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JMU receives “F” grade in outside Board of Visitors transparency report

The study was presented to colleges in November.
The study was presented to colleges in November.(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 6:37 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - This week, an education non-profit released results of an assessment the Board of Visitors completed this past fall for 15 colleges in Virginia.

Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust (PCAPT) awarded schools on a grading scale of “A - F” based on a board’s transparency, receptiveness and accessibility to students and families.

The project’s objective was to provide insight into the policies and practices of these governing boards to assess the degree to which their members are transparent, accessible and receptive to students and the public.

No school received an “A,” but the highest score was a “B+” given to George Mason University.

James Madison University, on the other hand, was graded an “F,” along with four other Virginia Schools like Virginia Tech and VMI.

Stacie Gordon, with PCAPT, said JMU graded just okay on board transparency for things like notices of meetings and displaying past meeting minutes.

She said under their recommendation, the university could use more work on accessibility and board receptiveness. Gordon said improvements should be made to things like public commenting periods.

“That’s really somewhere where we think many of them can improve on including JMU and we saw that back in September,” Gordon said. “We kinda did an engagement on this issue when the school closed and sent students home temporarily during that month and the board was scheduled to meet.”

In November, the Council of Presidents, which includes all presidents of Virginia’s colleges, read the report and sent a letter with JMU President Jonathan Alger’s name on it to PCAPT.

As the leaders of public colleges and universities in Virginia, the Council of Presidents takes seriously its responsibilities to the citizens of the Commonwealth in every regard, but in particular as relates to the important decisions made by our governing boards that directly impact our communities and the public at-large. While we appreciate and share PCAPT’s dedication to transparency and accountability in board governance, the criteria employed in their assessment are not based on state law, and we have noted multiple errors and omissions in their review of public institutions’ practices. We will continue to rely on the trusted and long established authority of our partners at the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia and the Association of Governing Boards.

Michael Rao, chair of the Council of Presidents

According to the letter, the council said the criteria in the assessment were not based on state law and that there were many errors in the report. Gordon said PCAPT sent a follow-up letter asking for the errors but have yet to hear back.

According to the organization’s website, The College Governing Board Accountability Assessments were conducted through observation and review of publicly available information related to board policies and practices, including historic meeting records, board bylaws and policies, board notices, and communications channels.

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