JMU leadership to propose renaming three buildings named for Confederate leaders
James Madison University leaders will recommend to the university’s governing body that the school rename three buildings on JMU’s historic Quad named for Confederate leaders—Jackson, Ashby and Maury halls.
The university will recommend immediate removal of the building names, the assignment of temporary names, and establishing a process in which the JMU community will be involved in the development of new names over the coming academic year.
The JMU Board of Visitors has ultimate decision-making authority regarding building names. University leadership is confident the board will support the proposal, and it is working to convene a special virtual meeting of the board this summer to address this issue.
The university, with leadership from JMU’s Task Force on Inclusion, has studied the history of the institution, including the names of these buildings, for a number of years. Information on Jackson, Ashby and Maury halls compiled by the History and Context Working Group of the aforementioned task force was recently shared with the campus community, and individuals were invited to send their thoughts on the building names to university leadership. While the overwhelming majority favor changing the names, every comment was carefully considered. In adhering to this deliberative process, the university fulfilled its mission of educating, listening and learning, and ultimately acting—underscoring that how organizations change matters as much as what they change.
“We recognize that these building names are a painful reminder of a history of oppression, and that they send an unwelcoming message to Black students, faculty and staff in particular. That is not who we are or who we want to be,” JMU President Jonathan R. Alger said. “Much has changed since those buildings were named more than 100 years ago. JMU has evolved into a national institution that welcomes students from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. We have a responsibility to change and evolve, and while that process can be messy and painful at times, it is at the heart of what it means to be a university.”
JMU embraces values of diversity, inclusion, access and equity, and while there is much work to be done beyond changing three building names, the university becomes better and stronger in striving to live out those values. Sharing the institution’s history is part of JMU’s educational mission, and for that reason, the history of these buildings and their names over the years will be described through internal building signage and online information.
The school is planning to resume on-campus, residential operations in the fall, and looks forward to involving the JMU community in developing new names for these three buildings in the coming months.
James Madison University is named for the fourth president of the United States and chief architect of the U.S. Constitution. Madison owned slaves in his lifetime, and the university recognizes Madison’s flaws as well as his virtues. The university will continue to honor his legacy through the name of the institution, and carry forward his vision “to form a more perfect Union.”