In a previous post, we detailed the findings of the Rankin Campus Climate report commissioned by JMU. Madison Cabinet would like to note that even if the findings of the report weren't deeply concerning (which they are), our principle objection is that the report remains inaccessible on the JMU website. In the prior post, we also posed a question regarding the cost of the Rankin Report. Yesterday, we received a response to our records request from the University. In the interest of transparency, below is the exact language we received from Mary Hope-Vass, Executive Director of University Communications.
"Campus Climate Study – The amount paid to the consultant was $83,366.38 and was the result of a competitive procurement process. This is a comprehensive tool commonly used by institutions of higher education as an industry-standard best practice to evaluate and examine a wide variety of issues on campus like access for individuals with disabilities, veterans and a variety of demographics. This major project included the development and implementation of a survey instrument in addition to focus groups to lead future conversations on ways to continue improving the culture within the university."
While procuring an outside group to conduct a survey may be commonly used by institutions of higher education and considered an industry best practice (we will discuss how the higher ed industry nationally needs to take a good hard look in the mirror in a later post), one could also argue that it is best practice to publicly post a public record that has been paid for using taxpayer funds.
The definition of a public record according to Virginia Code is:
"Public records" means all writings and recordings that consist of letters, words or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting, photography, magnetic impulse, optical or magneto-optical form, mechanical or electronic recording or other form of data compilation, however stored, and regardless of physical form or characteristics, prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business.
In researching for this post, we also found a breeze article mentioning several presentations where the report was presented to the JMU community. We did some additional digging and found several recordings of the presentation. You can watch the April 11, 2022 recording here. Yet again, the presentation delivered on campus by a representative from Rankin and Associates is no where to be found online. Why?
Why is the university continuing to shield an $84,000 report and accompanying presentation from the public?
Perhaps the Board of Visitors should ask at their April 20-21 meeting.