SUNO-UNO Merger Proposal Passes Regents On 9-6 Vote (UPDATED)

After hours of emotional testimony from students and supporters of Southern University’s New Orleans campus and some large-scale grumbling by board members about how they’re being rendered irrelevant by the politicians in service of an agenda, the Louisiana Board of Regents voted 9-6 today to endorse a merger between SUNO and the University of New Orleans.

The Regents’ recommendation will go to the legislature. Gov. Bobby Jindal called the study recommending either a merger or reorganization of the two schools a “starting point” for a legislative proposal to be introduced this spring.

Among the highlights of the grueling meeting today…

  • A proposal to refer the study with its dual recommendations to a Regents committee for further review was made by by new Regents member Chris Gorman, of Shreveport. That proposal got seven votes.
  • SUNO supporters howled that a merger would disenfranchise the population that university currently serves, though no one made the case for how a new university with an essentially open-admissions unit such as that called for by the study would serve them any differently, or how Delgado Community College couldn’t do the same job with access to more classroom facilities as part of a partnership with the merged UNO/SUNO outfit.
  • Also discussed at the hearing was the federal involvement in the case. It seems that as an historically-black college, SUNO gets access to federal funds that other colleges won’t get – and a merger would mean those funds would go away. Southern University System President Ronald Mason Jr. complained that going through with a true merger would deprive the state of millions of dollars.

Of course, the biggest highlight of the meeting – and probably the best indication of the atmosphere in the room – was captured by WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge. Meet Nikkisha Napoleon, who’s the new poster girl for the Left in Louisiana…

(Link if the player doesn’t load)

UPDATE: A little research into Ms. Napoleon indicates she’s no stranger to passionate defense of the educational status quo. Back in October, when the state BESE was holding hearings into the future of school governance in Orleans Parish and whether to return control of many of the schools there to the notoriously wasteful and incompetent Orleans Parish School Board, there she was…

Many of the first wave of speakers said that the Recovery School District should turn over control to the Orleans Parish School Board as quickly as possible because their children were denied services or being shuttled around the city in an attempt to find a school.

“You lied to the parents,” Nikkisha Napoleon said in a fiery address that drew applause and cheers and cries of “Preach.”

“We have injustice in the RSD system,” she said.

It doesn’t appear that Ms. Napoleon’s October concerns had been satisfied, as she turned up at another meeting about the Recovery School District last month to complain about its lack of customer service. Before that, she had signed a petition in favor of turning the schools back over to the School Board with this comment…

The RSD system is a threat to the educational attainment of ALL children. I am recommending that the state return the schools over to local governance, and cease in continuing the consistent and perpetual educational abuse of children under their guidance. The vast majority of high school children are attending schools structured on the order of the Orleans Parish Prison System. In addition, these same students have a very slim chance of attending a four year college institution, because the RSD doesn’t offer the appropiate recommended classes, and the students are failing to earn the required 21 ACT score. The RSD system is a threat to the educational attainment of ALL children. I am recommending that the state return the schools over to local governance, and cease in continuing the consistent and perpetual educational abuse of children under their guidance. It is equally clear that the state broke the law when OPSB was dismantled; thus, it is equally clear that the state return the schools to its perspective local school board.

Nor is this the first time she has surfaced with charges of racism as regarding decisions about SUNO’s future. A year ago, when the concept of space-sharing between UNO, SUNO and Delgado began to be discussed among higher education officials, there she was…

SUNO history student Nikkisha Napoleon Breaux said she and other students have been educated in trailers since Katrina devastated the campus in 2005.

She said the situation smacks of racism.

Breaux said SUNO students are made to feel unwelcome when using UNO’s library.

“UNO (doesn’t) want us there,” she said.

Not surprisingly, you’ll also find her name on a list of 1,000 Women For Charlie Melancon. And she turns up in a Fall 2007 copy of the newsletter that SUNO’s Center For African and African American Studies puts out extolling the virtues of her participation in the Jena 6 “movement…”

Yolanda Mims, Director of Disability Services, coordinated a trip for students and faculty/staff to travel to Jena, LA and discussed SUNO’s continued role in making others aware of the Jena Six.  Nikkisha Napoleon, student leader, discussed the history of the Jena 6 and vocalized her feelings of being a part of such a profound movement.

And it appears that Ms. Napoleon is also a member of something called the Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, a group funded, as it turns out, by George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and got herself a nice writeup in a piece in a newsletter called Education Organizing, put out by something called the Center For Community Change (for which you can guess the funding source) in 2007. The piece, entitled “Hometown Heroes,” was largely a gripe about the Recovery School District and the emphasis it placed on security…

When FFLIC read of the appalling 20 million dollars spent on security, they decided it was time to put a little more heat on the RSD. With members of the Fyre Youth Squad and the Schools First Collaborative at their side, FFLIC held a press conference outside a July meeting with two key targets in attendance: the State Superintendent of Education, Paul Pastoreck (sp), and the new RSD superintendent, Paul Vallas. At the press conference FFLIC member Nikkisha Napoleon-Breaux stated that schools, “should not be turned into prison grounds where security guards and police walk around with guns…If you say school is supposed to be peaceful, then why would anyone agree to have a structure of a mini-prison?”

With this kind of street cred, we’ll undoubtedly see Ms. Napoleon in elected office in Orleans Parish in no time.

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