF Document: Statement on Proposed NLRB Ruling Regarding Graduate Students (text below)

Dear all,

We are writing to bring to your attention an advocacy issue which affects graduate students at Hopkins. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has proposed a rule change for their agency such that: “students who perform any services for compensation, including, but not limited to, teaching or research, at a private college or university in connection with their studies are not ‘employees’ within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act.” This rule change reverses a previous 2016 ruling. The NLRB is accepting comments on this proposed rule change through November 22, and all comments will be read and considered prior to a final decision.

More details regarding the history of this rule change can be found here:

By being considered as employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), graduate students are given certain protections from the U.S. federal government. Protections include making it illegal for the employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising rights including (from the NLRB website:​):


● Rights related to unions, such as:

○Forming, or attempting to form a union in your workplace; Joining a union whether the union is recognized by your employer or not; Assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees; or Refusing to do any or all of these things.

● And rights not related to unions, such as:

○ Two or more employees addressing their employer about improving their pay; Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other; An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.

● Other examples can be found here:


We are circulating and signing on to the following petition [​​] written by Teachers and Researchers United (TRU) because the GRO GC believes it is important for graduate students to be able to ​at least​ discuss and request changes to their working conditions including, but not limited to, better pay, lab safety, or deciding whether or not to join a union.

Signatures on this petition will be accepted through November 20 and individual comments can also be made directly to the government’s comment portal. Whether or not you support unionization, it is important to make your voice heard regarding graduate student “employee” status. Individual comments can be submitted at: ty-and-college-students-working-in-connection-with-their​.

We understand that there may be some graduate students in positions that will be strongly impacted by the change in the NLRB ruling and others who may not be impacted at all. Advocating on behalf of the minority is a critical duty of the GRO and we continue to extend our support to all students.

Sincerely, The GRO

Inquiry into Summer & Intersession Course Selection Policies (10/10/19)

PDF Document: Inquiry into Summer & Intersession Course Selection Policies

Dear Assistant Dean Sean Recroft,

It has been brought to the attention of the GRO that graduate students are looking for clarification, unequivocal language, and transparency regarding changes in Summer & Intersession Course Selection Policies. In the past, summer and intersession courses were selected in the following way:

  1. Firstly, a potential instructor would devise a course and submit it to their head of department
  2. Secondly, the head of the department would accept, reject, or suggest amendments to the proposal.
  3. Thirdly, the proposal would be forwarded to the department of summer and intersession programs, who would then post them on SIS.
  4. Finally, the department of summer and intersession programs would set a minimum enrollment level. Courses that met this level would be offered. Those that fell below it would not.

As it is understood by the GRO, these policies have since changed and Summer & Intersession courses are now selected in a different, ​unknown​ way. It has been brought to our attention that instructors in the Philosophy Department, for example, have had the relevance of their courses queried and have had to provide written justification of the courses above and beyond the standard application materials. Elsewhere, a summer course with a proven track record of success in prior years was not approved for the 2019 Summer session, and without explanation to the instructor.

We polled graduate students on this subject and found that an overwhelming portion of them were unaware that teaching a course was an option for them. As teaching may provide invaluable experience for many as an aspect of their career development, we believe more needs to be done to raise awareness.

Among respondents who have successfully navigated the course proposal process in the past, about 30% indicated their courses ultimately failed to meet minimum enrollment requirements. With this appearing to be a common issue, it is critical that a teacher who has put in the time and effort to design a course understand how they may be compensated should the enrollment threshold not be reached.


Among those respondents who have successfully taught a course, half of them chose to so more than once. That indicates there is strong motivation for many to continue teaching. Any changes to the rules or criteria surrounding course proposal and acceptance needs to be clear and explicit not just for those new to the process, but also to support the continued professional development of those who desire to gain more teaching experience and hone their skills.

The GRO has a number of grievances with the process of selection for Summer & Intersession Courses. One, this method seems obscure as there have been no formal notices of new criteria for course selection.Two, it appears that this method is not being applied consistently across courses and departments. Three, we are concerned that course content is being assessed by persons who do not have knowledge of recent work in specific disciplines.

We are concerned that the centralized control of course offerings undermines the democratic nature of how Summer & Intersession courses were previously selected. Moreover, the lack of clear guidelines regarding the new selection criteria means that instructors do not know the basis of courses gaining or losing approval. Teaching is a vital portion of professional development for all graduate students, especially those planning to continue to faculty positions in the future, and the reduced ability to adequately prepare to teach, and to teach, courses affects graduate students professionally and financially.

We ask that your office issue a formal statement detailing the evaluation criteria by which course proposals for Summer & Intersession Programs are currently approved so that instructors can better prepare their proposals. We also invite you to our General Council Meeting to discuss these changes. Our next two meetings will be on October 28​ and November 4​ at 6:00PM in the Great Hall in Levering Hall. Please let us know if you are willing and able to attend.


Best Regards,
The Graduate Representative Organization

Memorandum on New PhD Policies (10/16/2019)

PDF Document: Memorandum On New PhD Policies (text below)

The GRO has representation on a university-wide committee on Ph.D. education (​The Ph.D. Advisory Committee​) regarding policies that will improve the life and educational experience for Ph.D. students. We wanted to send a brief summary of the three main policies that the GRO helped work on that were passed by the Doctor of Philosophy Board and put into effect this academic year (2019-2020):

● Mentorship Policy​: ​This policy replaces the Rights and Responsibilities of Ph.D. students policy, and places equal responsibility on the advisor/mentor in the professional and personal relationship between student and mentor. It also outlines what departments should be doing to support good mentoring, etc.

● Professional Development Annual Discussion Policy​: ​This policy mandates (at least one) annual discussion to take place (and offers templates for discussion) regarding the professional development of the Ph.D. student and promotes ways that advisors can support and encourage such development within their groups.

● Maximum Time-to-Degree Policy​: ​Only affects the incoming first year class this year. Shortens the max time to degree from 12 to 9 years, not counting leave of absences and other granted exceptions.

Information about Tax Bill (11/09/2017)

Dear fellow grads,

As you might already be aware, the Republicans are planning on counting tuition waivers as taxable income in their new tax bill. If this bill were to get through, graduate students receiving tuition waivers would have to pay significantly higher taxes. In addition to the large cut to our after-tax income, the quality of our education, research, and teaching would very likely be affected. Here are links to a few articles on the possible effects of the bill:

Inside Higher Ed: ‘Taxing a Coupon’

The Chronicle of Higher Education: How the GOP Tax Plan could Hurt Graduate Students

Washington Post: The House GOP Tax Bill would Raise the Cost of College

Forbes: The GOP Tax Plan will Destroy Graduate Education

NPR: GOP Tax Bill could Pass the House by Next Week

We just sent an email to the Provost’s Office to request information from JHU’s administration on the university’s plan before and in case the bill is passed.

We will meet for our next E-Board meeting on Monday and currently continue our discussion on possible steps the GRO could take to support our community members. If you have any suggestions or questions, please let us know via this form:

Best wishes,

GRO Statement: Executive Order on Visas and Immigration

GRO Statement: Executive Order on Visas and Immigration

Graduate Representative Organization logoOn January 27, 2017, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the President of the United States signed an executive order temporarily banning people from seven countries and all refugees from entering the United States. The GRO fully and emphatically condemns this executive order. Thousands of refugees, legal immigrants, and non-immigrants have not been able to come to the United States. Countless others have been forced to avoid traveling outside the United States, held hostage by the fact that they may not be able to reenter. These are people with valid documentation, including green card holders. Entering the United States as an immigrant or refugee is not an easy task and usually has to be prepared months, sometimes even more than a year, ahead.

For graduate students and other academics from the seven countries, the executive order has professional as well as personal consequences. Some of these professional restrictions are practical – academia relies on international exchange, and international travel is required for nearly all of us. Others are less direct – it is unreasonable to expect a person living under a government that treats them with open hostility to put their concern for their well-being aside and focus on their academic goals. The executive order and its plausible successors may also mean that we cannot receive any new graduate students from the affected nations, limiting the educational choices of these potential students and impoverishing our community.

President Daniels has made a clear statement that “the order stands in unambiguous opposition to our country’s long-cherished values and ideas” and that the “human impact of such an assault on these core values was immediate, including at Johns Hopkins” (

We are thankful for such clear words and we endorse President Daniels’s message.

The GRO’s purpose is to advocate for graduate students and we have taken a stand against this discriminatory act. Last week, we participated in the NAGPS action day and on Monday, we decided to support this rally. We do what the graduate student body asks for, so if you have ideas, please let the GRO General Council and Executive Board know. Apart from supporting and starting actions, we can help fellow graduate students navigate difficult situations. Although we cannot provide legal advice, we can direct you to resources and connect you with people on campus who specialize on particular questions and problems.

As the GRO, we condemn the executive order and any form of discrimination against refugees, visa holders, and visitors of the United States.

If you are affected by the executive order: you are welcome at JHU and we are proud that you are part of our community.