I was first reluctant to write this for multiple reasons. But I would be doing myself and the JMU community a disservice by staying silent. This post has been a long time coming and I did not have the words till now. After the defacing of the Spirit Rock painted by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in memory of a fallen member with “Trump 2016” AND JMU‘s “we have no reason to believe that the repainting of Spirit Rock was anything more than an expression of support for a political candidate” response, I had more than a few words about the passive and blatantly aggressive climate on campus. James Madison University is flawed.
James Madison is a predominately white institution that ignores marginalized issues. We have “diversity” campaigns that refer to diverse thinking instead of diverse inclusion. I am sure many will say, Oh, if you don’t like it here then LEAVE. Using exclusionary ideas, rhetoric and actions already push students to more inclusive schools and communities. Ignoring issues on our campus actually increases tension on campus. For our community to get better, we need to talk about the issues on our campus. If marginalized people leave, who will bring up these issues? If I have to sacrifice your comfort while talking about how students are excluded on campus, then I will gladly do it.
From my perspective, we need to address these problems on campus immediately:
- Campus Assault Response (CARE) needs an office. To combat rape culture, we need convenient resources for victims, survivors and secondary survivors. This should be high on our priority list before we give any other organization an office. According to the New York Times, “In four years of college, more than one-fourth of undergraduate women at a large group of leading universities said they had been sexually assaulted by force or when they were incapacitated.” Before anyone screams ITS FALSE REPORTING! Actually 2 percent of reported case are considered false reporting. Also, cisgender women are not the only ones effected by sexual assault. “Overall, three in four LGBT students reported experiencing sexual harassment.” Many intersections like men, people of color and people with disabilities experience sexual assault not just cisgender women. In order to challenge the culture we live in, we need a visible office for CARE.
- Title IX needs to be formulated for our student body. The Student Government Association (SGA) has worked hard to create proposed resolutions for administration. I agree with their suggestions below & SIGN THEIR PETITION HERE
- “Adapt Title IX training for student employees to include more gender inclusive language and provide interactive, and engaging training.”
- “Incorporate gender neutral and inclusive language in Madison Alerts.”
- “Uniformly educate all students about their Title IX rights and resources. We recommend the incorporation of the “8 Key Questions” and the “Madison Collaborative” to advance students’ understanding of how to approach such situations.”
- “Move the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX to a more visible location to students”
- “Promote the “Silent Witness” page on the JMU Police Department’s website and the LiveSafe app so that students know where they are able to report offenses anonymously. “
- “Increasing funding for all partners who participate in Title IX and sexual assault investigations so they have the appropriate staff to not only handle, but respond in a timely manner to such complaints.”
- People of color are not only for brochures. Incorporating people of color into the student and faculty population is important. Faculty carve out syllabi based on what they consider to be necessary and we need diverse perspective to educate our community. JMU strives to get a diverse number of students, but administration needs to realize that inclusion does not stop at admitting students and hiring faculty.
- Trans and non-binary people are students too. We need to eliminate this cisnormative concept in our community. In order accommodate them, gender neutral housing should be incorporated and gender neutral bathrooms need to be accessible. Caring for the psyche of students includes considering their basic human rights.
- JMU Administration is overpaid. The wage disparity between administration and faculty is ridiculous. Not-so-fun fact: Summer faculty basically receive minimum wage. Where are the funds going? Athletics? Just like any other JMU student, I somewhat like attending football games and leaving at halftime. But I cherish my education more than throwing streamers. Economically supporting our education with adequate instructors is vital. Also, I care about the well being of educators and their families. They are actively contributing to our education by providing skill sets, exemplifying ethics, and acting as mentors.
- Lastly, intersectionality is not a footnote. The student body, faculty and staff are not solely white, cisgender, and heterosexual. Diversity should not be used for federal funds. Marginalized voice actively contribute to this community, treat us like we do.
Let’s stop pretending. JMU is problematic. It is not Disney World.