Jesse Jackson - the new George Wallace. Really.
A little background: SUNO - Southern University in New Orleans - is a mostly African-American college that is part of the separate public university system originally created for African-Americans during Louisiana's Jim Crow era. It is right next door to the University of New Orleans, and SUNO has a graduation rate of only 5% in six years. (UNO's is four times that, but still an anemic 21%)
In an era of threadbare budgets, the notion of having two universities next to each other doing the same thing is ludicrous, and Governor Jindal is right to want to merge the two.
But the controversy brings up another point that puts Jesse Jackson arm-and-arm with the former Alabama governor: Separate-but-equal is dead. Why, in 2011, any government has two separate university systems, effectively based on race, is beyond me. The Southern University system's continued existence is, to your humble blogger, an affront to everything I understand Dr. King worked for.
If Jackson, or anyone else for that matter, wants to start or fund a private university based on race, or religion, or national origin, I'm all for it so long they are accredited and don't take public funds. It's a free country. Here's an idea: Jindal could sell SUNO to Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH group for $1, and let them take it private. Heck, give them the unspent FEMA money to get it going. If Jackson and his friends truly think a segregated university with a 5% graduation rate is an asset to the Crescent City, then let them prove it.
UPDATE 15MAR2011: The Louisiana Board of Regents, the folks who oversee all public colleges in the state, voted today to recommend the merger. Good.