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A Legacy of Student Activism

The Johns Hopkins University is not often thought of as a site of robust political activism, but number of student groups and organizations continue to engage in the work of social and political change. Groups advocating for gender equality, racial justice, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ rights, and many other progressive causes work to raise awareness and stimulate action at the Homewood Campus. 

The Black Student Union continues to work for the improvement of conditions at Johns Hopkins University for black students, and offers both a robust calendar of social events as well as a platform for engagement and discussion of the systemic problems facing African Americans at the university, in Baltimore, and across the nation. 

Hopkins Feminists continues promoting gender equity, awareness, safety and empowerment on Homewood campus. The Hopkins Feminists work to combat sexism, raise consciousness about gender issues, and empower all women in all areas of their lives. 

The Center for Social Concern continues to promote engagement by Hopkins students in the wider Baltimore community, and among other initiatives sponsors 50 student groups involved in community development, health education and advocacy, and other subjects of importance in the local community. Other student groups not sponsored by the CSC also engage in acts of community service, although the relationship between Johns Hopkins University and neighboring areas, especially in East Baltimore, remains a source of some tension. 

The Johns Hopkins University News-Letter and its student journalists help inform students about events on campus and in the Baltimore community, and continues to closely document student protests, petitions and activity. The News-Letter has also performed the important work of reporting on off-campus events in Baltimore, including extensive coverage of the events following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Spring 2015. 

At a university with an emphasis on vocational education and a heavy workload then as now, it can be difficult for students at Hopkins to become politically and socially engaged in events and occurences beyond campus. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the injustice of the war in Vietnam and racial discrimination on and off-campus urged a number of students on the Homewood campus to protest. Faced with a bloody, unending, unwinnable war, these students pressed their university to confront its own involvement in the American military-industrial complex, before the federal government then forced both the university and its students into a position of compromised autonomy. 

Some Hopkins students today continue to engage in meaningful action, by joining groups that articulate the needs of minorities on and off campus, perform essential community service work in the Baltimore community, document and publish the thoughts and concerns of students, faculty and community members and raise awareness about important social, political, environmental and economic issues. These modern student activists utilize some of the same techniques as the students of the age of protest, but they also make use of new tools and new innovations, including social media, to spread their ideas and messages across the Hopkins campus and beyond.

We now live in a climate of political, social and racial unrest not entirely unlike that of the late 1960s and 1970s, yet Hopkins student activists continue calling attention to injustice at all levels: the university, the state and the nation. It is these students who carry on the struggle for radical social change begun at Homewood many decades ago, in the hope of someday achieving a more just and a more equal society. 

A Legacy of Student Activism