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MBJ: Madison mayor, Tulane wrong to bully Jackson State

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler would never tell McDonalds it can be the only fast-food franchise in her queendom. Wendy’s and Burger King wouldn’t hear of it.

Yet, it appears that is what has happened recently as she and Tulane University have asked the state College Board to rescind what they’re calling the “premature” approval of Jackson State University’s plans to open a Madison campus this summer.

According to multiple reports, Hawkins Butler “wants to make sure that Jackson State will not be competing for students with Tulane, which opened a Madison branch in 2010.”

This is a free-market society, and Hawkins Butler has no serious right to give an education monopoly to one school or another.

On Jan. 17, the College Board approved a 10-year, $1.5-million lease for 8,600 square feet in an office building in Madison for Jackson State to hold classes.

Hawkins Butler has used her strong-armed, mafia-type techniques through the years to get her way. For the most part, it is hard to argue with the results as Madison is often held up as an ideal community in Mississippi. However, no matter how you slice it, this smacks of, at best, elitism.

The mayor has no legitimate gripe against a state school trying to give more opportunities for education in Mississippi.

JSU president Carolyn Meyers has said the university’s move to open a branch in Madison is designed to make its classes more convenient for nontraditional students who live and work in the area.

We say JSU should have the option of competing in the marketplace.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


  1. Richard Marksbury

    Please read carefully the letter that was sent to IHL. NO ONE is trying to prevent Jackson State from opening a campus in Madison…NO ONE. The issue is that the IHL Board did not follow its own procedures in the decision-making process.

  2. Mayor Hawkins and Tulane are completely wrong in this situation. Competition is the lifeblood of our capitalistic society. Tulane should be ashamed of themselves. When the next hurricane comes to New Orleans, please do not send your students to JSU. I cannot believe the outright disrespect!! During Katrina and other hurricanes, JSU opened their doors because the students did not have anywhere else to go. This is unbelievable.

    How does JSU’s presence in Madison threaten Tulane? One school is catering to the Mercedes S63 AMG crowd, the other is catering to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry crowd. It is not that big of a deal. Both degrees will get you to the next level.

  3. If JSU president Carolyn Meyers has grown weary of dealing with Madison politics, I’m sure Rankin County would like the opportunity to welcome this institution of higher learning.

  4. Another JSU Tiger

    @Richard Marksbury: If “NO ONE is trying to prevent Jackson State from opening a campus in Madison…NO ONE.”, then why are Mayor Hawkins and Tulane second-guessing and reviewing the IHL approval with a fine-toothed-comb? Simple… because they do not want to accept the decision made by the IHL. Searching for legal loopholes is what companies and people do when they don’t want certain others as competitors or neighbors. So, with all due respect Sir, save it. MBJ is merely stating what everyone already knows and some don’t have the nerve to express.

    Of course, I feel that this is a great opportunity for ‘my dear old college home.’ Yet, I can’t help but wonder if it is the right time for this endeavor. As an employee and non-traditional student of JSU, I have first hand knowledge of departmental cut-backs, short-falls, and staffing shortages. So, while I would love to see JSU continue to grow and prosper, I feel that we should use the funds allocated for this expansion to maximize the departments, facilities, and employees we already have. (Ex. Up to date computer software, more online classes, renovations, raises, etc.)

  5. Way to go Rankin County! Hope Dr. Meyers has read your comment and take a look to see that Jackson State University can serve this community as well.

  6. The mayor indicated in recent Clarion Ledger articles that she is trying to protect a top 50 program like Tulane and she approached Tulane about opening campus in Madison several years ago. If the mayor did her research she would see where all of the colleges (JSU, MS College, Tougaloo, Millsaps, Belhaven etc) in the Jackson Metro area are consistently nationally/regionally ranked by magazines such as The Washington Monthly Magazine, U.S. News etc., and other organizations. The bottom line is a degree from a particular institution does not guarantee one a job after graduation except for maybe an Ivy League institution. Additionally, JSU PHD program in business has a 100% placement rate and Millsaps/Tougaloo are ranked among the top Liberal Arts Colleges in the country. The mayor also graduated from Belhaven and even rejected their request to open a campus in Madison a few years ago. It appears the mayor has a total lack of respect for Mississippi colleges & universities.

  7. The truth of the matter is that the Mayor does not want a HBCU in Madison. Look at the state flag. The “rebels” still control this state (even though they lost the war). This is Mississippi and there is nothing united about it. Not much has changed so I’m not surprised at all.

  8. I could care less about a rebel flag. Fly it with pride. Business is business. Honestly, Tulane ranks well but they are not a household name when it comes to business schools. In my opinion, if you are not a top 10 business school, you are no different from Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Does Mayor Hawkins not know that graduating from JSU opens doors?? Someone needs to tell Mayor Hawkins that having a top 50 school in your city does not grant you riches.

  9. @JSU Tiger: Since the mayor is so concerned with protecting Tulane’s Top 50 school ranking it is probably a good idea for her to do some research and see where JSU has been ranked among the Top 50 schools (http://washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/rankings_2012/national_university_r) in the country for the past 7 years. Also I agree, fly the flag with pride. Who cares! The rebel flag is also represented by Georgia, South Carolina and other states.

  10. She also says that she wanted to have the first out of state satellite school in Madison. How was the Madison Tulane the first Satellite Tulane in Mississippi when Tulane has a branch in Biloxi Mall

  11. @TigerNatl: You are dead on with the rankings.

    Mayor Hawkins should step outside of Mississippi and get with the program. Tulane has a MBA program in Houston. I didn’t see the mayor of Houston complaining when Tulane entered Houston 3 years ago. They welcomed the competition. Do the same for JSU.

  12. I used to want to see my “dear ole college home” succeed until I worked there and saw firsthand what Dr. Myers’s and her cronies are doing to their employees and students. They are unethical and care about numbers not people. The same description used to describe Mayor Hawkins can be used to describe Dr. Myers and her staff. If you aren’t with them they will “reassign” you or replace you. The academic integrity has been compromised. They refuse to follow IHL policies as well as JSU ploicies and make up their own rules. They have even disregarded federal issues dealing with the Ayers case.

  13. While I love the fact that JSU is trying to expand to neighboring cities to serve their students better, I don’t feel Madison would be a good fit for us. Like someone stated previously, we’re too different crowds. I think Rankin or even the city of Canton would be a better fit. I’m also a firm believer in not staying where I’m not wanted….

  14. @TruBlu Tiger: If Dr. Meyer’s and her staff are indeed not following policy and procedures in an unethical manner there is a process for employees, students etc., to report such activity. I have not always agreed with how past and current JSU president’s have handled certain situations/issues. I am always for JSU succeeding. Alcorn and USM were among the first state universities to open satellite campuses. This is uncharted territory for JSU but JSU satellite campuses will be a success.

  15. Another JSU Tiger

    @TruBlu Tiger Thanks for basically agreeing with me. Sherry Wilson, the former VP of Financial Services was basically forced to resign by being offered a demotion because she constantly fought for her employees and the things that needed to be done in Financial Services, now the Business Office. So, she simply took an early retirement.

    Also, 2 years ago, the Dr. Meyers wanted to shut the early childhood center down because it was not making $$$, regardless of the fact that so many students, faculty and staff depend on it for childcare and hands-on-learning. Due to an outpour of support from former students of the center as well as current parents, the center remains open. However, just this past Monday, January 28, 2013, the children were served buttered rice as their entree for lunch! For breakfast, they eat far more nutri-grain bars and cold cereal for breakfast than any child should, much less one who attends an academically elite childhood center like one on the campus of a thriving university. THAT IS NOT RIGHT!! This university is not a 3rd world country. Yet, our future is being treated as if that’s where they are.

    That is just one example of the many reasons I suggest taking care of what you already have instead of acquiring more space to fill. Yes, it is absolutely correct that the university has become more about appearances than content. Still, I would not want to be anywhere else.

  16. Carolyn Myers brings that East Coast mindset to JSU. This is a blessing and a curse. Beware behind closed doors. Black folks on the East Coast from Virginia on up feel entitled so they will value appearance more than history and alliance. They don’t know any better. I love the vision but we also need to keep her feet to the fire. We do things a lot different down South

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