Over the past year, JHToo – inspired by the global #MeToo movement – has fought for accountability in cases of sexual assault and harassment across the University. TRU members played a key role in the pressure campaign that resulted in the University’s decision to revoke the tenure of Juan Obarrio, and the union as a whole is committed to ensuring that the University represents a safe place for all graduates to live and work.

TRU strongly supports JHToo’s demands, which include:

  • An overhaul of the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) and its treatment of sexual assault and harassment cases, including greater transparency regarding the complaint process and potential sanctions;
  • Investment in specialized mental health services;
  • Provision of trained advocates to assist complainants in sexual assault and harassment cases.

Resources

TRU stands in solidarity with all survivors of sexual harassment and assault. Unfortunately, sexual harassment and assault is no stranger to academia or the Johns Hopkins campus. And even just hearing about sexual assault (in the media or elsewhere) can be traumatic for survivors and their loved ones. Below are some resources that may be helpful to those in the Hopkins and Baltimore community.

  • SARU (Sexual Assault Response & Prevention) is autonomous & student-run. Their 24/7 private hotline can help direct you to further resources. The support line number is 410-516-7887 and the SARU email is jhusaru@gmail.com. SARU’s training is similar to that at RAINN.
  • JHU Counseling Center runs a 24/7 helpline, staffed by an on-call counselor. The number for the Sexual Assault Helpline is 410-516-7333 For more information see http://sexualassault.jhu.edu/ 

Note that everyone is obligated under Maryland law to report child abuse, but otherwise SARU staffers are not mandated reporters. Be aware that some Hopkins staff are mandated reporters.

For information on reporting via the OIE, see: https://sexualassault.jhu.edu/file-complaint/index.html

  • In the wider Baltimore area there is also CHANA. Helpline: 410-234-0023, CHANA offers a Jewish community response to the needs of those who experience abuse, trauma and neglect.
  • And TurnAround, Inc. provides 24/7 crisis intervention, trauma therapy, victim advocacy, community education and training, accompaniment services and shelter. (Hotline: 443-279-0379, For crisis intervention&referral 410-377-8111) 2300 North Charles Street, Bmore. Their website is: https://turnaroundinc.org/

History

In May 2018, the Department of Anthropology was shaken by a staggering case of sexual violence. On May 4, 2018, Associate Professor Juan Obarrio of the Johns Hopkins Anthropology department assaulted a visiting graduate student at a public bar in Baltimore. The following Monday, the assault was reported by Hopkins graduate witnesses to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at Johns Hopkins University, with an urgency exacerbated by Professor Obarrio’s inappropriate attitude towards female students in the past. But, the process of justice dragged again and again.

Teachers and Researchers United stood with the survivor and the brave PhD Anthropology students to tell Hopkins that Professor Juan Obarrio HAD to be held accountable NOW.

A new movement on campus was born: #JHToo. On Thursday 12/6/18, at Noon, we held a rally on the MSE Library Steps  and delivered to Garland Hall a petition signed by thousands of individuals and multiple campus organizations. A copy of the petition text and a more detailed account of the event in question is included below.

Following the JHToo petition, the Dean’s Office at the Johns Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences determined that Professor Juan Obarrio committed physical assault and violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy. Then on February 28th, 2019, the Homewood campus Academic Council then determined the sanctions. We believe tenure exists to protect academic freedom, not criminal activity, and they agreed.

The decision of the Homewood Academic Council was approved by the Provost, the President, and the Board of Trustees. However, the university delayed announcing that any decision had been made, let alone that there had been a heinous abuse of power by a professor at the university, until an announcement emailed out to the Hopkins community on July 22, 2019. In that same email, it was mentioned that another Hopkins professor (later revealed to be the former Med School professor Sinisa Urban) had also been fired for sexual misconduct.

Juan Obarrio and Sinisa Urban are out of Hopkins, but it took a lot of work by a lot of activists. It is very likely that without mobilizing and pressuring the university, these harassers would only have received a slap on the wrist (as so many do). We celebrate this victory, but it should not be this hard to remove serial harassers from campus.

That is why we will continue to stand with #JHToo and the effort to improve the campus climate at Johns Hopkins. We deserve a safe working environment where sexual harassment and assault are never tolerated.

For more on individual events in this history, see our news postings tagged “#JHToo”.

Is there an issue you would like TRU to know about? You can email us at trujhu@gmail.com or fill in the contact box below anonymously.

The 2018 #JHToo Petition (Content Warning: Sexual Assault)

Incident

On May 4, 2018, Associate Professor Juan Obarrio of the Johns Hopkins Anthropology department assaulted a visiting graduate student at a public bar in Baltimore. He had attended the bar in the company of both JHU and visiting students for a post-conference event held that weekend. Throughout the night, Professor Obarrio attempted to flirt and dance with one student despite her lack of interest; ignoring the asymmetrical power dynamic between tenured professor and precarious graduate student. The night took a violent turn when soon after attempting to dance with her, he grabbed her from behind with both arms and dragged her across the bar’s dance floor towards the exit, as she struggled to flee his grasp. The entire dance floor of bar patrons froze, stunned at the assault occurring in front of them. Graduate students were able to intervene, pull her from his grasp, and leave the bar. The next day, Professor Obarrio attempted to flirt with her again, despite the violence that had taken place the night before.  The following Monday, the assault was reported by Hopkins graduate witnesses to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at Johns Hopkins University, with an urgency exacerbated by Professor Obarrio’s inappropriate attitude towards female students in the past.

OIE Mishandling

The OIE’s “findings” determine that Professor Obarrio’s behavior was harassment, but not assault, in contradiction to the OIE’s own policies and definitions. In the months that followed reporting the incident, the OIE repeatedly mishandled the procedures of investigating the case. Long delays over six months contravened their directives to complete investigations within 60 days of reporting. Despite the extensive investigative period, not all witnesses were reached out to in a timely manner before closure of the investigation—nor were leads followed through for further investigation. The report excludes all mention of other inappropriate behavior which, witnesses pointed out, other students and alumni are too scared to report for fear of retaliation. Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students were not informed of the investigation and those involved in the procedures were directed not to discuss the case, despite this being a matter of public safety. Six witnesses’ accounts of assault were ignored at the expense of Professor Obarrio’s version of events. The OIE’s mishandling of this case is particularly egregious, given JHU’s systemic failure to take sexual violence seriously. JHU is involved in an ongoing federal investigation after the institution failed to inform students about repeated sexual assaults at a fraternity in 2014. Due to this failure to share information, students continued to frequent the fraternity for over a year, demonstrating that the university prized its reputation over student safety. Like these incidents, in this case, the university’s failure to inform the community of Professor Juan Obarrio’s assault puts other students at risk. In the wake of the assault, Professor Obarrio has not exhibited any remorse for his actions. He has responded instead by sexualizing the victim’s body, emphasizing his utility to the university, and absolving himself with the claim of a blurry memory of the incident. Meanwhile, Professor Obarrio remains on JHU’s payroll. 

Demands

In the age of #MeToo, we refuse to remain complicit with a known assaulter on campus. We thus demand that JHU immediately:

  1. Revoke Juan Obarrio’s tenure. Someone who has committed assault and has shown no remorse deserves no place in the Johns Hopkins community;
  2. Enable transparency. This process has made both witnesses and complainants afraid of reporting and discussing assault, harassment and abuse; 
    1. Disclose rubrics used to decide upon sanctions against the respondent during the investigation period;
    2. Form a committee with student stakeholders, including survivors and alumni, to reevaluate Title IX procedures that have consistently failed us;  
    3. Develop a system of accountability, ensuring clear directives, notifications of procedures, and communication of outcomes;
  3. Process all complaints thoroughly and swiftly. Sensitivity to survivors and witnesses calls for minimizing the number of times they are asked to tell and retell their stories;
    1. Invest in a specialized mental health services unit for those affected by sexual misconduct. This unit would limit the harmful impacts of the trial on student health, and facilitate more sensitive coordination with the OIE;
    2. Investigate anonymously-reported cases thoroughly. Cases raised by students, who are vulnerable to repercussions for reporting, must be considered seriously;
    3. Employ trained legal and mental health advocates, familiar with Title IX proceedings, to support survivors at hearings and meetings; 
    4. Train OIE officers on mental health and the existing counseling resources; 
  4. Take necessary action in accordance with its own existing definition of sexual assault
    1. Comply with JHU Sexual Misconduct Policy’s definition of sexual assault as non-consensual “intentional touching of the intimate parts of another person,” “any body part that is touched in a sexual manner,” “sexual acts or sexual contact against a person’s will or without consent,” and “sexual battery; sexual coercion” as sexual assault;
    2. Issue a public statement denouncing Obarrio’s actions, addressing the mishandling of this case, and outlining concrete steps for responding to our demands. 

In Solidarity,

  • Members of JHToo (jhu.metoo@gmail.com)
  • Teachers and Researchers United
  • International Socialist Organization, Baltimore Branch
  • Hopkins Feminists Club
  • Students for Justice in Palestine
  • Johns Hopkins Student Government Association
  • Women in Physics
  • Johns Hopkins University Graduate Representative Organization (GRO)
  • ….and thousands more individuals.