James Madison University

Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia
Website: http://www.jmu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

James Madison University has been given the speech code rating Green. Green light institutions are those colleges and universities whose policies nominally protect free speech. Read more here.

  • James Madison University: Photographs Seized from Student Newspaper

    January 2, 2002

    In April 2010, the Rockingham County, Virginia, prosecutor Marsha Garst sent a large group of police officers to the offices of James Madison University (JMU) student newspaper The Breeze with an improper warrant to seize photographs of the annual Springfest party near campus. The party had drawn about 8,000 people—students and non-students—and caused substantial public disorder, including violence. There were dozens of arrests, and The Breeze was there taking pictures. The prosecutor seized about 1,000 photos, including many entirely irrelevant ones, but almost immediately gave them back because they had been seized improperly. After various negotiations, Garst apologized and had […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Standards & Policies- Soliciting, Petitioning, Selling, Surveying & Publicizing 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies, Statement

    Students or student organizations must obtain written approval from the coordinator of clubs and organizations, before petitioning or surveying students.

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  • Harassment, It’s Not Academic: A Guide for Faculty, Staff and Students 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Sexual Harassment is conduct that:
    1. is sexual in nature;
    2. is unwelcome; and
    3. denies or limits a student’s ability to participate
    in or benefit from a JMU’s education program; or
    4. denies or limits an employee’s ability to perform
    their job in a safe environment.

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  • Student Handbook: Standards & Policies- Harassment and/or Bullying 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    It is the established policy of JMU to provide a work and study environment for faculty, staff and students free from all forms of harassment, bullying, stalking, intimidation and exploitation. Prohibited harassment, bullying, stalking, intimidation and exploitation includes offensive verbal, written, electronic, or physical conduct in the following situations: ... Conduct that seriously and/or repeatedly affects an employee’s or student's performance or creates a hostile work or study environment. The conduct includes but is not limited to behaviors referring to a person's age, color, disability (formerly J22-100), genetic information, national origin, parental status, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (formerly J23-100), sexual orientation or veteran status. Conduct of a sexual nature that seriously and/or repeatedly affects an employee’s or student’s performance or creates a hostile work or study environment.

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  • Student Handbook: Right of Expression Policies 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies, Statement

    All demonstrations or peaceful assemblies must be registered with the University Unions director or designee at least 48 hours in advance. Standard space reservation procedures must be followed for the use of any university space. Demonstrations or peaceful assemblies are generally defined as any public manifestation of welcome, approval, disapproval, protest, or conscience by a student or group of students.

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Green Light Policies
  • Use of Bulletin Boards & Posting Public Notices 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies, Statement

    Advertising the sale of alcoholic beverages, or any phrase or symbol that would lead the reader to believe that alcohol will be served or consumed is prohibited.

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  • Office of Equal Opportunity: Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Hostile environment- A form of sexual harassment where there is sufficiently severe or pervasive unwelcome conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the performance of an employee or student. In a hostile environment situation, the conduct may create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive education or working environment, and may include such conduct as:
    Unwelcome physical contact or behavior, such as touching, or making sexually explicit gestures, or jokes;
    Unwelcome displays of posters, pictures, words, or messages;
    Unwelcome sexual remarks, such as making suggestive statements about an individual’s body, clothes, or movements;
    Introduction of sexually explicit materials into the classroom or workplace without a legitimate educational or work-related purpose.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Rights and Responsibilities 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    The student as a citizen has the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and association ....

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  • Student Handbook: Standards & Policies- Personal Abuse 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    No student shall direct expressions that can be reasonably anticipated to incite a violent reaction from an individual or group of individuals at anyone.

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  • Appropriate Use of Information Technology Resources 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, Statement

    Individuals shall: Not use computing resources, including the university network and email system, with the intention to harass, intimidate, threaten, or otherwise harm another person, whether directly or indirectly.

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  • Examiner Local Editorial: Muzzling free speech on campus

    January 2, 2013

    One New Year’s resolution we’d like to see in 2013 is a renewed effort to uphold the First Amendment on college campuses. According to a new report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, 62 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities “maintain severely restrictive speech codes … that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” FIRE noted that the overwhelming majority of speech is protected. But narrow exceptions (such as “fighting words,” obscenity and defamation) “are often misused and abused by universities to punish constitutionally protected speech.” Restrictions intended to protect students from harassment or bullying have been […]

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  • 6 of 10 universities can’t figure out 1st Amendment

    December 20, 2012

    by Bob Unruh at WND More than six of 10 colleges and universities across the United States have yet to figure out the First Amendment, because their “speech codes” conflict with the Constitution, according to a new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “FIRE surveyed 409 schools for this report and found that over 62 percent maintain severely restrictive, ‘red-light’ speech codes – policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech,” said the executive summary. “That this figure is so large is deeply troubling, but there is good news: for the fifth year in a row, the percentage of schools maintaining […]

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  • Education: Three champs

    September 10, 2012

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has become one of the foremost champions of America’s most important liberty: free speech. Almost singlehandedly, FIRE has beaten back sometimes Stalinesque restrictions on free expression at campus after campus across the country. Recently the group issued its list of the seven best colleges for free speech in 2012. Three of the seven are Virginia institutions: James Madison, William and Mary, and the University of Virginia. The commonwealth should applaud all three institutions and take pride in their defense of the rights of students and faculty alike. Other Virginia institutions, however, still have […]

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  • Southern schools dominate list of best colleges for free speech

    September 6, 2012

    By Joshua Rhett Miller at FoxNews.com Just as college students head off to campus, a list of schools that hold the First Amendment above political correctness is out  - with a slew of Southern schools leading the way. The list, released Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), cites James Madison University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania for protecting free speech on campus and maintaining policies honoring freedom of expression. “It’s easy for students to get caught up […]

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  • You Can’t Say That Here — This Is a University!

    November 2, 2010

    by A. Barton Hinkle Richmond Times-Dispatch Teresa Sullivan has been in the president’s office for only a brief period, but the University of Virginia already has made a tremendous improvement on her watch. The Foundation for Individ ual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization dedicated to protecting free speech on campus, reports that it has conferred its green-light award on Mr. Jefferson’s university. UVa thereby becomes one of only 13 colleges in the nation — William & Mary is another — to receive the rare designation, which the Charlottesville school earned by revising its egregious speech codes. Those speech codes […]

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  • How One JMU Student Worked to Eliminate Restrictive Speech Codes

    September 25, 2013

    James Madison University is one of the few schools to have FIRE’s “green light” rating, but JMU wasn’t always a green light school. In October 2009, FIRE began working with James Madison University students to reform the school’s restrictive speech codes. In this video interview, JMU alumnus and former FIRE intern Luke Wachob explains how, over the course of two years, he worked with his peers to revise campus speech codes, turning JMU’s “red light” to green. A speech code is any university regulation or policy that prohibits expression that would be protected by the First Amendment in society at […]

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  • On Working with Administrators: Five Principles for Student Activists

    August 2, 2013

    David Hicks is a FIRE summer intern. At FIRE’s sixth annual CFN Conference, past-FIRE intern Luke Wachob talked about his student group’s work at James Madison University to bring his school from a FIRE “red light” to a “green light” rating by changing unconstitutional speech codes on the campus. He highlighted the willingness of JMU’s administrators to work with, rather than against, students to reform these policies. After years of cooperation, JMU administrators and students are now able to stand together in their respect for free speech. Like the students at JMU, I have had positive experiences working with the administrators […]

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  • JMU Celebrates Its Spot in FIRE’s Top 7

    September 20, 2012

    It is certainly an honor to join the exclusive group of schools that earn FIRE’s “green light” rating in our Spotlight database. But James Madison University (JMU) took it one step further and made FIRE’s 2012 list of the seven best colleges for free speech. Check out this article in JMU’s student newspaper, The Breeze, praising its spot in our top seven.

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  • James Madison Student Praises ‘Vibrant’ Free Speech Wall

    May 11, 2012

    Last month, I wrote a Torch post highlighting student activism that took place on campuses across the country during Free Speech Week, April 1-8. For one of the most popular demonstrations, many student groups built free speech walls to provide an open forum for student expression. Students constructed temporary walls out of cardboard or wood, or covered building walls with paper, and provided markers for fellow students to write, draw, or post anything they wanted. Student group Madison Liberty at James Madison University (JMU) decided to host a wall, and I recently came across a blog post about their experience […]

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  • JMU ‘Breeze’ Brings Further Recognition to ‘Green Light’ Rating

    September 22, 2011

    We’re glad that James Madison University’s (JMU’s) student newspaper, The Breeze, is bringing awareness to the university’s recently earned spot on FIRE’s “green light” list, with articles published today and Monday. As we reported last week, JMU eliminated the last of its unconstitutional speech codes, upgrading the school to a “green light,” the best rating in our Spotlight database. In today’s article, reporter Zachary Mehan writes: For students, a recent change to the speech code at JMU, means they can speak freely and openly in class and around campus. The change led to recognition by the Foundation for Individual Rights […]

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  • Praise for New ‘Green Light’ Rating in James Madison University Student Newspaper

    September 19, 2011

    Last week, we reported that James Madison University (JMU) is the 15th university in the nation to earn FIRE’s best, “green light” rating by eliminating the last of its speech codes. An article in today’s edition of JMU’s student newspaper The Breeze praises the university for this victory for students’ rights and extolls the virtues of freedom of speech. Lucas Wachob of The Breeze writes: Freedom of speech is perhaps the most widely embraced political ideal in American history. It was singled out for protection from the federal government as early as the First Amendment, extended to the states and localities by […]

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  • Kelly Jemison on JMU’s New Green Light Rating

    September 14, 2011

    When James Madison University (JMU) became our newest green light school this week, perhaps no one was more thrilled about this important development than Kelly Jemison. Kelly, a recent JMU graduate, contacted FIRE in 2009 because she wanted to reform her school’s policies. She worked with administrators to make the necessary changes, but when she graduated there was still one yellow light policy on the books. Even though she was no longer on campus, Kelly made sure that her student group, Madison Liberty, kept up the effort. Their persistence paid off this week as JMU became just the 15th green light […]

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  • FIRE Congratulates James Madison University for Abolishing Speech Codes

    September 14, 2011

    FIRE is proud to announce that James Madison University (JMU) has eliminated the last of its speech codes, earning our highest, “green light” rating for free speech. While two-thirds of the nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech, JMU is now a proud exception, having fully reformed four speech codes. JMU is the 15th school nationwide to earn a “green light,” the fourth to do so in the last two years, and the third in Virginia. In each case, students took up the cause of speech-code reform with FIRE’s help. As Greg said in yesterday’s […]

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  • Should Adjuncts Keep Their Mouths Shut?

    March 17, 2011

    James Madison University adjunct (now former adjunct) professor Isaac Sweeney suggests that they should, if they want to keep their jobs.

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  • Virginia Newspaper Touts Growing Number of ‘Green Light’ Schools

    February 8, 2011

    With only 14 “green light” colleges and universities in the entire country, the state of Virginia should be proud to be home to two of them. Writing in the Daily Press (Hampton Roads, Va.), Michael F. Cochrane commends the University of Virginia (UVa) and The College of William & Mary for preserving free speech on campus: As Virginians we can be justly proud that our state has some of the top colleges and universities in the nation. We have colleges that are ranked nationally in sports and academic achievement. But now we have a new reason for pride: The Foundation […]

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  • More Praise for UVA’s New ‘Green-Light’ Rating

    January 17, 2011

    In a column for Townhall.com, Mike Adams praises the University of Virginia (UVA) for going from a red-light to a green-light school by eliminating the last of its unconstitutional speech codes back in October. Adams describes how FIRE staff encouraged Dean Allen Groves to implement the essential policy reforms: FIRE began working with UVA administrator Dean Allen Groves in April 2010 after Adam Kissel gave a lecture on free speech that was hosted by two UVA student groups – Students for Individual Liberty and Liberty Coalition. Shortly thereafter, Dean Groves received a letter from FIRE, which provided detailed objections to […]

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  • ‘Volokh Conspiracy’ and Local Media Decry Virginia Speech Codes

    November 3, 2010

    Ever since the University of Virginia (UVa) eliminated all four of its speech codes to earn FIRE’s coveted “green light” rating, local and national media have put the spotlight on the speech codes remaining at other public universities in Virginia. When FIRE announced the news, we noted that UVa joins The College of William & Mary as two Virginia institutions in an elite group of 13 “green light” schools and that we are now turning our attention to three more Virginia public universities: George Mason, rated “red light,” and James Madison and Virginia Tech, both rated “yellow light.” How bad for free speech are these three […]

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  • James Madison University Newspaper Reacts to UVa’s New Green Light Rating

    November 1, 2010

    This past Thursday, we praised the University of Virginia (UVa) for eliminating the last of its unconstitutional speech code policies, earning it a coveted spot on our list of 13 “green light” schools. We noted that UVa joins its fellow Virginia public institution The College of William & Mary on this list—and that we’re now focusing our attention on the three other Virginia public universities that are not yet green-lighted, including James Madison University (JMU). JMU’s student newspaper, catching wind of this effort, writes about it in today’s edition of The Breeze, highlighting the policies that keep the institution at […]

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  • Out of 1,000 James Madison University Student Newspaper Photos Seized Improperly by Virginia Prosecutor, She Gets 20

    June 2, 2010

    In April, I reported that Rockingham County, Virginia, prosecutor Marsha Garst had sent a large group of police officers to the offices of James Madison University (JMU) student newspaper The Breeze with an improper warrant to seize photographs of the annual Springfest party near campus. The party had drawn about 8,000 people—students and non-students—and caused quite a bit of public disorder, including violence. There were dozens of arrests, and The Breeze was there taking pictures. The prosecutor seized about 1,000 photos, including many entirely irrelevant ones, but almost immediately gave them back because they had been seized improperly. This Tuesday, […]

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  • SPLC Rounds Up Media Reactions to Raid of JMU Newspaper

    April 21, 2010

    The Student Press Law Center has done a great job rounding up media reactions across Virginia to the recent seizure of pictures from the James Madison University student newspaper, The Breeze, upon which FIRE reported yesterday. Suffice it to say that the media is not amused. For instance, The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote: The First Amendment is not some sort of immunity totem from a reality show, granting journalists the license to do whatever they please without consequence. They cannot, for instance, refuse to disclose the location of a kidnapped child under the guise of being a ‘neutral observer’ of the […]

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  • 1,000 James Madison University Student Newspaper Photos Seized Improperly by Virginia Prosecutor

    April 20, 2010

    She’s no Mike Nifong, but Rockingham County, Virginia, prosecutor Marsha Garst has something to answer for. Ten days ago, the annual Springfest party near James Madison University (JMU) drew about 8,000 people—students and non-students—and quite a bit of public disorder. There was violence. There also were dozens of arrests, such as for “failure to disperse” from an “unlawful assembly.” The JMU student newspaper, The Breeze, was there as well, taking pictures. Last Friday, these pictures, along with many other unrelated ones, were seized by Garst with a large group of police officers who descended upon The Breeze with what appears to […]

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  • How Students Made a Difference for Liberty in 2009

    January 6, 2010

    For the past few days FIRE has been looking back over our list of accomplishments in 2009. That list would not be complete without mentioning the students who have worked so hard to make their campuses more free. At the College of William & Mary, former FIRE intern and Campus Freedom Network member Braum Katz led a reform effort from within the student government as Student Assembly Secretary of Student Rights to revise all constitutionally problematic speech codes. In October, William & Mary eliminated the last of its troublesome policies and FIRE officially gave the college’s policies a green-light rating in […]

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  • JMU Upholds Trespassing Charge Against Student Reporter; Investigative Journalism Results in Year of Probation

    November 11, 2009

    A couple of weeks ago, FIRE reported on an incident at James Madison University in which two reporters for the JMU newspaper The Breeze received disciplinary charges from the university after entering a residence hall to interview JMU students about a recent “peeping Tom” incident. Unfortunately, as the Breeze and the Student Press Law Center report, JMU has upheld a charge of trespassing against Katie Hibson, one of the two reporters charged, and has placed her on probation for one year. Both Hibson and Breeze Editor-in-Chief Tim Chapman had been charged by JMU with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and failing to […]

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  • James Madison University Revises Speech Code of the Month After FIRE, Students Challenge Unconstitutionality

    October 29, 2009

    We have good news from the front in the fight to eradicate speech codes from our nation’s campuses. James Madison University has revised its policy on Obscene Conduct, no longer banning ”lewd, indecent or obscene…expression.” Yet the university’s strained relationship with First Amendment principles has recently manifested itself in another way, with students charged with offenses for investigating newsworthy events on campus. First the good news. Torch readers will remember that FIRE expressed concern in September that JMU’s policy on obscene conduct had been changed to include not only on-campus but also off-campus expression, threatening a large volume of student speech—including online expression. The policy was already […]

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  • Student Reporters at James Madison University Threatened with Disciplinary Action for Attempting to Report On-Campus Incident

    October 28, 2009

    For attempting to report on a recent trespassing incident in a James Madison University residence hall, two reporters for the JMU newspaper The Breeze have themselves been charged with trespassing. As The Breeze reported on October 23: On Sunday, [Breeze contributor Katie] Hibson, a sophomore media arts and design major, was investigating the Oct. 14 trespassing incident in Hillside Hall, which The Breeze learned about when JMU sent a “Timely Notice” e-mail Sunday morning. Hibson said she was invited into the residence hall Sunday afternoon when she identified herself as a reporter. She said she was invited into the building […]

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  • Rights in the News: With FIRE’s Help, Students Standing Up to Their Speech Codes

    October 16, 2009

    FIRE was elated to begin the week with the announcement that The College of William & Mary had reformed the last of its troublesome speech codes and become one of just eleven colleges to earn a “green light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database. Perhaps the fever has spread to neighboring James Madison University, where the focus has intensified on JMU’s policy on “Obscene Conduct” since it was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month. Not surprisingly, heightened awareness of the policy sowed discontent among the student body–enough so that this week JMU’s student newspaper The Breeze reported that JMU has […]

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  • Student Op-Ed Calls on James Madison University to Revise Policy

    October 5, 2009

    A couple of weeks ago, Samantha wrote about a disturbing change in the policy on “Obscene Conduct” at James Madison University (JMU). The original policy stated, No student shall engage in lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression on university property or in university-owned or operated buildings. (Emphasis added.) The policy was changed to: No student shall engage in lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression, regardless of proximity to campus. (Emphasis added.) Samantha wrote, Given that “lewd” and “indecent” are—unlike “obscene”—terms that do not have a clear legal definition, this policy could easily apply to expression that is crude […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: James Madison University

    October 1, 2009

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2009: James Madison University. JMU’s policy on “Obscene Conduct” provides that “[n]o student shall engage in lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression, regardless of proximity to campus.” (Emphasis added.) Torch readers may already be familiar with this policy, because we blogged about it several weeks ago. Our post caught the attention of student reporters at JMU, who have published several articles in the student paper The Breeze since our post first appeared. The first article, on Sept. 24, expressed FIRE’s concern that this broadly worded policy could be used to punish a great deal of student expression, including expression […]

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  • A Disturbing Policy Change at James Madison University

    September 14, 2009

    James Madison University (JMU) has made a seemingly small change to one of its policies that actually has significant implications for student expression. Last year, JMU’s policy on “Obscene Conduct” stated that No student shall engage in lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression on university property or in university-owned or operated buildings. (Emphasis added.) This year, the policy states that No student shall engage in lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression, regardless of proximity to campus. (Emphasis added.) Given that “lewd” and “indecent” are—unlike “obscene”—terms that do not have a clear legal definition, this policy could easily apply […]

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