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The following communication was sent to all JMU students on May 31, 2020.

Dear JMU Students,

I write today with a heavy heart, deeply saddened and disturbed by the recent incidents of hatred and senseless acts of violence against people of color, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and other marginalized groups in American society. For far too long, we have witnessed tragedies and injustices that have resulted from our collective failure to live up to the promise of a democracy that is of, by, and for the people — all the people. We know this grief and pain extends throughout our community, and want you to know that on behalf of the institution and as an individual, I stand with you. We will do everything we can to help create a better tomorrow — one in which no individual has to live in fear that they may someday become a target of hate.

As an institution of higher education, James Madison University has an obligation to you, our students, that we will do everything we can to equip you to go into the world and address the systemic issues that plague our nation. JMU leadership, faculty and staff strive every day to create an environment that is conducive to that charge, that is diverse and inclusive, and where every Duke is respected and affirmed. And as an educational institution, it is our responsibility to call out these issues, critically examine the underlying causes, and identify ways to use our knowledge and skills to make positive change. At a time when there is so much hurt, fear and uncertainty, there is much work to be done on this front to make sure that as a university we emerge as a beacon of access, diversity, inclusion, and hope — accepting and embracing all differences.

You know better than anyone that at its core, the Madison experience is about people. JMU is a community of individuals from every imaginable background, and it is important in these times to address these challenges together, to build strength and solidarity among us, and to reaffirm our shared values of mutual respect and equity. For this reason, JMU will be hosting a number of virtual events including Virtual Town Halls, the first to be held this coming week, hosted by the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement, and a second the following week co-hosted by JMU Student Affairs and Academic Affairs. Details are forthcoming, but these events will be an opportunity for our community to learn from experts and discuss the role each of us has to play in creating a more inclusive society. Working with student leaders and organizations, we are also planning other events and activities over the summer on these issues. In addition, we are planning to host a variety of in-person events this fall during which we can focus on these topics together. Leaders within Academic Affairs are also having conversations about infusing these issues to an even greater extent in our curriculum and academic programming.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are proud of our students who have been working peacefully to build a more just nation, but it takes every single one of us being the change we wish to see in this world to make a measurable difference. We encourage you to attend the upcoming Virtual Town Halls. If you have ideas you would like to share, you can also be in touch with JMU’s Center for Multicultural Student Services, Office of Disability Services, Access and Inclusion Office, Madison Center for Civic Engagement, or Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Office. We also encourage you to reach out to campus support services if you need help, including JMU’sDean of Students, or the Counseling Center.

Now, more than ever, we must lift each other up and affirm one another. Remember always that you have a home at JMU, as part of a community that supports you and is walking alongside you in our desire and demand for positive change and a better future.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Alger
President, James Madison University

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Published: Sunday, May 31, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

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