HBCU Merger Proposals Persist Despite Fervent Opposition

By | March 11, 2011

Diverse Issues in Higher Education

- As two campus communities in Louisiana wait to see what will come of a proposal to merge the University of New Orleans and the historically Black Southern University of New Orleans, higher education leaders around the country are looking on with interest. Proposals in Mississippi and other states — or even hints at such proposals — have been met with such vociferous opposition that proponents have backed off.

Not so with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has persisted to the point of appointing an African-American to the Board of Regents to blunt criticism that the board’s lack of diversity delegitimizes a board-approved proposal study. The study, which is due next week, has been the target of a recent lawsuit by Southern University System students challenging the board’s racial composition. A Baton Rouge, La. judge has recently rescinded an injunction blocking the study, but the matter is expected to be appealed.

Although merger opposition remains strong in the Louisiana case, voices of support for some forms of mergers or other cost-cutting joint operations in other states are cautiously emerging within the Black higher education community.

Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, contends that merger proposals involving an HBCU and predominantly White institution “usually mean the HBCU will be submerged, not merged, into the White institution.” However, she says she supports collaborative ventures, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

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