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Live, public comments need to be allowed for the Board of Visitors meeting, or nothing will change.

As of Monday morning, JMU had the ninth-highest number of COVID-19 cases per college in the country, according to The New York Times. Let’s go, Dukes? 

It isn’t a secret that this semester is unlike any other, and with a university that prides itself on civic engagement, The Breeze calls on JMU to open its Friday Board of Visitors meeting for live public comment. In the past, questions have been accepted at these meetings and by prohibiting the public from commenting live this Friday, the university is insinuating that it has something to hide. 

JMU is one of the leaders of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which should prompt the university to be more transparent than it has ever been. By not allowing live public comment in the Board of Visitors’ meeting, JMU is proving that authenticity was never on the table.

With a pandemic that’s clearly making its mark on campus, students, parents, faculty and staff deserve the opportunity to speak directly to the university’s leaders as the conversation happens. JMU constantly reminds us of how important democracy is, but it isn’t practicing those principles when the community needs them the most. 

This isn’t the first time The Breeze has asked for transparency, and this isn’t the first time JMU has failed to be transparent. This lack of communication and haze of non-answers creates confusion and incites assumptions among students and parents desperately waiting for answers.

Having an open meeting would allow for dialogue between JMU and its community. Those who are most affected by the university’s choices should be able to share their thoughts and hopefully help influence future decisions. By keeping this meeting closed to public comment, JMU is intentionally preventing and therefore ignoring the worries and ideas of its students, parents, faculty and staff.

Why, in the middle of the pandemic, is JMU not allowing the community to address its leaders face to face or screen to screen? The university advocates for an open dialogue, yet with this meeting and many of JMU’s actions recently, it’s clear that it isn’t really a priority. 

President Alger has hidden behind his screen for too long. He needs to answer authentic questions based on the discussions at Friday’s meeting. By having this meeting closed for live public comment, the university is giving Alger, and other key members, another chance to hide from the people he needs to talk to the most. 

People should be given the ability to stand in front of their leaders and ask tough questions. So why isn’t JMU letting them? 

The Breeze’s Editorial Board represents the official stance of the paper on important issues such as this one. For more information, contact Editor-in-Chief Katelyn Waltemyer at breezeeditor@gmail.com.