Two weeks after top brass at Johns Hopkins promised a national search to replace a respected chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer who resigned after her definition of “privilege” caught the ire of high-profile conservatives, several campus organizations have written an open letter supporting her that comes with a list of demands.

The letter released today by 12 groups is addressed to Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University; Theodore L. DeWeese, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Kevin W. Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. It vehemently disagrees with a January email to the campus community by DeWeese and Sowers that walked back Sherita Golden’s definition of “privilege.”

“We call for the leadership of our institution to act with haste and retract these statements of Dean DeWeese and President Sowers immediately, with special recognition of the harm done to Dr. Golden and Hopkins’ BIPOC students, faculty, and staff, as a result of their publication,” the letter reads.

“Dr. Golden has not only met but epitomized the university’s goals, serving as a shining example of excellence in academia,” the letter says, adding a list of accomplishments Golden has achieved throughout her career, including authoring more than 200 articles across the fields of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, endocrinology and health disparities.

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“Yet despite her accomplishments and being a trailblazer within her field, Johns Hopkins has sent us all a clear and poignant message,” the letter continues. “This institution is willing to sacrifice its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the protection of BIPOC students, for the comfort of those that perpetuate the structural and institutional racism this institution was built upon.”

Leadership at Johns Hopkins did not immediately respond to requests for comment about today’s letter.

The letter also asks for leadership at the institution to “break their silence and reaffirm our institutions’ commitment to DEI with the same fervent devotion as all of its stated values.”

The groups want Hopkins to “rectify the injustices that have occurred and emphasize the importance of publicly supporting BIPOC students, and role models like Dr. Golden who champion diversity, inclusion, and health equity.” They request that the search for Golden’s replacement is “equitable and transparent so that her replacement continues to champion the diversity, inclusion, and health equity work that they are called to do.”

On March 5, Johns Hopkins announced Golden had stepped down, two months after a monthly newsletter she wrote caused outrage among high-profile figures including Donald Trump Jr. and Elon Musk.

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In the newsletter, she defined privilege as “a set of unearned benefits given to people who are in a specific social group. Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels, and it provides advantages and favors to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of other groups.”

She then went on to name groups that are granted privilege, including: white people, able-bodied people, heterosexuals, cisgender people, males, Christians, middle- or owning-class people (people who owns things such as property and land that generate wealth without having to work), middle-aged people and English-speaking people.

An email followed in January from DeWeese and Sowers. They wrote that Golden’s newsletter included “a definition of privilege that runs counter to the values of our institution, and our mission and commitment to serve everyone equally. Dr. Golden heard the feedback from our community, sincerely apologized, and retracted the definition. We fully support and appreciate her decision to do so, and as leaders of Johns Hopkins Medicine, we, too, repudiate this language.”

Golden’s resignation is the latest example of what critics say is an attack on Black women, DEI positions and inclusive initiatives throughout the country.

Golden, who will continue her career with Hopkins as the Hugh P. McCormick Family Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism, has remained relatively quiet throughout the controversy — other than communicating through university channels and issuing an apology for the January newsletter.

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The letter came from the African Public Health Network, Anna Baetjer Society for Public Health Practice, Asian Pacific American Nursing Student Association, Biomedical Scholars Association, Black Faculty and Staff Association at Johns Hopkins, Black Graduate Student Association at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Black Student Nurses Association, Bloomberg School of Public Health Students for Justice in Palestine, Johns Hopkins Nurses’ Alumni Association, Latino Public Health Network, LatinX Health Advocacy Group and School of Nursing PhD Student Organization.

In January, a group of hundreds of students and staff at Hopkins sent Sowers and DeWeese a letter of support for Golden.

In that letter, Golden’s supporters said her definition “reflects the well known concept of privilege. It acknowledges that there are certain dimensions of a person’s identity that can confer benefits that are not readily accessible to others.”

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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