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James Madison University has a long history of naming campus sites, programs and facilities in honor of people who contributed significantly to the institution’s mission. In the past, names were also used to recognize other kinds of contributions, such as James Madison’s involvement in writing and securing adoption of the U.S. Constitution and as author of the Bill of Rights. Today, JMU has four aims in the deliberate naming of campus entities: 1) recognizing a significant philanthropic investment in the university, 2) acknowledging extraordinary service to or valued association with the university, 3) commemorating contributions of a figure of historic significance, or 4) providing temporary or function-based labels to facilitate wayfinding.

Since this institution’s founding in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg, many of its sites — even the institution itself — have undergone name changes that reflect its growth and transformation over time. Name changes are a routine part of campus culture.

This website includes background and resources on naming processes currently in place and the policy governing those routine processes.

However, in recent years, we have begun to pay particular attention to names at JMU that require re-examination to ensure they align with the institution’s values, integrity and reputation.

On July 7, 2020 the JMU Board of Visitors voted unanimously to pass a resolution to remove the names of Confederate military leaders from three buildings, which are now temporarily labeled Justice Studies, Valley, and Mountain Halls. President Alger summarized the process that led to this historic decision in a video sent to the JMU community on June 22.

The Campus History Committee, as part of its broader charge concerning institutional history, is pursuing plans and possibilities related not only to these three buildings but for others as well. The committee submitted its 80-plus-page report to Jonathan R. Alger for him to review with the President’s Cabinet, including new naming recommendations, as well as other proposed campus commemorations and plans for additional research. Mr. Alger and the university's vice presidents sent their recommendations, largely based on the report, to the Board of Visitors for review and decision.

On Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, the university’s Board of Visitors voted to approve three new names for buildings on campus. This is the culmination of research, study, community consultation and open communication about progress toward renaming these prominent sites on the JMU Quad. Read more about the historic decision: “JMU leadership approves new names for three buildings on campus.”

 

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