Volume 42, Number
IN THIS ISSUE
Iowa, Those Who CAN Teach
Year Grad Plan
the World Away from Home
In This Office, Students
the Level Playing Field
So you're thinking that you'd like to be a vice president
at The University of Iowa? Help to make policies that govern
the state's largest Research I university; meet all kinds of
interesting people; have lunch with President Mary Sue Coleman.
Well, if it's Vice President for Student Services you'd choose,
better prepare for 14-hour days six days a week along with the
fun. Parent Times followed Vice President Phillip E. Jones around
to see just what this energetic official does during a "typical"
The easy definition of Phillip Jones' job as vice president
for student services at The University of Iowa is this: Anything
having to do with students goes through this office. That's more
than 27,000 students, mind you.
When central administration makes a policy change, Jones' office
interprets it for student groups. When students want something
new or different, Jones' office explains their thinking to central
administration. When kids get into trouble, his office always
Two of the University's businesses also fall in his sphere, stretching
different muscles: the Iowa Memorial Union and Residence Services.
Several administrative offices that help specific groups of students
report to him. In all, more than 500 fulltime employees and 450
students work for his office, bringing with them human resources
and budget issues to be resolved.
Add into the mix the 63- student class he team-teaches with Prof.
Paul Retish each Wednesday evening in spring semester, "The
Culturally Different in Diverse Settings," and his trouble-shooting
role when controversial speakers come to campus, and his role
in campus planning for future student facilities, and a whole
raft of administrative meetings that pop up regularly on his
ancient Casio electronic calendar. Phil Jones doesn't have an
awful lot of free time.
RESPECTING THE STUDENTS
Jones and his staff take students very seriously. After a recent
fund-raising event in the Iowa Memorial Union at which brief
nudity was alleged to have occurred, he rose above the sensational
news accounts to outline what he'd be likely to discuss with
student organizers of the event when he met with them.
"This was supposed to be entertainment," he says. "The
question is, does it fit the values of the University? It's not
an issue we need to duck, nor would we want to. Many years ago,
student organizations used to show the movie "Deep Throat"
in the IMU ballroom whenever they needed to raise money. We spoke
with them and they decided it wasn't a value they wanted to have.
I don't want to leave the impression that everyone is free to
do whatever he or she wants, but I'm also not in the censorship
This statement shows Jones' tendency to reiterate and reinforce
the core values of the University in talking with students, and
his tendency to let them make the right decisions by themselves.
"It's the responsibility students must have for their own
behavior," he says. "Something like this gives us a
chance to communicate."
On the other hand, he's been dealing with young students for
generations, and he sees a potential con job coming through the
door. Sometimes it just amuses him. Sometimes it's more serious,
and the student disappears behind his office door for a conversation
that neither is likely to talk about later.
Most of the time, students arriving at his Jessup Hall office
are contacting him just to figure out his opinion on an issue.
"For good or bad, they know I have positions on things,
and they want to make sure I'm not going to veto something before
it gets a hearing," he says.
Recently students came to him with a proposal for a Finals Week
concert by the popular Dave Matthews Band, using Jones' dedication
to alcohol-free activities as their logical weapon. "They
told me, 'If you want to combat the bar scene, you have to have
no-alcohol activities to attract students,'" he says. "I
thought it over and agreed with them. It seemed necessary to
me to take their position to upper administration. I couldn't
sell it to them, though."
In all his dealings with students, he has a definite strategy,
born of his experiences as the father of two children. "I
hustle students by trusting them," he says with a laugh.
"I call it voluntary coercion. I give them as much information
as I can about the possible rewards and consequences that might
result from their planned actions. If you have information, then
even making no decision is a decision. To paraphrase Camus, we're
all condemned to be free. If we have information, we must choose.
I get them in a position to be free."
What does that mean in practice? Jones cites the recent decision
of social fraternities to ban alcohol consumption in their houses.
Following the alcohol-related death of fraternity pledge Matthew
Garofalo in 1995. In 1997, the University had told fraternities
that they wouldn't be recognized at Iowa after 1999 if they still
permitted alcohol use. Then the University was selected as one
of six universities nationally to receive a grant from the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation to open a new office called Stepping
Up. The office made sure students had all the information available
on the prevalence of binge drinking and its dangers. The fraternities
decided to end alcohol use voluntarily a full year ahead of the
Jones adds that he sees a growing awareness of the issue of alcohol
consumption. "You hear a student say, 'Are you going out
tonight?' and the answer sometimes is, 'No, let's go shoot hoops,'"
he says. "You're not going to see much change in behavior
yet, but it's in their minds."
PARENTS CALL, TOO
Sometimes, though, it's the parent who contacts the office, not
the student. Belinda Marner, assistant vice president for student
services, says that in the past five to eight years parents have
increasingly tried to advocate for their students. Sometimes
they call rather than having the students fight their own battles,
"Parents want to be careful to observe whether they are
being used so the student can avoid making a decision,"
she says. "For example, if a parent calls trying to get
a student registered, there's just no way they can do that-but
several ways that the student can do it. We get a lot of calls
on housing, especially roommate problems. Students can solve
"Many parents call only when they know that their student
has tried hard to solve a problem but can't," Marner adds.
"We take or return all parent calls."
Jones' first position at The University of Iowa in 1968 was recruiting
minority students to come to the University. Now students are
coming into his office who are children of the students he recruited
"In many ways, to some of the community, I'm seen as the
person to take care of their kids-regardless of my title,"
he says. "That's not unusual. A very large proportion of
the total students I see are minority students. Parents tell
these students, 'You go see Phil Jones to get help.' Or they
just check in with me to let me know they're on campus."
That makes his schedule, as Marner quips, "a bit improvisational."
For example, a recent budget meeting in his office broke up immediately
when a student arrived with no appointment to ask for help with
serious financial problems. After they were done, the meeting
Marner says, "There's an open door policy here. If he's
not available, I'll talk to them, Tom Baker (office legal counsel)
will talk to them, or they'll schedule an appointment to come
in or talk on the phone. With our support staff we have a policy
that no one will leave the office or be forwarded on to someone
else unless we're sure that it will solve their problem. We might
call ahead to make sure they won't continue to get a run-around.
"Half the time when they come here they have been told to
come to us after trying other routes, and half the time they've
started at the top and haven't done what they should have done.
We need to direct them on."
"In one sense we're a customer service office," Jones
says. "Parents call with a question about a student or the
president will e-mail. We do talk to the parents. Those comments
frequently generate questions that need to go to other people.
We talk to the press frequently, too."
And then there's the Board of Regents, the Faculty Senate, UI
Student Government, staff and individual faculty members around
campus, Iowa City citizens (and sometimes the police), central
administration people, financial or legal experts, and so on.
"Having a vice president who can advocate for students may
sound like it comes naturally, but it doesn't," Marner comments.
"Part of what we're trying to do is use this office as a
forum for learning," Jones concludes. "We want to advocate
for students. But since we're on the hook to advocate for them,
it seems to me that students have a responsibility to advocate
for themselves, too.
"They are responsible for learning. They are responsible
for their own behavior. We are accountable to them but they also
have to be accountable to themselves.
Jones leans back and smiles. "As I told my kids when they
were growing up, 'When I pay, I play.' We're playing. We're advocating.
We're putting out. But we also say: There are some standards
that must be met. We set the standards, they set the expectations
for their own behavior. Reasonable standards, high expectations,
that's what we advocate. We want them to have high standards
for their own performance."
-By Anne Tanner
for Student Services
Phil Jones the
problem-solver works with a student.
Phil Jones the
employer, with Hancher Auditorium ushers.
Phil Jones the
teacher, in his Culturally Different in Diverse Settings class.