JMU Board votes unanimously to change three building names honoring confederate officers

On Tuesday, Maury Hall became Mountain Hall after the JMU Board of Visitors voted to remove the names of confederate officers from three buildings on campus. All photos by Bridget Manley.

By Bridget Manley, publisher

Following a unanimous vote by the James Madison University Board of Visitors, the names of three confederate officers – Stonewall Jackson, Matthew Fontaine Maury, and Turner Ashby – no longer grace buildings on campus. The decision was made Tuesday during a virtual meeting of the board.

The former Jackson Hall, nameless for now behind a construction fence.

The signage in front of the buildings was immediately changed after the vote, with two of them receiving temporary names: Maury Hall is, for the time being, Mountain Hall, while Ashby Hall is now temporarily Valley Hall. The sign for Jackson Hall, which is currently under renovation and encircled by a large construction fence, was removed but not replaced on Tuesday.

In a press release issued after the vote, the university announced that the three buildings will have “temporary, non-honorific names,” and will be renamed officially after the university conducts an “inclusive process…in which the JMU community will have the opportunity to offer naming suggestions.”

University leadership announced two weeks ago that they would recommend that the Board of Visitors change the names after calls to do so reached critical mass this summer. 

In past weeks, the student government body of JMU, alumni and entire academic departments on campus put pressure on the university to speed up decisions regarding the names of the buildings.

The hall formerly known as Ashby.

In Tuesday’s press release, President Jonathan Alger said he was happy with the university’s process in deciding to remove the names.

“At JMU we believe that how we change matters as much as what we change, and for that reason pursued a years-long strategy of educating, listening and learning, and ultimately acting on this important issue,” Alger said. “While there is much work to be done to increase equity and inclusion at JMU beyond changing three building names, the university becomes better and stronger in striving to live out those values. This is a proud day for the university.”

University leadership did not say if the Board of Visitors discussed changing the name of Harrison Hall, named after Gessner Harrison, a Harrisonburg native and University Virginia professor who enslaved humans and whose four sons fought for the confederacy.

Calls to university spokespeople regarding Harrison Hall or the former Jackson Hall’s new temporary name went unanswered on Tuesday.

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