Vice President for Student Affairs Tim Miller participated in his third ride-along with the Harrisonburg Police Department on Halloween in order to observe parties violating COVID-19 restrictions thrown by JMU students.
During the ride-along, Miller said he approached the doors of three different houses to check out what was happening so that students would know he’s there “[to look] out for them.” He said he chose to do the ride-along because if he was going to tell students that he wants them to be safe, he “better put [his] money where [his] mouth is.”
“I’m not a police officer, but I want students to know I’m out and about,” Miller said. “I’m looking out for them, too.”
Miller said that this was his second ride-along this year, the first was during FROG week. He said he did both because he thinks it’s important to back up JMU's Stop the Spread policies by physically being there to enforce them.
“The last thing I want to do is bust students for [partying],” Miller said. “I don't sit around and say, ‘Ah, I can't wait to do a ride-along and bust some students.’”
As of Nov. 11, Wendy Lushbaugh, director of Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices, said that, from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, 45 students have alleged violations related to COVID-19. She said this number could increase since it takes time for OSARP violations to process.
“If found responsible, sanctions will range from disciplinary probation and educational programs up to suspension or expulsion from JMU,” Lushbaugh said. “[Sanctions are] based on factors including the severity of the incident and previous OSARP history for the individual student.”
Miller said that at one house he approached, students from neighboring houses thanked Miller and HPD for stopping the party. He said he was also aware of the many reactions to his ride-along online.
“I got memed several times that night,” Miller said. “Some were nicer than others.”
JMU spokesperson and Director of Communications Mary-Hope Vass said the university has set a level of expectations for students through the Stop the Spread agreement, and many students have followed these guidelines.
“While these circumstances are not ideal, they are necessary in an effort to keep our JMU and local communities safe and healthy and to prevent the spread of COVID[-19],” Vass said.
At nearly every house he visited, Miller said he was recognized. When driving around students would see him and wave, and he said he would stop to chat with them.
“I’ve worked hard to make sure students know that I'm here for them,” Miller said. “Even when we have to do things they don’t like.”
Miller said he wanted to emphasize that he appreciated that every student he interacted with was very respectful, and parties were emptied out immediately without any trouble.
“JMU students are what I know JMU students to be,” Miller said. “Which are nice folks that realize they made a mistake and close [the party] up.”
Contact Eda Tercan at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.