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Johns Hopkins Justice Collective Update On Negotiations With University

Above photo: Bri Hatch/WYPR.

Baltimore, MD – Over the past few days, the University has sent emails to the JHU student body and faculty attempting to paint the encampment as unwilling to enter negotiations. This framing by the University is incredibly dishonest: an hours long, closed-door meeting is not the only way to negotiate.

Since the beginning of the encampment, we have repeatedly asked that the University send us negotiation offers by email, which they have consistently refused to do. To say we refuse to negotiate until Tuesday is plainly untrue. Our request to begin via email is for a variety of reasons:

  1. Our negotiators are undergraduate representatives of the encampment, not decision-makers on their own terms. Beginning the negotiations via email is a way for our encampment to maintain a more democratic structure and have room to discuss the administration’s response, together. Administrators have tried many times to circumvent our negotiation structure, walking into camp to talk to anyone who will respond after being told not all members of our negotiation team were available. It is in the best interest of powerful institutions to have negotiations in a room, at a specific date and time, with a group of people they choose; it means they can prevent negotiators from regrouping for more information and get concessions through bad-faith tactics without facing accountability.
  2. Email allows the exchange and negotiation process to be in written record, holding the University accountable for their commitments or lack thereof. After one round of bad-faith negotiations on Monday, in which the University published widely that we had reached an agreement where there was none, keeping the record straight is something we feel acutely. At Garland Hall, one of the protestors’ preconditions for meeting behind closed doors was that negotiations would be live streamed—they had to force this transparency on the University.
  3. Not all of the negotiation team is on site and available at all times. The Administration’s insistence that the negotiation team comprise of only undergraduates means that while we have a team of students ready to ensure quick resolution, we also have finals, homework, volunteering, work, and other obligations to keep up with. The encampment comes first, but it is an undue ask to respond to a request to meet at a scheduled time on Tuesday with “actually, let’s do it now!”
  4.  We submitted a Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee (PIIAC) proposal on Friday morning — another way we’ve tried to reach a resolution with the university — but have gotten no response or confirmation that it has been read, much less a counter-offer. So far, the University has ignored the facts and evidence we have “marshaled” in support of our demands, and have only been willing to negotiate the encampment. The encampment is not up for discussion. Reading the PIIAC was a communicated precondition for our negotiations meeting, as we are only there to sincerely discuss our demands.

What JHU is doing by pressuring us into closed door negotiations day-of is an intimidation tactic. This is an age-old strategy that they have used before, including at Garland Hall, when the University extended an offer to negotiate the morning after threatening a police raid, knowing negotiators would walk into the room sleep deprived, anxious, and not at their best. The University knows we are on an uneven playing field behind closed doors. In spite of all of this, we are ready to meet the University totally on their terms, but not at the drop of a hat. After repeated attempts to begin negotiations another way, we have taken our time to ensure that our negotiators walk into the room fully informed, well-rested, and with strong encampment support behind them. The University has yet to accept our offer to meet on Tuesday.

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