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Results from the Rankin Campus Climate Report: What JMU Doesn't Want the Public to See.

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

The paragraph below is taken directly from the "Speak Up, Dukes" website. Noting JMU's desire to exhibit "openness," it was surprising to find that the report hyperlinked (highlighted below) was inaccessible to members of the Madison Cabinet. Multiple individuals tried to access the file on different devices to no avail.

"James Madison University seeks to be an environment characterized by openness, fairness and equal access for all students, staff and faculty. We strive to facilitate a welcoming and inclusive campus climate that is grounded in mutual respect, nurtured by dialogue and evidenced by a pattern of civil interaction. To reach these goals, JMU started a university-wide campus climate study in 2021. The study involves multiple initiatives and deliverables that began immediately with the formation of a Climate Study Working Group, encompassed a Campus Climate Study Survey and resulted in a report administered by an outside consulting company. We used the reported results to take immediate action and improve our campus while forming a long-term implementation team that will continue the work."

When one clicks on the link to view the report, this authorization bubble pops up prompting you to sign in.

It is even unable to be printed. We started asking each other some of the questions below:

  • Why would a public institution shield the campus climate survey from the public, alumni, parents, and donors?

  • How did the public institution pay for a "a report administered by an outside consulting company?"

  • How much was the consulting company paid?

  • What was in the report?

However, we were able to obtain a copy of the full 535 page report, which we will attempt to post. Below are unedited comments taken directly from the report. We will let the readers determine the status of the campus climate at JMU based on your own reading of these thoughts from faculty, students, and staff at JMU.

Update: Read the Report Here:

Download PDF • 5.28MB

The Madison Cabinet calls on the University and Board of Visitors to remove the roadblocks that are currently in place and allow access to this document on its website.

Seven Themes from Rankin & Associates:

  1. Offering additional training / education

  2. Needing changes in leadership approaches from senior-level administrators

  3. Improving processes related to hiring / recruitment and salaries

  4. Altering ideas about diversity

  5. Minimizing attention to political views and / or not positioning particular views as negative

  6. Stronger access to child care

  7. More opportunities to listen to campus constituents

Hiring Procedures Themes:

  • 67% of instructional faculty respondents had seriously considered leaving JMU in the past year.

    • 63% of of instructional faculty respondents who seriously considered leaving did so because they did not feel valued by JMU.

  • 62% of staff respondents had seriously considered leaving in the past year

    • 63% of staff respondents who seriously considered leaving did so because they did not feel valued by JMU.

  • 287 instructional faculty and staff respondents elaborated on their observations of unjust behavior, procedures, or employment practices related to hiring, promotion / tenure, reappointment / reclassification, or employment-related disciplinary actions, up to and including dismissal. Four themes emerged from the responses: diversity in hiring, hiring issues, favoritism, and identity-based unjust behavior.

Comments about Administrative Leadership:

  • "Of these the biggest is a lack of transparency and an absence of presidential leadership. We can't even talk with the president as he is inaccessible and intentionally makes himself inaccessible to diverse people. He has fear. He is protected by a few, therefore he never knows that is happening with those in lesser positions."

  • "Remove senior admin and BOV and replace them with people who actually care about the university , not just the economic viability and perceptions of the university."

  • Better leadership -- people who walk the walk and talk the talk and know what they are talking about. Stop thinking all of this as public relations and marketing. Stand up for your people and stand up to reactionary social forces / actors. I believe the top leadership of JMU should seriously consider going back to full time teaching and giving up administrative roles."

  • "Senior leadership appears feckless and lost."

  • "JMU's leadership is opaque, secretive, and in my experience, untrustworthy and occasionally callous."

  • "Admin is VERY in-bred. Hiring double dukes and promoting from within causes navel gazing and insular views. Boots on the ground, but we are not as great as they think we are."

  • "As a faculty member, it increasingly feels that university administration is less and less involved with those of us whose main role is teaching and research.

  • Lots of great people working in admin and working very hard, but no clear vision from the president and provost so difficult to see meaningful change being enacted in the near to mid-term future."

  • "It is my opinion that decisions are made to maintain JMU's reputation and to ensure that alumni continue to donate money and that parents will send their children to JMU...and not necessarily for the right reasons."

  • "The upper admin at JMU (President and VP's) is more concerned with PR than with the healthy and sustainable operation of the university.

  • "JMU administration should value the staff for what they bring to the campus. This includes differing opinions, views and life experiences. At this point, JMU is trending towards becoming a hostile environment for many employees, especially those who are white males, Christian, and do not believe in the current COVID vaccinations.

Comments on Minimizing Attention to Political Views:

  • "Keep personal political opinions out of the classroom."

  • "Make sure professors keep their personal opinions to themselves and remove BLM posters from the windows of school buildings. We are here to learn and should not be indoctrinated by political motives."

  • "Get back to educating and quit playing politics."

  • "The administration and some faculty think we should be teaching students what to think rather than how to think."

  • "Let us enjoy the college experience, stop shoving diversity down everyone's throat's. It's ruined college. Keep politics out of my education."

  • "Often people are silent about their minority views because they don't want to suffer retaliation for them."

  • "Be more accepting of different political ideologies. Current actions are divisive and attempt to silence /reject opposing views."

Comments on Diversity in Hiring:

  • "Offices and departments on campus openly conduct searches and fill positions iwth an aim of finding and hiring BIPOC individuals."

  • "If you're anything but white, have a physical handicap and something other than heterosexual you're automatically a shoo-in for the job."

  • "I appreciate the desire to create a diverse faculty at JMU. However, I have observed times when that desire leads to bias against candidates that would not increase diversity. I believe this to be unjust.

  • "It is becoming clear to me that DEI initiatives are meant to create hiring procedures that privilege certain racial identities over others. While I understand the motivation for it and approve of diversifying our faculty, I believe this is unethical and possibly illegal."

  • "I believe that in trying to be better with DEI issues we are creating unjust behavior in general hiring practices. The cohort hires are fantastic and I heartily endorse that practice but for general pools it would be nice to follow federal law."

  • "In an effort to make up ground regarding our lack of diversity on campus, we seem to be adopting practices that are themselves biased and unjust to applicants who have requisite credentials but do not help advance the university's visual / observable racial identity."

  • "Increasingly over the last decade in our efforts to improve the diversity of our faculty, we've begun to discriminate against candidates that don't APPEAR to further that goal."

  • Hiring practices have been changed recently such that members of favored minority groups are hired disproportionally, thus depriving equal opportunity to those applicants who are not members of those favored groups. Note that I strongly favor hiring people from underrepresented minority groups when possible, but not in this exclusionary way. There are more reasonable ways to do this."

  • "I was told to not bother applying for a full-time job in my department because I was white, straight (assumed) and female."

  • "The current focus on DEI in hiring makes me (white, heterosexual woman) feel less valued than if I were more diverse."

  • The current climate on campus is favoring 'minority hires' to a degree that excluded better-qualified 'non-minority' applicants and we are so desperate to hire underrepresented faculty that we have interviewed a POC that was underqualified compared to others that were not interviewed."

  • "I have been told on more than one occasion that hiring preferences will be given to minorities from certain groups versus hiring the person most qualified to fulfill the position."

A prior post of the Madison Cabinet details the massive new bureaucracy in hiring at JMU. Now we have additional context to how those new protocols were adopted, but appears JMU is doubling down on it's "insane" hiring protocols for faculty (AKA, the people responsible for teaching our children).

Comments on Favoritism:

  • "Favoritism and cronyism are one of the only transparent things about my department."

  • "Upper administration hiring friends from the institution they previously worked at."

  • "SLT seems to hire its friends to cushy positions. The emphasis on 'double dukes' or 'triple dukes' is embarrassing; this is avoided and seen as grossly problematic at other universities."

  • JMU nepotism, in student affairs especially, non-JMU candidates are dismissed that have great / superior qualifications in lieu of someone with a JMU degree. School pride is one thing, not offering jobs to the most qualified candidate is another."

  • "So much seems to be contingent upon how well you are liked by the leaders who have been here for decades."

Other Comments:

  • JMU is bad on shared governance. Hand picked committees, top down practices predominate. Lots of happy talk, but that's about it."

  • "The administration is either in denial or deeply cynical. Shared governance is the LAST thing it really wants or values. Oh, it pays lip service to the idea, but departments cannot (now) even rank job candidates applying for instructional (tenure line) positions. The administration has just rewritten the guidelines for FACULTY searches, disallowing ranking of candidates by search committees. That is willfully choosing ignorance."

  • "JMU talks about work-life balance but several areas simply don't have it and the expectation is that you will be on your email in the evenings, weekends, and while on vacation."

Comments on Problems Related to COVID:

  • "You guys severely mishandled COVID. Fall 2020 was an absolute disaster, I felt unsafe and no one took it seriously."

  • "JMU had a poor plan in response to COVID, and I was scared to go to classes or dining halls because I knew there were COVID positive people walking around."

  • "I did not agree with how JMU responded and continues to respond to COVID 19."

  • "I was upset that JMU was making different, and less safe, decisions than other VA Schools."

  • "Online COVID classes was not working. My entire schedule moved online for two full semesters during COVID and I really struggled with keeping my grades up, staying motivated, and having positive mental health, and I felt that maybe transferring to another school with more in person, normal classes would have been beneficial for my health.

Many of these concerns were noted in this September 5, 2020, Richmond Times Dispatch Editorial, "Colleges and Universities need to reopen the right way."

Certainly a lot to process in this 535 page report, but at least now we know why the University didn't want it publicly available.

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