Jones: Race, class, campus set me apart

· Jul 25, 2001 Tweet

Recently Tommie Jones Jr. was selected by Gov. Scott McCallum to replace Joe Alexander as the only student on the UW Board of Regents. The appointment process’ controversial nature has already struck sparks in student organizations, especially after Jones voted in his first meeting to increase tuition at UW. The Badger Herald had the chance to talk to Jones about his vote, and where he stands on issues ranging from affirmative action to segregated fees.

Badger Herald: Why do you think Gov. McCallum chose you to fill the lone student slot on the Board of Regents?

Tommie Jones Jr.: I was selected because of the experience I have as a student leader and my ability to work with all different types of people. I’ve worked with many different people, and I’m able to get the job done, and my track record shows it. I’ve been able to be responsible, accountable and approachable. I’ve always had an open door policy and will continue that as a Regent. If students want to call me and make suggestions, as a policy, I will listen and then make my decision. I think the Governor also picked me because of my commitment to work with more people to get things done.

BH: What sort of political relationship do you have with McCallum?

TJJ: My parents don’t donate to any of the political parties. We’re not financially able to do that. We’re just average working family.

BH: What do you bring to the Board that is unique to the other Regents and former student Regent Joe Alexander.

TJJ: For one, I am an African-American. Second, I had a more UW-System-based type of leadership experience. While I was on student government and segregated fee committee, Joe was out in the community. I was doing things more geared into the UW system. I think our approaches are similar in that Joe and I both believe in diversity, accountability, fiscal responsibility and working with groups to makes sure we have a way of doing business that is conducive to the state of Wisconsin.

BH: What does it say about the UW System and your ability to represent the student body that you, a governor-appointed Regent voted for the tuition increase, and the only elected member of the Board was also the only member to vote against it?

TJJ: I really have no theory on the way people vote – being elected or not. I think people voted on what they believed were right for the UW System. Our elected officials sometimes vote for things that are different from what they may feel is correct, so I doubt that had anything to do with it.

BH: But are the doubts that were raised about whether or not you are representative of the student body legitimate?

TJJ:Regent I am appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. I represent Wisconsin – I am not solely just for students. As a Regent my responsibility is to represent the entire state. I have worked with many student groups, and I’m trying to set up meetings with student groups and work with them, because I think that’s part of my job as well – to work with those constituencies because I am a student.

BH: Should the Board of Regents continue to stay a governor-appointed position?

TJJ: I think it’s a good process. I think the governor has done an excellent job in the way the process is going this year, and he has a right to appoint just like on any other committee. It’s up to the Senate to decide if that appointment is right for that position.

BH: Why did you vote to increase tuition for the next academic year?

TJJ: I wanted to make sure students understood the whole entire budget process and what it actually entails. If we didn’t approve some kind of budget no one would have known what tuition and fees were for the fall semester. There would not have been a baseline budget to go off for the year. Additionally, we’re looking at particular things our institutions felt are needed such as the Milwaukee Idea and the Madison Initiative. It also included the segregated fees that all student groups’ students work with, room and board rates for individual campuses, faculty salary, etc. All of those things needed approval, and when I was voting those are the kind of things I was looking at.

BH: Where do you stand on the Southworth case and the segregated fees issue?

TJJ: The policies we have going on for many campuses is working well and is making our institutions and students really understand the way things are operating. I think UW System is doing all they can in order to make the System work better for the institutions, so I’m in full support of the System on that initiative.

BH: So are you in support of the circuit court’s December ruling against UW?

TJJ: I am in support of the System, their appellate process and whatever they need to do to make sure the students have the opportunity to work on segregated fees systems as they’re designed.

BH: So is the System flawed as it is now?

TJJ: I don’t know a lot about that, so I can’t really say what’s going on for individual campuses. That’s some homework I’ll have to do before really making the definitive answer. But what I think the system is doing right now is great in that they’re making sure students, faculty and staff have a right to the process.

BH: Changes are constantly taking place in the way the University of Michigan and University of California are dealing with affirmative action and racially preference policies, what do you think is the best system for UW?

TJJ: I’m always for diversity. I’ve worked on diversity issues at UW-Whitewater consistently since I’ve been there. I have heard about what Regent Mohs discussed in terms of his racial preference program, and I don’t think I agree with it. What I do agree with is that we need to find an answer to making our System admissions policy better. There are schools that are doing well in recruiting and retaining students of color and there are some that are not, but what I believe is that we’re going to have to find some definitive answers that will do good for our System. We as a System are doing well, and students of color are achieving and doing great things at this institution. One of the big components that I think sometimes people are missing and not seeing is the different background of students as they enter into the institution, and how their education may have been different than others.

BH: So are you saying you want to keep the system how it is? Should UW update it’s affirmative action/racial profiling policies?

TJJ: There are systems that work well. If there is something that is wrong we need to fix it. We need to continue the policies we have and make sure students of color are getting into institutions and getting the opportunity to receive a good education from the UW system. I believe in diversity and making sure our campuses reflect what was said in the University of Michigan case – that the way of life students face in school compares to how the makeup will be once students get out into society. I have supported and rallied behind initiatives that will do such a thing.

BH: Do you think the system the Board of Regents operates under works well, or do most Regents just take the suggestions of their various staff members?

TJJ: The Regents are volunteers, and this is an added thing for them to do besides the work they do on a regular basis. Many do their own research prior to coming in and making decisions. The process that we have is good. Some Regents do take the decisions the staff provides and some make their own decisions based on their constituency or the state.


This article was published Jul 25, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Jul 25, 2001 at 12:00 am


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