Hold Professor Juan Obarrio and Johns Hopkins University Accountable for Sexual Misconduct
Link to full petition with signatures: http://bit.ly/jhumetoopetition
On May 4, 2018, Associate Professor Juan Obarrio of the Johns Hopkins Anthropology department assaulted a visiting graduate student at a public bar in Baltimore. He had attended the bar in the company of both JHU and visiting students for a post-conference event held that weekend. Throughout the night, Professor Obarrio attempted to flirt and dance with one student despite her lack of interest; ignoring the asymmetrical power dynamic between tenured professor and precarious graduate student. The night took a violent turn when soon after attempting to dance with her, he grabbed her from behind with both arms and dragged her across the bar’s dance floor towards the exit, as she struggled to flee his grasp. The entire dance floor of bar patrons froze, stunned at the assault occurring in front of them. Graduate students were able to intervene, pull her from his grasp, and leave the bar. The next day, Professor Obarrio attempted to flirt with her again, despite the violence that had taken place the night before. The following Monday, the assault was reported by Hopkins graduate witnesses to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at Johns Hopkins University, with an urgency exacerbated by Professor Obarrio’s inappropriate attitude towards female students in the past.
OIE Mishandling
The OIE’s “findings” determine that Professor Obarrio’s behavior was harassment, but not assault, in contradiction to the OIE’s own policies and definitions. In the months that followed reporting the incident, the OIE repeatedly mishandled the procedures of investigating the case. Long delays over six months contravened their directives to complete investigations within 60 days of reporting. Despite the extensive investigative period, not all witnesses were reached out to in a timely manner before closure of the investigation—nor were leads followed through for further investigation. The report excludes all mention of other inappropriate behavior which, witnesses pointed out, other students and alumni are too scared to report for fear of retaliation. Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students were not informed of the investigation and those involved in the procedures were directed not to discuss the case, despite this being a matter of public safety. Six witnesses’ accounts of assault were ignored at the expense of Professor Obarrio’s version of events.

The OIE’s mishandling of this case is particularly egregious, given JHU’s systemic failure to take sexual violence seriously. JHU is involved in an ongoing federal investigation after the institution failed to inform students about repeated sexual assaults at a fraternity in 2014. Due to this failure to share information, students continued to frequent the fraternity for over a year, demonstrating that the university prized its reputation over student safety. Like these incidents, in this case, the university’s failure to inform the community of Professor Juan Obarrio’s assault puts other students at risk. In the wake of the assault, Professor Obarrio has not exhibited any remorse for his actions. He has responded instead by sexualizing the victim’s body, emphasizing his utility to the university, and absolving himself with the claim of a blurry memory of the incident. Meanwhile, Professor Obarrio remains on JHU’s payroll.

In the age of #MeToo, we refuse to remain complicit with a known assaulter on campus. We thus demand that JHU immediately:

1) Revoke Juan Obarrio’s tenure. Someone who has committed assault and has shown no
remorse deserves no place in the Johns Hopkins community;

2) Enable transparency. This process has made both witnesses and complainants afraid of
reporting and discussing assault, harassment and abuse;
a) Disclose rubrics used to decide upon sanctions against the respondent during the
investigation period;
b) Form a committee with student stakeholders, including survivors and alumni, to
reevaluate Title IX procedures that have consistently failed us;
c) Develop a system of accountability, ensuring clear directives, notifications of
procedures, and communication of outcomes;

3) Process all complaints thoroughly and swiftly. Sensitivity to survivors and witnesses calls
for minimizing the number of times they are asked to tell and retell their stories;
a) Invest in a specialized mental health services unit for those affected by sexual
misconduct. This unit would limit the harmful impacts of the trial on student health,
and facilitate more sensitive coordination with the OIE;
b) Investigate anonymously-reported cases thoroughly. Cases raised by students, who
are vulnerable to repercussions for reporting, must be considered seriously;
c) Employ trained legal and mental health advocates, familiar with Title IX proceedings,
to support survivors at hearings and meetings;
d) Train OIE officers on mental health and the existing counseling resources;

4) Take necessary action in accordance with its own existing definition of sexual assault;
a) Comply with JHU Sexual Misconduct Policy’s definition of sexual assault as non-
consensual “intentional touching of the intimate parts of another person,” “any body
part that is touched in a sexual manner,” “sexual acts or sexual contact against a
person’s will or without consent,” and “sexual battery; sexual coercion” as sexual
b) Issue a public statement denouncing Obarrio’s actions, addressing the mishandling
of this case, and outlining concrete steps for responding to our demands.

In Solidarity,
Members of JHToo (jhu.metoo@gmail.com)
Teachers and Researchers United
International Socialist Organization, Baltimore Branch
Hopkins Feminists Club
Students for Justice in Palestine
Johns Hopkins Student Government Association
Women in Physics
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