The Jackson State University Tigers Delta Devils Braves

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 10:32 am

There have been many critics to Governor Barbour’s proposed plan to merge the state’s three historically black colleges (Jackson State University, Alcorn State University, and Mississippi Valley State University). According to the plan, the state would save an estimated $35 million. For C. Leigh McInnis of the Jackson Free Press the Governor’s recommendation is not about the “current economic crisis.” McInnis believes this is about finally closing the state’s HBCUs. He continues “In 1970, the state’s first response to the Ayers Equalization of Funding complaint was to close Mississippi Valley State University, merge Alcorn with Mississippi State, and rename Jackson State University as the University of Mississippi at Jackson.”

In an interview with AOL Black Voices, Professor Marybeth Gasman believes the Governor’s plan is ill-conceived. “First, it is silly to merge three institutions just because they are historically black in nature. This assumes that they are all the same and that there is no diversity within the black college context. Jackson State is an urban institution, and Alcorn and Mississippi Valley are rural in nature — a merger would bring together institutions with very different student bodies and missions,” Additionally, Gasman believes “the governor’s recommendation does not honor the spirit of the Fordice settlement, which aimed to bolster HBCUs, not destroy them. Given the history of Mississippi and its extreme forms of racism and segregation, more — not less — should be done for the HBCUs in the state.”

Executive Director of President Obama’s HBCU Initiative John Wilson, Jr., who recently visited Jackson on a listening and learning tour of HBCUs, says that “I don’t have an instantly negative attitude toward mergers. But greatness has to be the result, and here it appears the motivation was financial.”

It is no secret that the Governor’s recommendation may not happen. But in looking behind the proposal, what keeps coming to the fore is the Ayers settlement. “The lawsuit alleged that the state of Mississippi, through its funding process, discriminated against Alcorn State, Jackson State and Valley State. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the state still had vestiges of segregation in its university system and sent the case to the lower courts to arrange a settlement. Under the deal, the Mississippi Legislature agreed to provide $503 million to the three colleges over 17 years.” (Click here to read article in its entirety from USA Today). There are many hurdles that must be addressed before a merger can happen—issues with race, intentions, and whether a merger is at all necessary must be addressed before Mississippi’s higher education system can stem the tide of the current fiscal crisis.

  1. Kesha I will be following this issue as the Mississippi Legislature weighs in. I am a graduate of a HBCU in Arkansas.

    I have e-mailed your article to my arkansas friends and requested that they forward the article to all Alumni and friends of HBCUs in their address book.

    I hope we can stage a some type of campaign to show Gov. Barbour how backwards this make Mississippi look in this day and age of diversity.

    The HBCUs of Mississippi have contributed some much to America and the world. Why demish such a proud reputation.

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