Another HBCU Down the Drain?


Louisiana's Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, is continuing his efforts to merge two struggling universities there — historically black Southern University of New Orleans and the largely white University of New Orleans.


At his urging, a state House committee took the first major step toward the merger on Wednesday after nearly six hours of emotional testimony from supporters and opponents, voting in favor of legislation to combine the two schools. reports that House Bill 537 would combine the institutions into the new University of Louisiana at New Orleans starting in fall 2013. 

It's tempting for those of us who believe strongly in the continuing value of (and are admittedly a bit sentimental about) HBCUs to interpret this proposed merger as a typically conservative, and culturally and historically tone-deaf, attack by Gov. Jindal (whom we've never been able to take seriously since his bumbling State of the Union rebuttal in 2009, and who we don't think would lose a wink of sleep over the closing of every black school in the nation, any more than he would over overturning "Obamacare.")

But putting aside the personalities and politics involved and focusing on what we know of the substance, we can't help thinking that an institution with a 5 percent graduation rate like SUNO's (even if partly explained by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) isn't actually serving the well-being of the black community — or any other goal, for that matter. Opponents at the hearing said that a merger would restrict access to higher education for the mostly poor and minority students who now attend the school. But how much is this access worth if, for 95 percent of the students, it doesn't come with a degree?

Are we missing something here? Give us your take in the comments.

(The bill next goes to the House Appropriations Committee, which has joint jurisdictions over any measures that would cost the state more than $100,000. If approved there, it will head to the House floor, where a two-thirds majority vote is needed for passage.)



In other news: Study: Race and Death-Penalty Reversal Rates.

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