So this article was published earlier this week, and a few people have asked my opinion. Well… Here goes.
It took me a while to mozey on over here because while I do think this is a case of racism (and a dash of sexism), I don’t think that argument is sound or viable enough as the schools chosen are of the smallest of the public universities in Mississippi. I am opposed to the merging of MS’s universities, but not just because of said -isms. Lemme tell you why.
1. I do think there needs to be some reform in higher learning in the state. But I think that reform needs to happen across the board. Yes, duplication and underperformance is an issue in some of the 8 public institutions. I’d like to see what the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning or some other commission that includes representation from each university is doing/can do to encourage partnership across schools in various areas and to discuss and strategize coordination of services and other planning and policy issues. I really think that a commission should be able to come up with creative ways to address issues.
2. I think it’s mighty coincidental that Delta State wasn’t mentioned in any of these articles. Delta State, which is across the street (literally) from Mississippi Valley and which has a student population not much bigger than Alcorn State and which has been having some financial and operational issues itself, was not one of the schools proposed to lose its identity. That bothers me. A more believable proposal would have been to set up some kind of cooperative if not merger with Delta State and Valley. Not Alcorn, Valley, and JSU, which are nowhere near each other.
3. Ok, so SWAC and small universities may not be much to some, but it would seem to me that the governor of the state would consider the dynamics of each of its HBCUs. Different histories, different focuses, different cultures. I really can’t imagine ALCORN of all schools becoming Jackson State. LOL how hilarious. So ok, you say you will save $35 million (which is less than 10 percent of the state budget), but how much money will be lost on rival games and activities, that bring in ticket revenue and tax revenue? Oh yeah, I forgot, usually the numbers of people attending these types of events are underreported. Hmmm…
Over the past few years, every so often, at least once or twice a year, I hear talk of the significance and need for HBCUs. And of plots to get rid of them. Well, as an HBCU grad who has attended (and earned multiple degrees from) private and public institutions, an HBCU and a PWI, they are definitely needed. Especially in the South. Research has shown that HBCUs have a profound impact on the education of minority students, in term of graduation rates, percentage of students in scientific fields, and even in percentage of students moving on to and finishing graduate school.
4. I really can’t comprehend how significant savings will be realized if the campuses stay open. The HBCUs are past what I would think comfortable driving distance is for students or teachers who want to teach at multiple campuses. But I could be wrong. I don’t think it’s that feasible to share staff or to close entire departments. Unless he’s planning to fire presidents or something. I’d like to see details of the savings forecast.
5. Finally, it seems every time MS is in a budget crisis, which could have been somewhat buffered had Barbour taken the stimulus money (he rejected $56 MILLION), education is taxed. That’s not cool. Education is the linchpin of hope and rising above expectations. If you want to attract residents and businesses, you have to have a strong education system, from Pre-K to graduate school. If you want to attract young professionals, they need options on continuous training. If you want to strengthen your homegrown talent, you have to teach and train them to hold the skills you will need in the future. Education needs to be added to–not taken away from.
I hope this proposal is thrown out of the window. I hope those at the Capitol today make an impact on the viability of passing this proposal. Happy Friday!