James Madison University is a comprehensive university which is part of the statewide system of public higher education of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The governing body of James Madison University is the board of visitors, which by statute is responsible for overseeing the effective government of the university.

History of Board Governance

In its earliest years, James Madison University (then named the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg) was governed by its own board of trustees.

The name of the institution was changed to the Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg in 1914 and governance of the institution was shifted to a state agency, the Virginia Normal School Board.

The institution became the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg in 1924 and governance was transferred to the State Board of Education. 

The institution remained under the State Board of Education until 1964 when the Virginia General Assembly established independent boards of visitors for each of the state's former teachers colleges.

Composition of the Board

Members of the board of visitors are appointed by the governor.  The first board of visitors for JMU (then Madison College) had 11 members.  By action of the Virginia General Assembly, the size of the JMU board was expanded to 15 members in 1989.

Of the 15 members, no more than two can be non-residents of Virginia.  Board members generally include both alumni of the university and others. 

In addition to the 15 members appointed by the governor, a student representative is chosen to be the student representative to the board each year by the student body.  The speaker of the JMU Faculty Senate also serves as the faculty representative to the board.

Terms of Office

Visitors are appointed for terms of four years each.  Visitors are not eligible to serve for more than two successive four-year terms.  However, a person appointed to serve an unexpired term created by a vacancy is eligible to serve two additional four-year terms. 

The non-voting student representative serves a one-year term.  The student representative may be elected to a second one-year term but is not eligible to serve for more than two successive one-year terms.

The faculty representative to the board is the speaker of the Faculty Senate.  There are no board restrictions on the terms an individual may serve in this position.

Officers of the Board

The officers of the board of visitors are:  rector, vice rector and secretary.  They are elected by the board at its annual meeting in the spring.  

The rector and vice rector hold these offices for two years.  There is no limitation on the terms the secretary may hold office.

The rector and vice rector must be members of the board.  The secretary may be a board member or an administrative employee of the university.

Meetings of the Board

There are three types of board meetings:  the annual meeting, regular meetings and special meetings.

The annual meeting is usually held in the spring.  At this meeting the board elects its officers for the year beginning July 1 of that year.

Ordinarily, there are three regular meetings in addition to the annual meeting.  Dates of the meetings are established by the board.

Special meetings may be held whenever called by the board rector.

Board meetings are usually held in the Board Room of JMU's Festival Conference and Student Center. Dates, times and locations of board meetings are announced publicly at least three days prior to each meeting on the website.

All meetings of the board are open to the public as stipulated in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The board may go into closed session as described in the FOIA.

Board Committees

The standing committees of the board are:  Academic Excellence Committee; Advancement and Engagement Committee; Athletics Committee; Audit Committee; Executive Committee; Finance and Physical Development Committee; Governance Committee, and Student Affairs Committee.

The rector chairs the executive committee.  The executive committee may exercise most of the powers of the full board when the board is in recess.

Special committees may be appointed at any time by action of the board or by direction of the rector.

Both standing committees and special committees must have at least three members.  Committee members are appointed by the rector. 


Revised 6/30/22

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