On a rare 60-degree February day in the ‘Burg, The Madison Center, Dukes Vote and Women of Color at JMU popped up our tents on the Quad and brought Benny’s pizza to start a conversation with about how we can address racism. The Tent Talk came just three days following revelations that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam had worn blackface. Although the racist actions in college of Governor Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring (revealed just days after) made the headlines, they are just symptoms of a deep history of racism and discrimination in Virginia and in institutions of higher education. To foster discussion, students, faculty and staff passing by our tents on the Quad were invited to fill out their response on index cards to the prompt: “My responsibility to dismantle racism looks like _____.” Student facilitators and Madison Center staff also asked students: “How can we hold people and institutions accountable for actions that are racist?” and “What is needed to change racist systems, cultures, and attitudes?” Read more here.
Dr. Meg Mulrooney, associate vice provost and professor of history at James Madison University, also wrote about her research and work with students on how blackface on campus has functioned as a form of cultural violence against Black people. Read her blog post here.
Justice John Charles Thomas gave a powerful presentation about the importance of hope to unite our society at the Madison Vision Series on February 7th. Justice Thomas’ fundamental message was: “Have hope, spread light, and seek knowledge.” Read reflections from JMU Honors College Students on our blog here.
On January 22, The Madison Center and Dukes Vote collaborated with Caroline Whitlow (JMU, ‘20), a 2018-19 recipient of a JMU student engagement mini-grant, and Students Against Sexual Violence on an information session about proposed changes to Title IX rules. Caroline Whitlow and Kearstin Kimm (JMU, ‘20) researched and presented information about the proposed changes to Title IX and implications and the Madison Center’s Dr. Carah Ong Whaley presented information on the history of laws related to public commenting and how to write effective comments. Following discussions, students had the opportunity to write their own letters, which were mailed to the Department of Education. Read The Breeze's write-up of the event here.
In February, the Fair Elections Center released a new report, “Democracy’s Future: Proposals to Expand Access to Registration and Voting for a New Generation." Democracy’s Future provides best practices, useful background information, and concrete solutions including model legislation and policies to expand access to this new generation of voters. The Madison Center’s Executive Director Dr. Abe Goldberg joined a panel of experts, including Valencia Richardson (Andrew Goodman Foundation), Clarissa Unger (Young Invincibles), Adam Strong (CIRCLE, Tufts University) and Kiah Abby (Forward Montana) and moderated by Mike Burns (Campus Vote Project) at the report's launch. Dr. Goldberg spoke about registration and voting access, including JMU’s campus precinct, as a means for eliminating barriers to youth voting.
From February 7-9, The Madison Center’s Executive Director Dr. Abe Goldberg and Associate Director Dr. Carah Ong Whaley participated in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Winter Meeting in Florida. Dr. Goldberg and Dr. Ong Whaley facilitated a panel discussion on “Building Partnerships to Institutionalize Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement” and participated in American Democracy Project planning sessions.
Dear Gaza, With Love: On Valentine’s Day, The Madison Center, Dukes Vote and the Honors College Civic Engagement class skyped with the Gaza Youth Committee. Ruth Ebenstein, an Israeli-American journalist living in Jerusalem also joined the conversation. While mainstream media focuses on violence and terror, these young leaders in Gaza are determined to be a force for hope and peace. Using Skype and social media as a means to communicate from the confines of their “open-air prison” in Gaza, the Gaza Youth Committee is promoting dialogue between Israelis, Gazans and Americans. If you are interested in joining or setting up a Skype with Gaza Youth Committee, please contact Dr. Carah Ong Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Ruth Ebenstein's article on skyping with Gaza here.
On Valentine’s Day, some 40 students stopped by the JMU Libraries and wrote a postcard to their elected officials that the libraries mailed off. If you missed the opportunity to send a postcard, remember, you can always contact your representatives via social media, email, or phone about any issue that matters to you. Their job is to represent you, and your opinions matter! Read more on the role of libraries supporting civic life in this article by JMU librarians Kristen Shuyler and Liz Chenevey.
Will Virginia be 38 to Ratify ERA? Democracy in Peril hosted Dr. Megan Tracy, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at JMU in January about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and proposals to ratify it in the Virginia General Assembly. In addition, on February 18, JMuse Cafe showed the short film, "On Account of Sex," followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Tim Ball of the School of Communication with Dr. Tracy, Dr. Sylvia Rogers from the American Association of University Women of Harrisonburg and The Madison Center’s Dr. Carah Ong Whaley. Read WHSV coverage of the JMUse Cafe panel here.
On Monday, January 28, The Madison Center’s Executive Director Dr. Abraham Goldberg spoke on a panel about “Student Voting, Activism, and Civic Engagement” at the Education Writer’s Association two-day seminar for journalists covering higher education. Dr. Goldberg also addressed Women for Madison Executive Council on January 31 making the case for enhancing civic learning in higher education and embracing discussion on pressing political issues across campus.
On January 22, The Madison Center’s Associate Director Dr. Carah Whaley, Engagement Fellow, Shelby Taraba and JMU Honors Students attended the Virginia Complete Count Commission in Richmond chaired by Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson to learn about Virginia’s plans for the 2020 census, why it is important and to observe efforts at public inclusion at work in political and decision-making processes. In addition developing the vision, mission and goals of the Complete Count Commission, Commission members and public observers learned about the status of the controversial “citizenship question” and received VA Freedom of Information Act training. JMU President Jon Alger is an appointed member of the VA Complete Count Commission and The Madison Center is assisting with education and outreach efforts to ensure that every person who lives in Virginia has equitable access to opportunities, resources and representation. Students interested in joining the next VA Complete Count meeting on February 27 can contact Dr. Ong Whaley at email@example.com.
In February, Democracy In Peril featured Dr. C.P. Leslie Grady Jr., who spoke about the devastating effects of this past century’s impacts on global climate and what is projected to happen if the world stays on its current course of carbon emissions. Read about Dr. Grady’s talk on our blog here.
Our most recent Civic Coffee Donut Discussion was led by The Madison Center’s Virginia Politics Fellow Ethan Gardner (JMU, ‘20) who prepared a primer on the history of redistricting in Virginia and current reform proposals before the General Assembly. If you missed the discussion, read the primer here and contact your elected officials with your thoughts on reform.