HBCU Merger discussion continues

The debate continues over the possibility of a merger of Mississippi‘s historically black colleges and universities.

Members of the Mississippi Coalition on Black Higher Education rallied outside the Jackson State e-Center around lunchtime Thursday. They called for the resignation of president Ronald Mason, who issued a proposal to combining Alcorn, Mississippi Valley, and Jackson State Universities under the name of one institution: Jacobs State University.

The coalition not only wants to squash any plans for a merger, but also to quiet any talk about the idea, saying it’s already hurting the schools.

Professor Ivory Phillips said, “Ee would like to cease talk about mergers because these universities are already experiencing recruitment problems because of this talk about mergers. Kids are wondering should I go there because it may be closed.”

Campus Life

Where do you Stand on the Mississippi HBCU Merger?

Gov. Haley Barbour has recommended Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State merge to save the state money.

Ronald Mason Jr, JSU president since Feb. 1, 2000, publicly spoke against the proposal. But his 34-page presentation obtained by The Clarion-Ledger suggests creating another university – dubbed Jacobs State University – is a better alternative than letting “financially weak ASU, MVSU, JSU become weaker” in the state’s budget crisis.

The presentation notes historic inequities in the university system, calling the historically black schools the “poorest institutions of higher learning in the poorest state in America.”

“HBCUs rescued many but were designed and historically underfunded as part of Mississippi’s efforts to minimize the human potential of black people,” the presentation states. “Mississippi and its African-American citizens will create and support a new institution of higher learning primarily devoted to the specific purpose of restoring the human potential of black people.”

Mason said Tuesday that the presentation – which is detailed and includes a proposal to make the new school’s mascot the Phoenix – was not intended to be made public.

“It was a series of one-on-one conversations,” he said. “It’s just an idea.”

Mason said he was “picking brains” and looking for ways to “help the HBCUs survive” in his meetings with officials.

Because of the state budget crisis, the three HBCUs could see millions drained from their budgets by 2012, according to the state College Board.

“We need to be talking about more money for education, not fewer institutions,” she said. “All of the schools serve very specific purposes.”

Attempts to reach MVSU President Donna Oliver on Tuesday were not successful.