Friday, 20 February 2015 11:48
Revisited SUNO-UNO merger idea is good one
Written by 

suno-uno-compressedBetter late than never, never let a crisis go to waste, or whatever saying fits to describe an attempt to do what made far too much sense years ago, which for that reason didn’t get done, in the merging of the University of New Orleans and Southern University in New Orleans.

 

State Rep. Patrick Connick announced his intention to file a bill that would perform precisely that, four years after legislative majorities probably could have accomplished, but legislative supermajorities almost certainly would failed to engineer, the same. Back then, both institutions still were reeling from the aftereffects of the hurricane disasters of 2005, and SUNO had the additional distinction of having the lowest degree completion rate in the country – but given that its student body averaged a fog-a-mirror score of 15.5 on the American College Test (the national average is around 21, with a minimum of 8), it’s a wonder any student graduated from there.

Since then, matters have only gotten worse. UNO changed systems after the merger attempt, which also would have given Delgado Community College a formal link to the merged institution, but it continued to lose enrollment, which now is almost half of what it was a decade ago. SUNO got some brand spanking new infrastructure out of disaster recovery dollars but the state’s move to get baccalaureate-and-above schools out of the associates degree/certificate/remedial education businesses with a strengthening of admission requirements flushed around a sixth of its enrollment away, mostly full-time, first-time students.

With the state facing budgetary pressure that could slice hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer support from Louisiana’s colleges, and with any tuition increase unlikely to make up even most of this withdrawal, given their losses in enrollment in the past few years no two schools in the state would be hit harder than these two located a little over a mile apart. It should be a no-brainer that together, which would make them not even three-quarters of UNO’s size in 2005, they could shed a fair degree of duplication in the staff and administrative areas, and some in the instructional area, with considerable cost savings that could help out somewhat for fiscal year 2016 but reap major dividends in the years ahead.

Naturally, being this involves academia and jobs would be lost – even worse than U.S. Postal Service employees do academicians (once tenured) have dyed into their DNA the attitude that they have a divine right to a job for life – both institutions, for no good reason, don’t think much of the idea. Many SUNO backers more benignly argue that its presumed special purpose of educating the most disadvantaged students would be lost, although with its dismal completer rate it’s hard to say it was doing all that well at this task. More malignly, others insinuate its dissolution represents an attack on education of blacks as it is a Historically Black University and College.

From some UNO supporters’ perspectives, reasons of status and class cloud their judgment. It won’t be said in polite company, but too many see bringing on some of SUNO’s administrators, staff, faculty, and students as too disruptive (making the reasonable assumption that the merger would be a matter of pouring the smaller institution into the larger). Faculty members are a clubby lot, and resist the idea of letting into their departments people they never hired or tenured. Ambitious administrators would find themselves with some new competitors that possibly could push them organizationally sideways or even cause their demotions, if not discharging them. SUNO students, with at least some justification in the past that may no longer be present because of the new admissions standards, are perceived by some supportive of UNO as dilutive of the school’s quality and forces more instructional effort than they would prefer towards accommodating this changed student body. This is what is meant, if not said aloud, attached to statements like the one made by UNO Pres. Peter Fos that any such attempt would be like “trying to take an apple and merge it with an orange.”

But it’s just not that complicated. A plan could be put in place over the next year to merge, consolidating all personnel on the UNO campus, while the SUNO campus could become an extension of Delgado. There are complicating factors, but nothing that could not be sorted out, and savings at first would not amount to much, but it’s very hard to believe that the per student cost of instruction within a few years would not go down compared to that of two separate universities, and significantly.

Of course, the two-thirds requirement to achieve this means getting a few black legislators, who typically view the HBUC Southern University System as a necessary commitment regardless of cost, to go along with it. Yet surely they can understand the black students would be better off at a mutually strengthened new University of New Orleans than at a teetering, vulnerable SUNO – especially if the current crisis causes its collapse. Some liberal Democrats who see higher education (with some justification) as a hotbed of fellow travelers ideologically and patronage sink will resist this change to preserve the reach of academia’s footprint as much as possible; enough of them also will have to see reason, and place it before partisanship.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Conrad Appel says it’s too early to consider seriously a merger of any schools. If so, it’s not very much early. The idea should be on the table as soon as Gov. Bobby Jindal unveils his FY 2016 budget next week, or else it cannot serve as a mature policy option with maximal chance of success. That is, after all, the end goal: at least one fiscally healthy public university serving the greater New Orleans area. At this point, a UNO-SUNO merger promises the best chance of this happening. 

 

Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

Website: jeffsadow.blogspot.com/
Login to post comments
  • Cat Fights on the Hot Cement Confederate New Orleans statues
  • Ex-Saints, Bears, Bills, NFL Exec, Jim W. Miller discusses NFL Draft tomorrow
  • Trump's new plan; Curtains on tax returns release; 40% say Trump-Russia; Probing Obama admin
  • Watch Louisiana Governor Edwards talk about CAT Tax failure

catRarely, have I seen few issues that have generated as much raw heat, tension, and passion than the Confederate monuments controversy. 

Just as existed during the real civil war, where brothers battled brothers, social media is the battleground, particularly Facebook, pitting friend against friend.

On one side of the tense divide, there are those who are protecting the New Orleans civil war era monuments.  Burnt in effigy, forever, is the symbol of Mayor Mitch Landrieu for up-ending what the monument protectors consider to be the loving civil society of New Orleans.

Lately, events have turned somewhat militaristic.

Some protectors of the Confederate monuments have been staying vigilant, in person and online, even surveilling during the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the next Mayor Landrieu attack. On Sunday morning, with protections of snipers, masked workers and a dumbstruck audience, the worst of all of the monuments was cut and carried., the Liberty Monument. 

Read More

miller nfl live2 5It’s D-Day or Draft Day tomorrow in the NFL.

More specifically, Thursday represents the first day of the NFL draft 2017.

Read More

 

trump curtainsThe major President Trump news of the day focuses upon taxes, not only the tax cuts he is proposing but his own taxes, which he obviously, refuses to unveil.

 

Read More

edwards play money 1

At a press conference today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the CAT Tax did not pass the House Ways and Means Committee.  The Governor, in addressing the media said that "the fate of that bill was decided long before we unveiled it".

Read More

latter-blum2

Sen. Appel talks budget, economy

TRUMP TALK

Dead Pelican

Optimized-DeadPelican2 1 1