James Madison University

Campus Call for Free Expression Participating President:

James Madison University

Jonathan R. Alger, President

Jonathan Alger

Free speech in higher education requires us to find ways to engage in vigorous discussions and debates while respecting one another, listening to one another, committing honestly to facts and being open to new perspectives. This is our messy but essential mission. How we engage matters. In that spirit, I hope we can reflect on how we can serve as a model for the world of a healthy, pluralistic learning community in which people of all backgrounds and viewpoints can survive and thrive. That is our privilege and our calling. — Jonathan R. Alger

Campus Call for Free Expression Planned Activities

  • Free expression will be a key focus of President Alger’s new student convocation speech on Sunday, August 20th, as well as with all faculty and staff at the kickoff event for the 2023-24 academic year on August 16th 
  • James Madison University is partnering with the Bipartisan Policy Center to hold a free expression training for every incoming first year and transfer student in August. Each student will receive a hardbound, JMU-purple copy of the Constitution, as well. 
  • In October, James Madison University will launch the “Common Good in the Commonwealth” series, moderated by President Alger. The series will feature prominent elected leaders speaking on critical issues of shared importance. 
  • Starting this August, the Madison Center for Civic Engagement will host a biweekly Dukes Discourse program, where students come together to discuss challenging issues and shared solutions on campus. 
  • James Madison University will host the National Week of Deliberation in spring 2024, which will include dozens of student-led deliberative forums on difficult topics, including free expression. 

About the President

Jonathan R. Alger became the 6th president of James Madison University (JMU) on July 1, 2012.  Under his leadership, this public comprehensive university in Virginia with approximately 22,000 students developed a bold new vision to be “the national model of the engaged university:  engaged with ideas and the world,” and a strategic plan focused on engaged learning, community engagement, and civic engagement.  This plan has included the development of ambitious new programs and initiatives across the institution, such as the Valley Scholars Program (for first-generation students from public schools in the region), the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement (which provides national as well as institutional leadership), the Economic Development Council (to support regional economic growth), the Madison Trust (to provide philanthropic support for innovative projects), the Engagement Fellows (a public service year program for recent college graduates), the comprehensive Task Force on Racial Equity, and a strategic partnership with the Republic of Kosovo among many others.  

JMU has evolved significantly under President Alger’s leadership, developing new undergraduate and graduate programs as well as many significant new and renovated buildings (e.g., for the life sciences, health and behavioral studies, business, history, residence life, dining, and athletics).  In 2022, JMU was reclassified as an R2 national research university under the Carnegie Classifications.  Its endowment has more than doubled, and the institution surpassed its stretch goal to raise over $251 million in the comprehensive Unleashed campaign to support the university’s vision.  The university has received the highest level of autonomy under state law based on its bond rating and overall management, and has also been recognized with the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement.  In 2022, JMU also transitioned to the Sun Belt Conference and the highest level of Division I Football. 

President Alger earned his B.A. with High Honors and Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College and his J.D. with Honors from Harvard Law School.

The Campus Call for Free Expression is a commitment by a diverse group of college presidents to urgently spotlight, uplift, and re-emphasize the principles of critical inquiry and civic discourse on their campuses. The Campus Call is centered on a coordinated set of presidential and campus activities focused on free expression that collectively amplify higher education’s role in preparing young people to be the empowered citizens our democracy needs.