APSU professor named to state’s civil rights advisory committee
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – This fall is shaping up to be a busy semester for Dr. John Phillips, Austin Peay State University associate professor of political science. In addition to teaching classes in the midst of a pandemic, he’s going to keep a closer eye than usual on the U.S. presidential election and Black Lives Matter protests.
That’s because earlier this year, The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957, appointed Phillips to its Tennessee Advisory Committee. The job of the committee is to prepare reports on potential civil rights issues in Tennessee for the federal government.
“If students or staff observe behavior by government officials or private parties that appear to violate the civil rights of Tennesseans or have concerns about larger patterns of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, national origin or in the criminal justice system, I would be one person to contact,” Phillips said. “I am certainly not the only person to contact (I am not law enforcement, for example), but I am charged with monitoring and collecting information to pass on to federal policy making organs, including congress and the Department of Justice.”
The Tennessee Advisory Committee hosts open meetings quarterly, and the bipartisan group is tasked with looking at voting rights, discrimination and criminal justice issues. The committee recently issued a report on the negative consequences that legal fees, taxes, surcharges and other court costs have on formerly incarcerated individuals trying to reintegrate into society.
“I’ve been putting some feelers out in the campus community,” he said. “I’m asking, ‘Hey what do you think we should take up?’ I talked with President White, and I’m planning on talking to our legal counsel. I’m really open to some ideas. ‘What do you think Tennessee needs to work on or what issues should we be paying attention to?’
“People sometimes think that elections or public demonstrations are the only ways for the public to make its voice heard, but there are also dozens of advisory committees like this one charged with listening, gathering information and making recommendations on different issues,” he said. “It all has to come together to make democracy work.”
Information on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights is available at https://www.usccr.gov/. Information on APSU’s Department of Political Science and Public Management is available at https://apsu.edu/political-science-public-management/.
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