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A James Madison University training video developed for student affairs student employees and volunteer student staff drew national attention after a story published by Fox News on Thursday.

The training included a slide that had three rows showing that able-bodied, heterosexual, white Christian men are privileged agents juxtaposed to oppressed peoples including women, transgender people, non-heterosexual people, those with various types of disabilities and non-Christian beliefs.

JMU has since removed the video from YouTube. The training is under review until next fall, according to JMU.

Local alumni of the school expressed anger at the school for the content of the video and the fact that student employees were made to watch it as part of training.

State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said his office has received “hundreds” of calls about the training from constituents, alumni and parents of current students since the story was first published on Thursday evening.

“This is woke nonsense and for a university that many believe is a flagship in our state college and university system to be embracing it in this fashion is deeply disappointing and undermines the confidence in exactly what JMU is teaching in terms of the culture here,” Obenshain said. “I think that people are deeply disappointed and offended by this, and something needs to be done.”

JMU President Jonathan Alger released a letter Friday, accompanied by a video from Tim Miller, vice president of student affairs at JMU, in response to the national news story.

“I want to reassert my commitment, and that of all of us at James Madison University, to develop and foster an inclusive environment,” Alger wrote. “Everyone has a place at JMU, and we will continue to strive to create a climate in which everyone feels welcome and respected. That includes people of all racial, gender, socioeconomic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.”

He said the difficult work and conversations dealing with diversity, equity and inclusion are “necessary” and “demand a lot of thought and care.”

“The ongoing work of the university can, and must be, to seek to have such conversations in ways that honor and respect all members of our community,” Alger said. “We all have a lot to learn, and we all have a lot to contribute.”

Miller also spoke about the importance of inclusivity in his 90-second video about the training.

“I believe that privilege is a reality and we have to talk about it in setting the context for helping our students learn to connect with and welcome diversity at JMU,” he said.

He added JMU will meet with a variety of groups with different perspectives to discuss future trainings before they are implemented, and he apologized for the training’s impact on members of the JMU community.

“The work is challenging and we won’t always get it right and the responsibility for this training falls on my shoulders,” Miller said. “Please know everyone is welcome at JMU.”

JMU declined further comment Monday.

Obenshain said JMU’s response to the conflagration has been lackluster and consists of “completely vacuous statements.”

“It just sounds like they’re waiting for this story to die down before hitting the play button again, which I find troubling,” Obenshain said.

There are some who support the training video.

An online petition in support of it had over 300 signatures by Monday evening.

“Apologizing for white fragility will never make this campus safer for marginalized identities, including students/staff who identity as people of color, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, and other social identities,” petition organizer Katie van den Berk wrote on the petition webpage. “This administration has weakened our stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion work in higher education as well as created distrust among [its] alumni, staff, and students who support this work.”

On the other side of the issue, Jeff Bolander, 63, of Massanutten, a Marine Corps veteran and JMU graduate of 1980, said he was “repulsed” student employees were required to undergo such training.

Bolander said he was struck by the labeling of Christians as privileged juxtaposed to the oppressed, which included other faiths such as Buddhism, Judaism, Paganism and Islam. He said followers of the Christian faith were among the first to rail against slavery.

“I understand there are people who have grievances and certainly there are people who have been treated horribly in our nation’s history, but to label Christians as oppressors? That’s over the top,” Bolander said.

He said it’s good that the training was paused, “but it doesn’t come close to what the administration should be doing.”

Fellow JMU alumni Walter Curt, owner and founder of Power Monitors Inc. in Mount Crawford, also said more needs to be done by the administration. Curt graduated from JMU in 1983.

“I’d like to see something more tangible, but I think the odds of that are zero because the people internally who are forcing these kinds of issues really believe in them and their belief structure is so out of touch with what the rest of the country is like in reality,” Curt said. “The only reason they’re reviewing this is because they caught heat.”

He said it goes against what schools are for — expanding the minds of students through open learning.

Instead, students are “being told what to think and how to think it,” Curt said.

“It’s just the antithesis of what should be happening in the university system,” he said. “I don’t mind if critical race theory is a class that could be taken. That’s what universities are for. But to force staff to be trained to look at white students differently than Black students is completely wrong.”

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

(17) comments

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prodigalson

Now we know why LVW has been missing in action the past few weeks. He has been developing the Oppressed/Oppressor indoctrination program for JMU.

freeride

Alger should be kicked out of JMU forever he is a disgrace to the college and has done nothing but bring bad times to it! This is so disgusting...what else can you say?

bishopsboy

Yes, freeride, Alger needs to go. His oppressor/oppressed proselytizing disqualifies him as a serious academic and president of JMU. He's become a clownish laughingstock and embarrassment to the institution.

MikeM

Do Alger and Miller see oppressors when they look into the mirror?

Or are they identifying as something other than white and male now.

bobgrathwol

There is a color they worship more than any other, and that is green. White, Christian alumni should be encouraged to never send anything green to JMU.

Donald

In the meantime a missive for thought to incoming JMU students:

Where there is rule of law,

Where there are equal rights before the law,

Where there is the freedom to express ideas,

Where there is the freedom to worship or not worship,

Where there is the right to criticize leaders,

Where there are rights inherent to the individual,

There is the legacy of Western Man.

To the world Western Man says, “You’re Welcome”.

bishopsboy

God bless the Western Man!

bootsielawson

Why is the meeting in northern Virginia? The board should be here to keep an eye on these fools.

newshound

A bunch of mentally unhinged socialists have wormed their way into positions of control at JMU leaving Ron Carrier tossing in his grave.

weld

The governance subcommittee of the Board of Visitors is meeting today (8/24) in Falls Church. Is today the beginning of the end of the ultra liberal, left-wing Alger administration? It's about time to send Jon and Mary Ann Alger packing. They have hurt JMU's reputation and now have subjected it to national embarrassment.

Elduque

The timing would certainly be perfect!

Elduque

Using their own descriptions Alger becomes Oppressor in Chief as a slim white man while Miller appears to be somewhat oppressed as a balding heavy set individual who has cockamamy ideas to feed the students. Miller should go for his poor judgement. Bad judgement is like ugly, it's forever!

billnonymous

I find it comical that students, whose parents are coughing up somewhere between $60k-140k to send them to JMU, need help recognizing privilege.

But let's look at this nonsensical training a different way. Black people owned thousands of slaves, that's a fact, so put them on the list. Democrats warred with their own citizens to keep black people enslaved, put Democrats on the list. Transgendered men in the women’s room are oppressors, add transgendered people to the list.

Anyone can use facts and categories to shape a narrative and create room for blame. But who gets to decide the categories? Who get to decide who are oppressors and who are the oppressed? Who gets to decide the qualifications/reasons? Who decides who does and doesn’t make the list? My guess is it’s Democrats/liberals/blacks/LGBTQ who make these decisions and you can bet your last dollar that they are NOT being inclusive as to allowing others to provide input. These are bigots using indoctrination to create more bigots. When you refuse to accept their bigotry or indoctrination, you are deemed an oppressor.

MikeM

Alger says he wants an inclusive environment.

Unless you are a white male straight student.

billnonymous

but if that white, male, straight student is also a fattie boombalatty, then he is no longer deemed an oppressor, but is now oppressed. seriously, that's the rules JMU laid out. Wouldn't surprise me at all if a group of wealthy, white, male donors got together and oppressed the oppression training. money talks, oppression walks.

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