Confederate Names on James Madison University Buildings Must Be Changed
President Jonathan R. Alger June 18, 2020
91 Alumnae Drive, Room 208
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807
Dear President Alger,
I am writing to demand that James Madison University remove Confederate names from three building on campus at this public Virginia University. Specifically, Jackson, Maury, and Ashby Hall.
As an alumnus of the class of 1999 and former senior class president at JMU, I am horrified at my own failure to recognize the past associated with these names. For that, I sincerely apologize to my Black classmates.
Today, we face a choice, to side with Confederate symbols that represent slavery, racism and white supremacy, or say unequivocally that Black Lives Matter and adopt a pro-Black agenda.
I understand there is great pressure from some members of the Board of Visitors (the governing body of the University). President Alger, you will face much pressure. However, history will judge you and all of us, rightly so, regarding how we meet this moment. Structural racism can be seen in police brutality, housing, health care, accommodation, and in education.
Colleges and Universities in the United States reproduce racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism and transphobia. To be clear, James Madison University reproduces racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism and transphobia. The task then, is to disrupt these oppressions which necessarily requires white, male, middle-class, cisgender, able-bodied, heterosexuals to welcome discomfort and to work to change the underlying power dynamics.
The names of these buildings are part of the structural racism that harms Black students. The decision to perpetuate this harm one day longer is complicit with the racism they represent. There are not two sides to this argument, just as there are not two sides to racism.
I am pleased to see students as well as academics rise to address this issue. The Departments of Political Science, Justice Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Libraries Faculty, and the English Department at JMU have all called to change the Confederate names of buildings on campus. This demonstrates the historical implications and importance of this decision on the student body and Faculties at the University.
I am asking you to over-ride any pressure from members of the Board of Visitors and change the Confederate names on buildings immediately, for the benefit of James Madison University.
Christopher L. Pepin-Neff, PhD
JMU Class of 1999, B.A. Political Science