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JMU's Board of Visitors decided to rename buildings on the Quad after influential Black people of the university. 

The JMU Board of Visitors gathered Friday over WebEx and discussed the university’s budget, renaming of the three quad buildings and the COVID-19 update.

JMU BOV announces new names for three Quad buildings

The final selection for the renaming of the three buildings on the Quad was voted on and the board decided to rename the buildings in honor of influential Black men and women of JMU. 

Mountain Hall will become Gabbin Hall in recognition of Joanne and Alexander Gabbin, Justice Studies Hall will become Darcus Johnson Hall in recognition of Sheary Darcus Johnson, and Valley Hall will become Harper Allen-Lee Hall in honor of Doris Harper Allen and Robert Walker Lee. Deborah Johnson, a member of the Board of Visitors, praised the efforts of renaming these halls.

“It is in my opinion that naming all these halls is a significant step towards the broadening and recognition of the university,” Deborah Johnson said.

President Alger said he hopes to have an in-person celebration for the changing of the nameplates of these buildings in the fall 2021 semester.

Crack down on COVID-19 guidelines

Tim Miller, vice president for Student Affairs, gave his report on COVID-19 and the students’ behavior toward the universities policies. Miller said JMU had 647 students with alleged violations of COVID-19 policies, with 551 responsible for these violations. Fifteen of those students were suspended due to events of up to 300 people.

“I wish we didn’t have to do this, but we have to hold these students accountable,” Miller said. “Especially when it comes to the health and well-being of our community.”

Miller said COVID-19 testing is a “major focus” at JMU. Since Jan. 4, 10,357 tests have been administered on campus with 111 positive results as of Feb. 19. In comparison, 10,378 tests were administered during all of the fall 2020 semester.

Miller said that the large increase in tests is because of easier access to testing materials granted by the state and the introduction of the rapid test, which has allowed students to receive results within 20 minutes. He also said that JMU is on track to easily surpass 40,000 tests by the end of the semester.

Entry testing for all on-campus students was a new policy for the spring semester. Miller reported that 5,372 students’ results were verified with only four positives out of this number.

JMU Men’s basketball on top of CAA

JMU reported a 67.5% win percentage across all spring sports as of Friday. The men’s basketball team is projected to be ninth in the Colonial Athletic Association. The team was 13-5 and is at the top of the CAA as of Friday.

President report

President Jonathan Alger gave his presidential report and announced the relocation of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression office, the Center of Multicultural Student Services and the Office of Disability Services to the first floor of the Student Success Center in the next academic year.

Alger said these changes would provide these resources to “one of the main traffic areas” on campus.

Alger also paid respects to justice studies professor Terry Beitzel, who died on Jan. 29.

“Terry’s kindness was known not only by his colleagues at JMU,” Alger said. “He was also known by everyone he served and will be dearly missed.”

CHOICES, the admitted student open house that JMU offers. Its normal function involves bringing students to campus, giving them a tour and offering current students’ advice about the transition or specific advice pertaining to academics. This year, CHOICES was offered virtually because of COVID-19 and attracted about 300 more students than previous averages.

“CHOICES being virtual offered students from across the country the chance to join in,” Alger said. “Students from California and other far away states had much more access to CHOICES this year than previously.”

Alger said that efforts are underway to prepare JMU’s transition into a National Research University. This is a Carnegie classification of higher education institutions and JMU will focus on building its identity and strengths of its current doctoral research programs and adapt research into JMU’s core values. This will lead into more doctoral research grants and programs for future graduate students.

JMU’s budget faces shortfall

Charles King, the senior vice president for administration and finance, said the pandemic will cause about a $54.1 million shortfall in the budget. However, the financial committee is hoping to refinance more because of  the historically low refinancing interest rates.

King shared the Virginia's General Assembly’s bill that is being discussed between the House and Senate of Virginia. This bill will increase the salaries of professors and adjunct faculty by up to 3%. Along with that, a $750 bonus will be included in this package.

King said that some funding for capital projects around JMU will be rewarded, including the maintenance of the east campus steam plant. King said that the driving factor on whether JMU will keep a tuition freeze will be the language of the GA’s bill.

The provost gives academic update

Heather Coltman, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said that despite the “rocky start” of the fall 2020 semester, the student retention rate from fall 2020 to spring 2021 was 95.8%. Coltman said this percentage was on par with previous years.

“This is down 1% from last year,” Coltman said. “So yes, this number went down, but it was a very small percent.”

In fall 2020, 90% of students earned an A or a B on their official transcripts, Coltman said. Along with this, Coltman said that fewer students dropped out of a class in fall 2020.

“These are just a couple of indicators,” Coltman said. “But not the only indicators of student success and positive environments in the classroom.”

Contact Michael Staley at stale2ma@dukes.jmu.edu For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU