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Best Week, Worst Week: Hopkins startups get Microsoft bump; Report reveals

best-worst-011820Startups at Johns Hopkins University got a big boost from Microsoft this week while the General Assembly was hit with an annual report detailing the number of harassment and discrimination complaints throughout the legislature.

Business writer Tim Curtis reported Thursday five startups in Hopkins’ FastForward program for entrepreneurs received funding, software licenses, support and more from Microsoft as part of a unique pilot program with the technology giant.

Microsoft officials were drawn to Hopkins’ track record of generating innovations from transformative medical research and wanted to accelerate the practical applications of the university’s research, saying it dovetails with the tech giant’s own mission.

Three startups received $25,000 each through the Microsoft Innovation Acceleration Award, and two student companies got $5,000 each through the Microsoft Student Acceleration Grant.

The monetary awards are part of a wider pilot collaboration between FastForward and Microsoft. University officials pointed to the software licenses, up to $120,000 in credits for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing program, and access to Microsoft representatives, its network of people and resources as key in the development of the partnership.

Meanwhile, an annual report delivered to the General Assembly showed six people, including four lawmakers, were accused of workplace violations such as sexual harassment or racial discrimination over the last year.

Government affairs writer Bryan P. Sears reported Monday that more than 80 percent of participants in a workplace study conducted by the Department of Legislative Services said they had not heard or witnessed harassment or discrimination, but 70 percent of those surveyed said they either didn’t know or didn’t believe that such complaints were resolved fairly or quickly.

Though the number of sexual harassment complaints dropped from 11 to six in the second year of the report, Del. Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery and a member of the Legislative Policy Committee, cautioned that many who are subjected to sexual or other forms of harassment are frequently too scared to come forward. She added the climate survey is indicative of the fact that people don’t know what happens when they do file a complaint and an area that needs attention from the legislature.

Two cases in the reporting period resulted in action being taken by the General Assembly. Last year, the legislature meted out discipline to two of its own: Dels. Mary Ann Lisanti and Hasan “Jay” Jalisi, Democrats from Harford and Baltimore counties, respectively.

Lisanti was censured and stripped of her leadership and committee assignments last year after she was accused of using a racial slur to describe a legislative district in Prince George’s County. She has since been reassigned to a new committee for the 2020 session.

Jalisi was reprimanded by the legislature after a 16-page report was issued by the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee. That report highlighted five years of incidents of bullying and other behaviors directed at his staff and others dating back to Jalisi’s first year in office and multiple attempts to get the delegate to change his ways.