A graduate of Tacoma’s LincolnHigh School, Anthony Rose came to the UW in 2001. He is the current president of the Black Student Union, a former member of the Higher Education Coordinating Board and a volunteer helping prepare students for college. Columns Intern Jason Siegel interviews the busy student leader.
Gov. Gary Locke appointed you last year to the Higher Education Coordinating Board, essentially an advisory board for higher education issues in the state. What happened during your one-year term?
I came in a unique year; we had two governors and the expansion of branch campuses at UW and WSU. I think I was able to add a lot to the discourse on whether to raise college admission standards, I-200 issues, funding for schools, and prepare students for the transition between K–12 and higher education. Another issue we worked on was to set up a transfer system so that a student’s education was not stagnated by community college credits not counting as they transferred to a university.
Were there any fights over turning branch campuses into four-year schools?
The University of Washington wanted to expand branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell and WSU wanted to in Tri-Cities and Vancouver but we only approved UW Tacoma and WSU Vancouver to move forward. It was hard because it made us seem like we had tunnel vision, while we had to represent the interests of the entire state.
In the end, the Legislature also expanded UW Bothell. Overall, what do you think you brought to the HEC Board as its only student member?
My life. Not being from the best community or socioeconomic background and seeing the differences in those schools I’ve attended, from the inner city school to the more developed school. I’m able to look back at those personal experiences with a more educated viewpoint. I can apply that experience to the discussion of what policies work well in education.
Any chance of getting into politics?
I have two sides that are pulling me: the politics side and the arts side. My more artistic side wants to go to film school at New York University. Then, there’s my political side. I’d like to wrap them into one, like doing educational entertainment through film.
So what are you working on now—politics or art?
Right now I’m working on a film about the Black Student Union storming President [Charles] Odegaard’s office in the 1960s to demand more diversity in terms of students, faculty and course content.
You’re the president of the UW’s Black Student Union. What do you think students should do to voice their concerns in order to change policy?
It’s been one of the things I’ve battled with. I think change can be accomplished with conversation as long as there’s a plan figured out and people are focused on what specifically needs to be done.
If that fails?
Then we take up action and contact the media. The school has the money. I mean, I stood on stage at the launch for the $2-billion fundraiser. I know the UW could give some of that.
What concerns do you hear among the black student community?
Cafeteria food, parking—but I think those are issues for all students. I think people would like to see more diverse stuff than just Black History Month and Cinco De Mayo and get the Ethnic Cultural Center expanded.
The BSU held a bachelor auction last spring, raising $1,000 to aid black students in graduating. The “sale” prices for a night out dancing with one of the bachelors ranged from $9 to $116? How did you do?
I went for $35, which I was fine with because two years ago I went for 13 bucks. There were 28 bachelors. The majority of the black students came in with the idea that we have so much to give back because there is so much we have been given.
Reportedly, some bachelors were less shy than others in attempting to entice the bidders?
It wasn’t anything crazy.
I heard something about guys stripped down to their underwear.
Um … I’m not going to comment on that. I came out in a suit. I have an image to keep.
A more controversial issue involving the Black Student Union was the College Republicans’ “bake sale” against affirmative action.
Last year what they did was illegal. They sold cookies to people with prices based on their race. It came unexpectedly. We had a large performance in front of the Husky Union Building and the College Republicans happened to be doing their bake sale that day. So they didn’t expect such a plethora of people of color. With all the people they were forced against the wall with their booth. The police came and stood in front of the College Republicans, pushing the crowd back, while the College Republicans yelled at the crowd behind their police protection ‘you don’t belong here’ and ‘you do 30 percent of the work and I do 100 percent.’ We haven’t even had affirmative action in Washington since 1998. And if you even look at it, the UW has found ways other than affirmative action to ensure there’s diversity on campus.
What was your reaction to it?
I wasn’t surprised. It seemed to be for publicity. When an animal-rights group had an animal-protection week, the College Republicans had an animal cookout in response. During lung-cancer awareness week, they had a ‘smokeout.’
The College Republicans held the event again this year, this time selling cookies for a suggested race-based price.
But last year’s bake sale was a lot different from this year. I was proud of my peers for how we handled that. It was self-empowerment through holding a unity festival of different student groups rather than drawing attention to the College Republicans. It was one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a while. Some groups actually handed out free cookies to everybody.
With all your experiences on campus, what are you thinking about moving on to life after UW?
It’s a scary step but a fun step. But I still have another year since I’m double-majoring in American Ethnic Studies and film.—Interview by Jason Siegel