Lab Values
Updated automatically every 5 minutes

This is a statement of our mission and values as a research group, and of the commitments we are making to take direct action against systemic inequality. These statements and actions are long overdue, but the time is always right to do what is right.[1] We know these may never be perfect, but we cannot and will not let fear of this paralyze us into inaction, and will instead continue to learn and grow as we try to show up to the fight against oppression and inequality in all of its forms.

Purpose of this statement

Johns Hopkins University was founded under the ideals of valuing holistic education, research, and the advancement of knowledge. These ideals were relatively radical in higher education at the time, and yet they persevered and have come to define the institution in many ways. However, the founders, founding professors, and those around them also held racist, antisemitic, and misogynistic views, which in many forms have also persisted, in society, in academia, and at our university. Almost a hundred and fifty years of incremental change has found us facing deeply entrenched institutional racism which continues to not only unconstitutionally and unethically disadvantage people of color but threaten their lives and safety; transphobia which does the same to people who don’t fit into regressive representations of gender; systemic misogyny, nationalism, and colonialism which attempt to silence and inhibit women, immigrants, and indigenous peoples; and among all of this the active participation or willful ignorance and complicity of those privileged who benefit from these systems of oppression.

The purpose of this statement is to acknowledge and fight racism. To assert unconditionally that Black lives matter. To communicate that we will unrelentingly fight for the safety and well-being of our lab. To commit to showing up every day to the cause to end inequality in academia and our society.

The purpose of this statement is to acknowledge and fight misogyny and transphobia, and their insidious impacts, in society, in academia, and in Computer Science. To recognize the history of foundational contributions women have made to our field, and to push for inclusivity, and a population-representative distribution of all genders of students, professors, researchers, and experts in our field.

The purpose of this statement is to recognize privilege, as a private, endowed university; as members of a field experiencing almost unparalleled growth and influence; and as ourselves, with the various identities that have allowed us to live ignorant of some number of dimensions of structural oppression. To commit to using privilege to show up to fight these inequalities.

Our mission

Within Johns Hopkins University, we are a research group whose work covers applied and theoretical cryptography, security and privacy, secure systems, and many adjacent subject areas. In addition to research, we develop and teach courses in these areas, attend relevant conferences, and collaborate with academic, industrial, and public organizations. In each of these areas, then, we want to reflect our values and make positive change.

Research

We seek to maintain an academic environment which supports its members, encourages critical thinking, enables us to challenge our assumptions, and fosters academic growth and healthy productivity for everyone. In order to achieve this, we are committed to the safety, health, well-being, acceptance, and support of everyone in our lab, and of both peer and advisor mentorship marked by communication, understanding, and empathy.

We perform our research with the ultimate goals not only of publication and advancement of the state of the art in these areas, but also of making technology and communication more confidential, more reliable, and more private (among other goals). We recognize the inherent political and societal impact of this work.[2] In order to make these impacts meaningful and equitable, they must be informed by the contributions of people from a wide array of backgrounds and identities. Unless we actively oppose systemic inequality in academia and society, we are silencing the voices of the oppressed and contributing to that inequality. Taking action, then, is not only beneficial to our goals as a research group, but, far more importantly, is morally imperative.

Education

When developing and teaching courses, we are committed to creating an accessible, welcoming, and inclusive environment, and to actively redress the erasure of the contributions of women and people of color in Computer Science, both historic and ongoing, through teaching. No matter a student’s background or identities, they deserve to have access to the resources, time, and support needed to succeed. Students with disabilities have every right to learning environments which work for them, rather than ones which raise barriers. It is the responsibility of professors, lecturers, and teaching/course assistants to rise to the needs of students with positivity and empathy. Inaction and “neutrality” disproportionately benefit the privileged, and do nothing to challenge the status quo. Having access, and feeling safe, seen, and accepted is critical to people’s well-being, and to their motivation to participate and progress as students, and as such is central to our mission of education.

Conferences

Advancements in our field are shared in various mediums, but conferences are the main avenue for publication, acceptance, and recognition of academic work in Computer Science. We fully support conferences which are taking action against inequality and oppression, and those which are taking action to amplify voices that have been repressed by the inequities of society and academia. Additionally, we recognize the importance of open access to publications, and we support this practice to the fullest extent.

Collaboration

Research and teaching undeniably benefit from collaboration. We take on the responsibility to hold our partners accountable to our values, and are committed to rejecting partnerships when collaboration would require us to act contrary to our values, or require of us inaction in addressing the injustices faced by anyone due to their background or identities.

Additionally, we recognize that taking action against researchers, especially more senior members of the department, college, or university, can risk retaliation or career impacts. We know that this is a complex issue and that brash action can sometimes cause more harm than good, but we are committed to supporting anyone in an abusive situation, to listening to and believing reports, and to push the department and the university towards creating and improving pathways by which these problems can be safely resolved.

Therefore,

We want to make clear our values, and to document both our guiding principles and the actionable, concrete commitments we are taking to be actively anti-racist, anti-misogynist, and inclusive; and to foster community, understanding, and empathy.

Our shared beliefs

Because we want to create an environment that actively disrupts societal and academic norms which have disproportionately and unfairly created barriers for some, an openly shared and discussed set of principles will help guide our actions and initiate conversations which might otherwise go unsaid.

We believe:

Our commitments to action

In order to realize these principles, we want to commit to tangible actions, and to hold one another accountable to these commitments:

  1. To seek out and voluntarily, actively participate in trainings and education towards improving inclusivity;
  2. To more generally educate ourselves about the enduring history of oppression in all its forms, including patriarchy, colonialism, white supremacy, religious persecution, heteronormativity, and transphobia;
  3. To continue to review the research projects and collaborations we take on for their social impact, to critically examine these projects and collaborations based on any concerns raised, and to take action based on these examinations;
  4. To take it upon ourselves to empathetically and compassionately discuss and address harmful language or actions undertaken by any research group members;
  5. To make resources for students accessible, especially for students who have disabilities, and students with outside commitments such as taking care of family, or who face challenges created by a lack of university support, e.g. some transfer and commuting students;
  6. To accurately and intentionally represent the contributions to Computer Science of women and people of color, particularly those who have been silenced or discredited;
  7. To speak out or, if necessary, boycott conferences which fail to take action towards equality and inclusivity, or which take actions that actively harm these causes;
  8. To actively and urgently address harms perpetrated by those unjustly protected through tenure, notoriety, or publication record;
  9. To consistently pursue open-access publication, taking advantage of channels such as ePrint and arXiv;
  10. To use our voices to affect change at the department level, promoting these beliefs and adhering to these commitments;
  11. To host regular community- and communication-building casual social events for the entire research group;
  12. And finally to regularly, openly, and honestly discuss our progress and any failures in pursuing these commitments.

In closing,

This is a living document, but while the text may change, the spirit of it will not. In writing this, we know that there are certainly things that we have missed, and we will strive to learn and grow and appropriately update these commitments to do the most good we can. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Max Zinkus, PhD Student

Tushar Jois, PhD Student

Gabrielle Beck, PhD Student

Alishah Chator, PhD Student

Jonathan Prokos, Undergraduate Student

Gijs Van Laer, PhD Student

Arka Rai Choudhuri, PhD Student

Aarushi Goel, PhD Student

Dr. Matthew D. Green, Associate Professor


[1] Quoting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

[2] Stated very well in The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work https://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/papers/moral.html

[3] Occasionally a useful tool for academic discussion, but not for the discussion of oppression.