Super Gr8 Film Festival in Harrisonburg

The Super Gr8 Film Festival is scheduled for November 16th at The Court Square Theater at 7:30 pm, with an awards ceremony and VIP After Party to follow at The Artful Dodger. The screening will feature films made by local filmmakers on the magical old Super 8 format. Each film will be three and a half minutes long and in black and white. The screening will last for approximately two hours. There will be a small suggested donation for entry, but no one will be turned away as we are mostly looking to fill all 260 seats of the theater. You may be wondering why Super 8 right about now so I will try to explain mine and other’s analogic love for the format. Continue reading “Super Gr8 Film Festival in Harrisonburg” »

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

EMU Seminary Alums Launch Blog for Young Adults

Laura Lehman Amstutz is an editor of Work & Hope.

Where do young adults go to discuss what’s right with the church, not just what’s wrong with it?

Two Eastern Mennonite Seminary alumni have created a blog and web magazine to provide a forum for young adults who are committed to staying in the institutional church but want to discuss what that means.

Work and Hope: Finding Christ in the Church was created by Jeremy Yoder, a 2010 graduate currently living in Baltimore, Md., and Laura Lehman Amstutz, a 2006 alumna, a Harrisonburg resident.   Continue reading “EMU Seminary Alums Launch Blog for Young Adults” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Then & Now: 1872 Rockingham Crime Reporting

Any visitor from another world checking the TV Guide might wonder at Americans apparent fascination with crime and the criminal mind. In one week’s listing TV watchers have an offering of good guys and girls vs. the bad on endless different one-hour shows. Among them are 48 Hours, NCIS, Law & Order, CSI: NY, Criminal Minds, The Evidence, The First 48, Without a Trace, Conviction, and Cold Case Files: Special Victims Unit—which runs four entirely different shows on Saturday nights.

But this is no new fascination. Continue reading “Then & Now: 1872 Rockingham Crime Reporting” »

This All Might Be A Little Too Much

Part III in a series about the South Africa 2010 World Cup and the meaning of life in Harrisonburg, Virginia (Part I and Part II).

Here I am, alone, in the cool, comfortable dim of a booth in the Harrisonburg edition of Buffalo Wild Wings, basking in the electric glow of, like, 20 televisions. It is just after 10 a.m., early for a Saturday trip to my friendly local sports bar, and I am the only patron in the restaurant section. The staff are engaged in a relaxed and practiced weekend morning routine: cutting lemons, wrapping napkins around cutlery, updating the markerboards, Windexing glass surfaces.

On the biggest of the big screens, centered along the south wall, Uruguay and South Korea are playing the first game of the 2010 World Cup’s knockout stages. The vuvuzela cacophony, beamed across the world through the digital ether, blares through the house sound system. Continue reading “This All Might Be A Little Too Much” »

This post was submitted by Andrew Jenner.

Springfest vs. Volunteerism

Aired May 7, 2010
“CIVIC SOAPBOX” (WMRA-FM): Springfest vs. Volunteerism
By Mike Grundmann

When the Springfest riot broke out in Harrisonburg on April 10, the opposite was going on across town, and JMU students were at the center of both. Dozens of students were helping with the annual Blacks Run cleanup, where almost 3 tons of trash were collected.

Not only that, 35 members of the JMU swim club anticipated the Springfest garbage mess and helped the city do its cleanup the next day.

There’s been plenty of shame-on-you within the campus confines after Springfest: not just from the president but a professor who wrote a scalding letter to the student newspaper, The Breeze, and at least two students who wrote confessional pieces. Dozens of readers added their comments. The Breeze also probed for causes in a piece on mob psychology.

The following week, a group of students spontaneously formed and started planning how it can help patch relations with the city and volunteer where needed. It’s talking with city leaders so its efforts can be meaningful.

I’m the Breeze faculty adviser, so pardon me if I cite a few stories just from this semester, which prove the altruism permeating the student body. After the Haitian earthquake, a group struggled desperately to reach its $30,000 fundraising goal. A 25-hour basketball game raised money for orphans in Mozambique as well as the local Boys and Girls Clubs (one organizer played for 18 hours). An airplane-pulling contest raised money for a city mediation center. The women’s lacrosse team served a Sunday meal at the Salvation Army. The annual Relay for Life, a cancer-benefit walk that’s an overnighter, drew about 2,000 people and raised more than $150,000. One student in 2008 invented a new type of concrete mixer that will raise the standard of living in a Ugandan village.

Using examples from my own journalism classes this semester, one student spent spring break helping the homeless in Nashville, and another helped build a shelter for homeless teen girls in Belize.

It’s not just volunteerism that JMU students contribute. The university is also a lab for the kinds of technology that will save the world. An electric motorcycle that students built has set a speed record. Students are also designing bicycles that disabled people can ride. Others are experimenting with nanotechnology, which will produce eventual wonders in medicine, manufacturing and space travel. There’s a lab with printers, quote-unquote, that make 3-D objects; the prediction is that we’ll all have such printers at home in 10 years. And, from the president on down, there’s a major push to minimize waste in energy and materials. JMU just won a governor’s award for that.

I’m continually impressed by how many of my students list activity or office-holding positions on campus, the vast majority of them service-oriented.

Did some of these same students also attend Springfest? Yes. Did they throw bottles? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

I’m not saying all this because I’m the booster type. I’m a journalist by training, and you know how skeptical we can be. I’m doing this because the Springfest riot really surprised me, and I wanted you to know why I was surprised.

Mike Grundmann is a journalism professor at JMU and advisor to the student newspaper, The Breeze.

This post was submitted by Mike Grundmann.

Then and Now: JMU Presidents’ Controversies

“Spring Fest 1010” that took place off-campus but was hosted by James Madison University students led to police battles that headlined newsprint with each step into blame or fame heralding the school’s response. And the school newspaper’s invasion by a team of the local Commonwealth Attorney heightened the public outcry.

Students protesting in Wilson Hall and being arrested, circa 1970, before Dr. Ronald Carrier became the school's president. (Courtesy of JMU Special Collections, Carrier Library)

Since the school’s inception just over a century ago as an academy for young women, the five successive school presidents have each had visions of accomplishment and always faced the media chopping block. Any time something major and/or colorful went wrong, newspapers quickly front-paged the story.

For example, first president Julian Burruss felt, “The development of a strong, noble and womanly character is of first importance….” His rules were stringent but media ignored any small discrepancies such as one girl placed on a quarter’s probation for attending a dance downtown without permission, knowing she couldn’t get permission. Ditto when another was suspended for rudeness to a teacher.

But on certain matters Burruss could not hold the newspapers in check.  Banner headlines in the Harrisonburg paper for February 15, 1913, reported “PRETTY SCHOOL GIRL ELOPES FROM NORMAL.” Immediately below in smaller caps ran “MISS LILLIAN CAMPBELL, LEAVES DORMITORY BY MEANS OF IMPROVISED ROPE, JOINS LOVER AND HASTENS TO BE MARRIED—STUDENT BODY SHOCKED.”

The faculty was more shocked and faced a dilemma since no specific rule banned elopement!  Deliberating from afternoon until after midnight, the faculty finally voted to expel the young lady from school for “leaving without permission.” The groom’s sister was asked to withdraw as well and the other roommate suspended for a year. The story made the Washington Post and newspapers around the state—yet the school didn’t lose face on this one.

And so it goes, both problems and kudos make the news. Yet president Burruss made few errors and when offered the presidency of Virginia Technical Institute, he couldn’t refuse the step up to his alma mater. Newspapers applauded his success.

However, those same papers only halfheartedly welcomed the new president Samuel P. Duke. Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record for July 23, 1919, simply stated the Virginia Normal School Board voted “7 to 5 in favor of Prof. Duke.” Clearly disappointed in the choice, the paper didn’t even accord Duke the title of state supervisor or list his many accomplishments. Their newsprint continued to evoke the vast local disappointment that Dr. Sanger, the local popular Valley choice, had not been given the position.

Yet Duke’s presidency ran smoothly—even when his Dean of Women Denise Varner bobbed her hair and numerous students followed this trend so absolutely forbidden in Duke’s rules of conduct. However, newspapers paid no attention as general student behavior toed the line under Duke at the newly named State Teachers College in Harrisonburg. While Duke’s list of restrictions seems ludicrous today, they generally extended ordinary rules enforced at students’ homes.

For 30 years Duke won only public accolades as he guided his faculty and students through the changing world in the Great Depression and World War II. Under his leadership, men were admitted as students for the first time and male athletic teams emerged. (The basketball team dubbed itself the “Madison Dukes” in hope Dr. Duke would fork over funds for basketballs and equipment—which he did.)

In 1949 a massive stroke ended Duke’s presidency. Soon designated President Emeritus, he and his wife were given the refurbished Zirkle House across Main Street (where JMU is now building its nearly-completed performing arts center) to be their home for the final six years of his life. And Gov. William Tuck appointed Dr. Tyler Miller to become Madison’s third president.

However, “The third time’s a charm” did not apply to third president Miller. While his first decade accomplished continuing growth with few changes, his last years were shadowed by the startling disharmony of the ‘60s and ‘70s. For example in 1967-68, student Jay Rainey came on campus wearing “hippie fashion” blue jeans, blanket ponchos, sandals, and flowing hair. Rainey refused to change and Miller refused his admission for next year. That decision drew wide press coverage when support on Raney’s behalf from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia won in court and the school had to admit him.

Also, a campus underground organization, Harambee, objected to Miller’s firing of three sympathetic faculty members without apparent reason as they were quickly replaced. In addition, demonstrations on campus led to student arrests. Those events included students marching on campus, a one-night takeover of the administration building, and a later welcome for Vietnam protester and movie star Jane Fonda to appear on campus to encourage students to join the antiwar activists.

Looking back years later, fourth president Dr. Ronald E. Carrier candidly assessed:

Tyler Miller had been a good president, was a very fine man. But the world was changing—dramatically. You’d had the assassination of John F. Kennedy; of Robert Kennedy, of Martin Luther King. You’d had the Berkeley free-speech movement; you’d had Civil Rights issues in Selma, Alabama, and Birmingham. You had the Vietnam War, had just had Cambodia, plus we had Kent State. You had some trouble here which was really minor but turned into more of an issue than it probably should have been.

Dr. Miller was caught in the vortex of a changing world, didn’t really want to go into it but didn’t know how to get out of it. Yet he got out in time before it damaged him personally—no one asked him to quit—and before the institution paid the price.

Newspapers had a field day. And at times presidents #4 and #5 have run the same gauntlets. One example is Carrier’s firing of a physics professor popular with the faculty but yearly unable to attract enough students to the physics program to warrant his continuing. The faculty called for Carrier’s dismissal but the Board of Visitors disagreed. Carrier remained and the school continued to flourish with expanding programs in all academic areas.

And now President Rose responded to Spring Fest by taking immediate action to contact parents school wide with a letter of his assessment and reassurance of responsive actions ahead. No student uprising or parent ire has followed. Both parents and students applaud his timely response and strong leadership. That, however, has not made the off-campus news.

For more detailed description of the events of the first four presidents—Burruss, Duke, Miller, and Carrier, read detailed chapters in Nancy Bondurant-Jones’ book, Rooted On Blue Stone Hill, a history of the school’s first ninety years.

This post was submitted by Nancy Bondurant Jones.

Fair and Balanced

Dave Rood is a contributor to the

Much has been made of the so-called “Liberal Mainstream Media.” Allegations of bias come from both sides of the political spectrum but mostly we hear the Right crying foul for what they perceive to be news and entertainment media dominated by the Left. There is little doubt that the politics of many in the national media tend to be slightly left of center but the notion that the Right has been drowned out is patently absurd. The Right uses this myth of a Liberal-dominated national news media to justify the plethora of extreme Right-wing talk and public affairs shows on radio and now Fox television.

Fox News uses the tagline, “Fair and Balanced,” which has come to be one of the greatest ironies of all times. The network, owned by Australian-American mogul, Rupert Murdoch, manages operations much like George Steinbrenner runs the New York Yankees. Both understand the power of large sums of money and each imposes his will through spending whatever it takes to get what they want. It is sort of like the American Dream turned on its head. Instead of ordinary guys taking risks to develop their innovative ideas and make their fortunes, entrenched billionaires Murdoch and Steinbrenner use their money to sell their ideas, and overwhelm their competition.

The argument from the Right is that Fox News, as well as the thousands of local ultra-conservative radio and print franchises, are merely a counter-balance to the Left’s influence on the national media. It just does not work that way.

For the sake of argument, let us assume the national media is indeed the tool of the Left. The antidote is not more propaganda from the Right but truthful (as in the whole truth) and objective reporting. Any first-year journalism student knows the difference between “the press” and “yellow press.” When a reporter searches for facts to affirm what he has already concluded to be true, he is not reporting. He is selling. When a news anchor adds colorful condescending commentary to stories for the purpose of discounting or ridiculing the stated facts, she is not reporting. When the line between entertainment (e.g. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, et al) and news is deliberately blurred, the news is devalued and naturally becomes highly suspect.

There are such things as professional standards of journalistic ethics and practices. A reporter does not have to disavow his political ideology to do his job but, like any doctor, teacher, scientist or other professional, he must suppress his bias to accurately investigate a story. This is why Creationism cannot stand the test as a science. Creationism begins with a conclusion and includes only those data that support the conclusion. Science begins with a hypothesis and confirms, disproves or modifies it as data are collected. Fox News reporters may not technically be propagandists but anyone who views the network for more than a day or two will see that the Murdoch fortune is working behind the scene to shape the news to fit his ultra-Right-wing taste.

One would think that all of the lampooning and mocking Fox has received would lead them to straighten up and fly right (poor metaphor) but it has not. Just as Steinbrenner will not stop stealing talent from other teams in the American League East, Murdoch is not likely to seek to become a noble individual who actually cares about the plight of average folks more than indulging his perverted sense of American values or shoring up his vast pile of cash.

The Harrisonburg Times is taking the mound against some heavy hitters. Obviously, it does not have the financial resources possessed by other news media in this market. If this fledgling e-paper is able to fly, it will be due to the support of local citizens who care about the information they consume, as well as the information they are fed. It is a noble attempt to both educate and enlighten our community. The Harrisonburg Times will eventually be known as either a revolutionary hero like George Washington or a romantic idealist like Don Quixote. I am rooting for it to be more like George… Washington, not Steinbrenner.

David Rood
daverood [at]

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by David Rood.