In the Fall of 2016, TRU joins the Hands Off the Humanities Center campaign to raise awareness of the administration’s unwarranted, unfair, and unnecessary decision to close the Humanities Center. After months of mobilization, the administration decides to keep the Humanities Center open. TRU witnesses what graduate workers and allies can achieve when we organize to support each other.

The Issue

In June 2016, in the middle of their summer break, the students of the Humanities Center learned that their department was on the chopping block. Dean Beverly Wendland, in a letter to department members, informed them that she was convening a “Neutral Committee”—for a long time without any representation from any Humanities discipline—to determine the fate of the department, and in particular “to consider whether, if the issues discussed here are not resolved, the HC should be subject to closure effective June 30, 2017.”

The process that Dean Beverly Wendland initiated to decide whether a department will close its doors, with a less than five-month turnaround, set an extremely dangerous precedent at Johns Hopkins, allowing the university administration to shut down high-performing departments behind closed doors and without any public oversight. This hasty, opaque, and arbitrary process continued a tradition in recent years of unilaterally closing or collapsing Hopkins departments without debate or opposition. Just a few months earlier, in the Summer of 2016, the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering (DoGEE) was folded into a new “Environmental Health and Engineering” department, a move resisted by graduate students, faculty, and alumni. The Administration opportunistically awaited the end of the then-chair’s tenure in July 2016, and quietly initiated a merger that was announced months later.

In the Fall of 2016, graduate students in the Humanities Center decided to oppose Dean Wendland’s decision and the untransparent process that led to such decision. TRU joined the Humanities Center in a series of creative speak-outs and rallies under the slogan ‘Hands Off the Humanities Center!’

A rally in support of the Humanities Center

What has TRU Done About This

After months of making our voices heard, graduate students managed to reverse Dean Wendland’s decision: on January 11, 2016 she announced to the university community that closure of the Humanities Center was no longer under consideration. As the students wrote in a letter to the Dean in March 2017:

“It is a testament to the power of graduate workers, undergraduate students, faculty, and other allies at Johns Hopkins that the Humanities Center was saved from imminent closure.”

We have power when we stand together!

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