SUNO-UNO Merger Study Returns; Two Possible Changes Suggested

The research group commissioned by the Louisiana Board of Regents to study the potential effects of merging the University of New Orleans with Southern University’s campus in that city has delivered its recommendations today. The group, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, will present its recommendation to either merge the two universities or two keep them separate but drop SUNO’s mission as a historically-black university at the Regents meeting this afternoon.

According to the Baton Rouge Advocate’s piece on the report, the first recommendation of the group is to create the University of Greater New Orleans out of a SUNO-UNO merger. An UGNO would contain a “metropolitan” unit as well as an urban research unit. The second recommendation would be to formalize the separation of the two units as two different universities, but not to call the “metropolitan” unit SUNO. The second option would also include placing both universities and Delgado Community College under a new higher education board, the Greater New Orleans Higher Education Authority, to manage the three with shared resources. Assumedly, the GNOHEA would operate within the University of Louisiana system.

The report minces no words in its criticism of the current makeup of UNO and SUNO. “The institutions as currently operating are not meeting the needs of the students in the region,” it states. “Further there is no evidence that the institutions, within their current governance and leadership, will improve their performance.

“The status quo is unacceptable; change is required.”

It would appear the first option – a full merger – will be the one receiving primary attention from the Regents. it is that option which has received primary attention from the community defending SUNO; the Reverend Jesse Jackson has descended upon the state in order to agitate for maintaining that troubled university as a separate institution.

At a rally in Baton Rouge last night, Jackson said the black community should fight the proposal with “litigation, legislation, (voter) registration and demonstrations.”

“Why are we closing schools, but building jails,” he asked over explosive applause. “We want more than freedom; we want equality.”

Jackson didn’t outline which jails the state is building, or if he supports the bond issue being prepared by Baton Rouge mayor Kip Holden, which reportedly includes plans to build a new parish prison in East Baton Rouge.

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