All Articles Tagged "university of new orleans"
For a while now, the relevance of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has been called into question. But with the recent news that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to explore the possibility of merging two neighboring New Orleans universities, the historically black Southern University of New Orleans with the predominantly white University of New Orleans, the future of HBCUs becomes even more troublesome.
Jindal is calling for the merger to be considered in a streamlining study due March 1 by the Board of Regents. According to Jindal, the two universities have been struggling to fill classrooms and graduate students, so the merger would be a vehicle to raise graduation rates. Currently, SUNO has a 5% graduation rate while UNO has a slightly better graduation rate of 22%. Two-thirds in the state House and Senate would have to favor consolidation for the merger to occur.
Of course, this proposal has caused a political circus. While there are those who claim that HBCUs represent remnants of modern-day segregation, others say HBCUs are undoubtedly essential because they recruit a high percentage of first generation, low-income minority students – a group that receives fewer college degrees.
“It’s clear that some type of intervention needs to be instituted, but I don’t think that merging the two universities is a viable choice,” said Matthew Lynch, an assistant professor of education at Widener University and a graduate of a HBCU. “The mere mention of a merger is politically volatile and is sure to draw accusations of racism and bigotry. For these reasons I believe that merging UNO and Southern would be a huge mistake.”
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement condemning the proposal, saying a merger would start a “systematic demise” of the state’s historically black colleges and universities.
Marybeth Gasman, an associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, however, is not against a merger between Southern and UNO but what she is concerned about is how Jindal’s proposal does not take into consideration the history of racial segregation in Louisiana and New Orleans.
The problem for her is that Jindal wants to place the new institution in the Louisiana State University system, of which UNO is a part of, while Southern is a part of the historically black Southern University system; thus, this merger would remove one of the three campuses of a historically black university system in Louisiana.
“I’d like to see the reverse situation to retain the ethos of historically black SUNO,” she said. “HBCUs have a strong track record of empowering African American students and if SUNO were strengthened, it could play a key role here. Of course, whites would have to be open to attending the new institution. I’m not sure that they would be in any great numbers. That’s unfortunate.”
The proposal to merge SUNO and UNO is not new—Louisiana officials have proposed merging the two universities for more than 40 years. But the idea has become more widespread recently. In 2009, Mississippi’s Gov. Haley Barbour and Ronald Mason, the former president of Jackson State University, proposed merging HBCUs Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University into Jackson State University in order to save money by eliminating duplicate programs and administrative positions. In late 2008, Georgia’s state Sen. Seth Harp suggested that two public HBCUs join with two non-HBCUs—Savannah State with Armstrong Atlantic State and Albany State with Darton College.
Often, when mergers are suggested, it results in the elimination of another black institution, notes Gasman. “Very rarely does a governor suggest merging two historically white institutions. The assumption seems to be that every white institution ought to be preserved, but the black institutions are expendable,” she said. “Don’t we need as many HBCUs as possible to educate blacks and others who attend them in an effort to meet our national goal of increasing degree attainment?”