JMU News

Students urged to heed stay home order


Dear JMU Students and Families,

As you may have heard, yesterday Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide Stay at Home Order to stop the spread of COVID-19. This order strengthens previous guidance, directing all Virginians to stay home, unless you absolutely have to leave for reasons like seeking medical care or getting food. The order is currently scheduled to remain in place until June 10.

I want to thank all our students who have been adhering to this advice, who have returned home, who are focusing on their online studies, and are practicing social distancing. I recognize that these are not easy things to do, but you are doing it, and history will remember you as part of the solution to beating this virus. I also want to thank so many of our students and alumni who are serving on the front lines right now to address this pandemic. You are all living the values of JMU and have stepped into danger on our behalf, and I am hopeful our community will do their part while you are doing so much for all of us. Some of you have no other choice but to reside in your on- or off-campus housing. We know that for some of you, Harrisonburg is home and you are being responsible and practicing social distancing. I am incredibly proud of the mature way all of you are approaching your roles as adults and citizens in our society.

My greatest concern is with a small minority of students who have chosen to return to their off-campus housing in Harrisonburg for the sole purpose of partying or hanging out with friends. Recognize that your choices are bigger than you, and that your actions have far-reaching implications beyond yourself and your immediate circle. To engage in mass gatherings right now is reckless, selfish and detrimental to the efforts of millions of people who are being responsible and staying home. There are healthcare workers risking their lives every day, and when you act irresponsibly, you put them and others in even more danger by furthering the spread of this disease.

To be clear, staying home does not mean hosting dozens of your closest friends. It means staying home with only those you live with and never being in a group of more than 10 people. Per the Governor’s latest order, anyone found to be in a group of more than 10 people could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Your nation and your state are taking this seriously. JMU students often ask to be treated like adults, and now I am asking all of you to act like adults and take responsibility for your actions and their impact on our community. I am taking this seriously, which is why I am so thankful to local law enforcement for working so diligently to break up the few gatherings I was so disappointed to witness over the weekend.

I get that this is hard. I understand how special spring is at JMU, that a sunny day on the Quad signals the beginning of a season full of meaningful social events and rich traditions. I know that for many of you it means gathering with friends outside and graduation photos in front of the fountain and Wilson Hall.

Hear me when I say that I am sorry for you that these events and traditions can’t happen right now. However, attempting to create those experiences for yourselves and your friends is the worst thing you can do, and it impacts our ability to return to normal life again soon. I am writing this letter because I worry about not just our broader community, but each of you personally. Almost half of new COVID-19 cases are in people under age 50. A former student of mine from a previous institution, who was still very young, recently passed away from COVID-19 and left behind her husband and her 3-year-old daughter. I am incredibly shaken by someone this young succumbing to this virus and I need you all to think about the impact you are having on other people when you choose to focus more on a party than the health and wellbeing of yourselves, your friends and our community. This is real and it affects people of all ages, so please, act responsibly, make good decisions and stay home.

Again, thank you to all the Dukes who have looked out for other Dukes by staying home and helping stem the tide of COVID-19. For others, it’s not too late to do the right thing and practice social distancing.


Dr. Tim Miller

Vice President for Student Affairs

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Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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