A bipartisan group of local, state and student leaders took a united stand for transparency at James Madison University today, sending a joint letter to the Board of Visitors urging them to allow online participation for students and their families in the Sept. 18 meeting. The board meeting is scheduled to take place on campus, despite the university’s decision to move classes online after sending students living in on-campus housing home only days after they moved in.
“The JMU board was able to hold their meetings remotely last spring, so it is curious that they are choosing to not do so again at an even more controversial time,” said Dr. James Toscano, president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust. “This is a public meeting and the decisions made there directly impact them, so students need to be able to participate from where they are. JMU students are up in arms about the school’s bait-and-switch from in-person to only online classes, along with their refusal to refund fees for services the students cannot access.”
The letter was drafted by Toscano and Megan Rhyne, Executive Director of Virginia Coalition for Open Government, and signed by the chairmen of the Harrisonburg Democratic and Republican parties, two state senators, four state delegates, the former House chairman of the Education Committee, and representatives from the JMU College Republicans and Democrats, the Young Americans for Liberty and the JMU Student Government.
“Colleges and universities like JMU are making monumental decisions impacting the lives and pocketbooks of thousands of students and families,” said Rhyne. “Not giving them the tools to monitor and participate in these decisions, when the technology is easily accessible and harnessed, disregards their interests and concerns.”
Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust led advocacy efforts in support of last year’s legislative mandate to require governing boards of public institutions to hold public comment periods before voting on tuition rates, and is leading a coalition of nonprofit organizations behind the “Tuition Payers Bill of Rights.”
Letter to JMU Board of Visitors: