There are two proposals out for public discussion regarding the future of the University of New Orleans. One would have the university moved from the administration of Louisiana State University to the University of Louisiana system; the other would merge Southern University of New Orleans into UNO.
We support both.
Placing UNO in the University of Louisiana group, which operates the state’s eight four-year universities, other than LSU and the Southern system, could give UNO more of the attention it needs. Under the University of Louisiana system UNO would be one among equals. Under the LSU board the New Orleans campus is clearly subordinate to the Baton Rouge school. New Orleans, the cultural and historic center of the state, clearly deserves a university that has the freedom and the support to excel. University of Louisiana supervision would not be the perfect solution but it’s the best alternative.
As for Southern University in New Orleans, we agree that it should be merged into UNO. The university was founded with an improper purpose: to create a way of keeping colleges segregated. It is a failed university. There are already more black students attending UNO than SUNO. The best and brightest of black students clearly want an alternative. Despite the many problems that UNO has faced throughout the years it has maintained academic excellence at an affordable tuition level. SUNO, meanwhile, became more of a political power base than a place for learning. Black students deserve better, either at UNO, community colleges (such as burgeoning Delgado) or other area universities.
We understand the racial sensitivity to the issue. To some blacks, closing the university is another element of their cultural identity lost in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, but the local black culture is rich enough and pervasive enough not to need an inadequate university as a crutch. One element of that culture is preserved at Tulane’s Hogan Jazz Archive and at UNO’s Jazz Studies program. New Orleans is blessed with two other primarily back universities: Dillard and Xavier, where the Amistad Research Center has a mission of studying black history and race relations.
Last month an advisory committee suggested alternative proposals that included combining UNO and SUNO under its own governing board and/or combing the universities into something to be called The University of Greater New Orleans. Either way, the report recommended that the universities be removed from under their present governing structure. The suggested alternatives are worth study. We agree strongly with the change in governance.
If SUNO is to remain open it should be under the same administrative system as UNO. From the marriage, some bright minds might evolve that could one day make higher education even more efficient and effective. That would be worth the effort.