THIS Is SUNO’s Answer?

It isn’t compelling.

In an effort to fend off a merger with the University of New Orleans, the president of the Southern University System is proposing a restructuring of the Southern University at New Orleans that would attempt to raise an 8 percent graduation rate in part by focusing on the educational needs of black males.

President Ron Mason’s plan, which he began publicly referencing earlier this month, would create a new center at SUNO that would give current students extra support as well as work with future students and their families. A stated goal is breaking the “unemployment-to-prison pipeline” traveled by many black males.

The Honore Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement, named after Gen. Russel Honore and jointly operated with Delgado Community College, would include an intensive program that would admit women but have a particular focus on black men. The 200 students would live on the SUNO campus for two years, receiving tutoring and mentoring as well as enhanced opportunities to become scientists and engineers.

Prior to instituting admissions requirements last fall, more than 60 percent of SUNO freshmen were enrolled in remedial classes — by far the largest percentage among Louisiana public universities. Mason’s plan would address those deficits with an Institute for Parents and Grandparents that would target children and their families starting with prenatal care and early childhood education.

The Honore Center would also train teachers and principals in the New Orleans public schools, with an emphasis on bringing in more black male educators to act as role models.

No offense, but this sounds like more money for zero results. The point is that SUNO is a little community which fails the test of the real world – SUNO students don’t graduate and don’t learn skills they’ll need. It’s a nice little bailiwick for people who draw a salary from SUNO on the taxpayers’ dime, and they do a really nice job instilling in their students – the ones who can’t seem to graduate in six years – that there’s something special in the place but it’s everybody else’s fault that the outcomes are so deficient.

But a year or two out of school, you find out that you either have marketable skills or you don’t. And SUNO is in the position it’s in because it doesn’t do anything to develop those skills in its students.

What does this proposal do to remedy that?

“We’re taking in 200 black men a year and we’re going to mentor them to be good guys and role models.”

Seriously? We need to spend $13,000 per student per year to keep a campus open for that?

No. Compete in the marketplace like everybody else. Compete in college alongside students of all races. Delgado and UNO are very diverse campuses. High standards equal high performance. and it’s long past time we in Louisiana start adhering to the rule that you get what you tolerate.

Students who have trouble attaining four-year degrees in six years don’t need more help getting four-year degrees. What they’re better off getting is two-year degrees. Which is what’s available at Delgado. Let’s teach these people CADD or web design or how to be an EMT, and stop trying to entice them into a degree in social work or African-American studies when one out of 20 of them actually graduate.

This isn’t about race, and it never has been. This is about fraud. It’s about offering a crappy education to at-risk students and then using race as a crutch and a defense against accountability for that crappy educational product.

State Rep. Kevin Pearson said it best when the Board of Regents voted to recommend merging SUNO and UNO…

“You don’t have to do anything more than Google, ‘America’s Worst Colleges’ to find an article from August of last year that ranks Southern University in New Orleans as the worst school in the nation. What we have done thus far is not working, and a drastic change is necessary to see lasting improvements.

“This should not be a fight about jobs and turf, it must be about the future of our state.”

It’s an embarrassment for Louisiana and an insult to our taxpayers that we’re funding the worst college in America. It’s a further embarrassment that the answer to that sad fact is intensive adult day care directed at a specific racial and gender group. That’s not a solution.



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