With classes starting on Monday, Dr. Tim Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs, sat down with WMRA’s Chris Boros, who asked him to explain the program.
** This interview had production assistance from WMRA's Sara Amin.
Dr. Tim Miller: Green Dot is becoming a nationwide movement on college campuses where we’re trying to flip the script on how people normally deal with sexual assault and those types of issues on a campus where normally you go after perpetrators and say let’s train those folks and it hasn’t worked. And I think what we’re trying to do is to think differently about this and we at James Madison University have joined what already existed. This started at the University of Kentucky. They tried it the first time and have seen a real impact - instead of one hour of training, now it’s about how we build a culture and challenge the existing culture. So Green Dot is a much longer training. We take the student government president and train them in the four-hour session so they know, we train some athletes, we train some other influential students, so they’re out there in the community and they’re wearing our little Green Dot symbol and students say “what’s that?”. Well it’s about how everyone can make a difference. No one can do everything but everyone can do something.
WMRA: How do you think this is going to affect the campus overall?
TM: I hope it’s a game changer – it has been at other schools. We really want our students to understand that we all have responsibility. When you’re out with friends, each of you has to be responsible for each other, looking out for each other, versus this is one university office’s job, that’s the police’s job, it’s actually everyone’s job and I think we can’t put it on one group. It really has to be a community thing because a community creates the culture so the community has to change the culture.
WMRA: What do you think the students will gain from this?
TM: One of the best things about JMU is the family atmosphere and the caring for each other. One of the things we’re known for is the holding the doors and really sort of the awkward moment when you wait so long for a student to catch up to you because you’re holding the door for them, that needs to translate into every other aspect. You need to look out for your friend, not just when they’re trying to walk through the door, but when they’re going out. And to me it’s not just about sexual assault either, it’s about “maybe you shouldn’t drive tonight.” We do a lot of that but I think we can do more. I think you extend that to a culture of care on a campus that for me as an alumn of JMU I’m most proud of, but now as the Vice President (for Student Affairs) I know we can be an even better place than we are today.
WMRA: What’s that like for you, you went to JMU as a student and here you are the Vice President for Student Affairs?
TM: It’s a dream. I’m living my best life and living my dream job and to be able to come back here and help JMU become an even better place. I wake up every day excited to get to work and I tell people that I call it work but I never feel like I work. I get to do what I know I’m meant to do in this world every single day and I don’t know too many people that get to say that. I love every minute of it.
WMRA: How do you interact with students when you’re on campus? Do you have a specific way you approach students when you’re on campus?
TM: I’ve done a number of different things. I go to the dining hall every Monday and have lunch so I’m there at Noon. Sometimes I’ll awkwardly sit with a group of students, other times I’ll go with a student already. I’ve met with every single student organization and small group so about fifteen leaders at a time.
WMRA: Do you see yourself as an influential person in the Green Dot program?
TM: I would hope so. I think because I’ve been in student spaces with them so much they know who I am, they know I’m approachable. I created a student advisory board that meets every month that has about fifty students on it so they can give me feedback on what to do at JMU. So because of that, as I’ve shared requests and thoughts with them, they’ve seemed to respond really well to it.
WMRA: And with you being an undergraduate student at JMU probably helps your credibility a little bit.
TM: As a Double Duke, because I got my Masters also, that gives me a lot of credibility walking in the door because even though I left eighteen years ago to go on and do the rest of my career and came back, people know that I know JMU, they know that I love this place, they know that I married a Duke, they know I have a dog named Duke Dog. Because I am of this place and because this place made me who I am today, they know that everything that I do, even if they don’t always love it or understand it, is coming from the right place.
WMRA: Where does that come from?
TM: I became who I am today because of JMU. I came here as a music major, wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life and spent eight years here as a student, as a staff member, and then as a graduate student becoming myself and becoming my best self and I have to give back to JMU for that. If I spend the rest of my career giving back to this place, it’ll be a life well lived.