Friday, December 12, 2008

< controversy >

Somebody back in the homeland came up with a novel idea recently. In response to the economic climate and state budget cuts, there is an idea floating around the halls of the Georgia State Capital to merge four medium sized public universities that have for over 100 years, existed in two cities.

That sounds fairly reasonable, right? Consolidation of four major institutions into two. There aren't many nominal differences in programming - it isn't like merging Georgia Tech's engineering with Georgia State's law school. There aren't large established endowments that will now be combined (a la Newcomb and Tulane in New Orleans). No, there's only one major division that seperates these universities within their respective cities: two are historically black colleges, and two are historically not.

As the title says, right? Thing is, the plan does make sense, but will be met with stiff resistance from dug in faculty and alumni. But the plan picks up an endorsement from someone the right wing describes "the most liberal editor of the most liberal Southern paper" - Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. (I wonder if Bill O'Reilly will bring this up on his TV show, as he has criticized Tucker for many of her other stands.)

It will be fairly interesting to see how this idea plays out back home.

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1 comment:

patsbrother said...

To say that race is the "only" major difference between the sets of schools is inexact.

Before reading your posting, I read the following in an article, also from the AJC:

--

In educational terms, there may be valid reasons for maintaining all four campuses. As a community college, for example, Darton opens its doors to students who require more academic support than their peers at Albany State, and thus performs a different mission. According to state data, 58.6 percent of Darton freshmen required remedial courses in 2007, compared with only 7.8 percent at Albany State.

And while Savannah State University is a traditional campus with a long history of residential housing, nearby Armstrong Atlantic was designed as a commuter campus. While Armstrong has added student housing, its student body is still slightly older than that of Savannah State, and many of its students hold jobs and take longer to finish their degrees, Regents spokesman John Millsaps said.

That’s why Savannah State has a six-year graduation rate of 40 percent, while Armstrong’s rate is only 25 percent.

--

I would be hesitant to downplay the differences between a commuter school and a residential one. I would also question how comparable the educational missions of two schools really are, when those schools have wildly different figures concerning remedial instruction. (60% is a big number; 8% not so much.)

There are lots of towns with multiple public institutions. One would never consider merging Athens Tech with UGA, because they are so different. Admittedly, this analogy takes the situation to the extreme, but it may be inapposite only in degree.

The real question is not simply: well, this school is black, and this school is white, should we merge them? If all things were equal between two institutions, that would be a no-brainer (at least from my perspective). But the institutions are not equal, assuming the information cited above is correct. And unlike the days of Jim Crow, it is not the law keeping these institutions the way they are: it appears that it is the prospective students who keep one overwhelmingly black and the other majority white.

I don't have a dog in this fight. I am not in favor of one solution or the other. I present these thoughts and this information merely to suggest that there are reasons why one would be in favor of keeping distinct each of the insitutions at issue.