The Senate Committee on University Housing and Government Operations approved Tommie Jones’ appointment as the lone student on the UW System-wide Board of Regents Wednesday.
In a brief hearing, Jones answered questions from the committee ranging from his qualifications to his goals as student regent. Jones outlined his positions on issues such as advising and the possible expansion of the 17-member Board.
A current proposal within the Senate chambers would give students more representation on the board, adding a non-traditional student position.
“I think it’s great that there are people looking at the role of the Board and understanding the different types of students,” Jones said. “But I would like to see more of the original plans: Will the Board’s size be 17 or 18 [members]? When will this person start? I don’t know these key components.”
Jones also said the addition of a new student regent could inhibit progress on the board with clashes between two student members. Right now Jones stands as the only student on the Board, representing students from all UW System schools.
Jones also highlighted his interest in improving undergraduate advising at UW schools.
“Some students are very lost as to what to do,” he said.
He said he would like to see UW administrators “gearing them into the first year and integrating career counseling and new student programs.”
Jones’ approval will go to the entire Senate sometime soon, but with this committee’s approval there is not much chance the Senate would not approve him.
“We’re hoping there won’t be any problems,” said Debbie Monterrey-Millet, spokesperson for Gov. Scott McCallum. “That would be a definite approval over the last regent, who was never approved.”
Former student regent Joe Alexander served a two-year term on the board, despite never receiving approval from the legislature. Controversy over former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s appointment of Alexander erupted in 1999 because Alexander’s father, developer Randy Alexander, was a significant contributor to Thompson’s office. Students across the state, most notably members of United Council, the system-wide student government, also complained Alexander did not have sufficient experience with student government, and was unfit to fairly represent students.
“[Alexander] and I are different,” Jones said. “I think that in terms of how things are positioned, I’m a student government person. [Having this experience] doesn’t really matter, but it’s in this having contact with students that it went through.”
So far Jones has been a quiet regent, making headlines only after controversially voting to support the tuition increase. But he said starting in regent meetings today and tomorrow, and in a speech to United Council slated for Oct. 19 he will begin making things happen for UW students.
“My plans are to talk to my colleagues, and then I am going to send a note saying ‘these are a couple of issues I want to address,'” Jones said.
Besides advising issues, Jones will address the issues swarming the appropriation of mandatory student fees, known as segregated fees, by student governments across the state.
“I will tell them that I want us to be cautious,” he said. “I think that when we start talking about increases of fees we have to be cautious about the average student. If you raise fees an extra $50 for students, the extra $50 on tuition is going to be there.”
Jones said he would continue to support rising tuition costs for non-resident students. During Board meetings Thursday and Friday in Eau Claire the Board will approve an additional 2.5 percent increase in out-of-state tuition for the spring 2002 semester, bringing the total increase from last year up 15.4 percent to $15,800.
“That’s what the governor recommended, and that’s what we have to do,” Jones said. “None of us Regents wanted to raise tuition, but we’re faced with ? the State economy, and that’s a big factor.”
The extra 2.5 percent increase is nothing new. After multiple increases throughout the summer, tuition bills were sent out prematurely to Gov. McCallum’s signing of the budget. In a line-item veto, McCallum added another 2.5 percent to tuition, but rather than sending out a second bill, the Regents have opted to enforce the extra increase starting in the spring.