Johns Hopkins students occupying administrative building call president's letter 'deceptive'

Johns Hopkins students occupying administrative building call president's letter 'deceptive'
Signs cover the walls inside of Garland Hall during the sit-in at Johns Hopkins University. A group of students sat in the university's administration building, marking the second week they'd occupied Garland Hall as part of their protest against private police. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)

Johns Hopkins University students who are occupying the main administration building on the school’s North Baltimore campus issued a rebuttal Saturday to a letter President Ronald J. Daniels sent a day earlier that the group called “deceptive.”

“The false narrative expressed in the email was deliberately crafted to smear our ongoing civil protest,” stated a letter posted Saturday on the Twitter account of @TheGarlandSitIn. “Rather than taking responsibility for the harm inflicted on our community, President Daniels and his administration have chosen to willfully ignore our concerns while directing the vast resources of the university to further entrench a climate of fear, intimidation, and surveillance.”


The group that has taken over Garland Hall, chaining doors shut and forcing the building’s closure, are demanding that the university cancel plans for a private police force, which was approved by the Maryland General Assembly during the recent legislative session. They also want the university to end contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Students said they intend to remain at Garland Hall, which they’ve been occupying since early April, until Daniels negotiates with them.

Also on Saturday, the same Twitter account posted a plea for “fans” because the air conditioning in the building was no longer working on a day when temperatures reached 73 degrees. The Tweet accused the university administration of turning off the cooling system “in an attempt to sweat us out.”

A university spokeswoman said that the claim about air conditioning is “not accurate.”

“The utilities in Garland Hall are functioning normally,” said spokeswoman Karen Lancaster in an email. “The HVAC system is currently programmed to a temperature that is cooler than is typical for the building when it is closed, and is well within regulatory requirements.”

Daniels sent a letter on Friday via email that called the student protest “a troubling and untenable situation.”

“What started as a strong expression of disagreement with university positions and policies has since been dramatically escalated by the protesters and now involves a number of serious health and safety issues,” Daniels wrote in a letter sent to students, faculty and staff.

The student-led lock down prompted the university to suspend or relocate services such as financial aid, disability, academic advising and student visas, Daniels said in the letter.

The student protesters posted on their JHU sit-in social media accounts Thursday morning that they hope the lockdown has “shifted the path of this campus” and “changed the history of Johns Hopkins and its relationship with Baltimore and the broader world.”

The protesters said that more than 80 faculty have urged president Daniels to meet with the students.

Daniels wrote in his letter that he would meet with students, but not until they leave the building and “bring their protest activities back in line with legal requirements and university guidelines.”

The students accused the university administration of misleading undergraduate students’ emergency contacts listed in school records, “misinforming” the campus about Daniels’ requests to meet, conducting surveillance on students “including while sleeping,” and of falsely claiming that city residents “have been manipulating students into taking action.”

The letter stated the students “wholeheartedly reject this paternalistic positioning,” which it labeled “racist” and “classist.”

“The Garland Occupiers are committed to nonviolent direct action to achieve our collective purpose and are staunchly opposed to bringing harm to anyone,” stated the letter from students. “In contrast, President Daniels has repeatedly leveraged his office and resources to intimidate students, faculty, and the residents of Baltimore.


The students stated in the letter that they “reject [Daniels’] caveat that we vacate the building as a condition of negotiation” and that they will not end the occupation “until the terms of our negotiations are met.”

“The participants of the JHU Garland Occupation demand that the University immediately terminate its plan to form an armed private police force and end all contracts with ICE,” the letter stated.

The letter also called on the university to “mobilize its resources to bring justice for Tyrone West and his family.”

West died in 2013 during an altercation with police during a traffic stop in Northeast Baltimore.

“We demand you negotiate now and that amnesty for all participants or visitors to the space is assured,” the letter stated.