Monday, December 12, 2005

More putty-clay 

Southern University in New Orleans is closing departments like Tulane did last week. SUNO is a predominantly black university with a tradition of outreach to students from impoverished families. I mention this because the Chronicle of Higher Education report (subscribers link) says the school's mission is refocusing as well in dropping traditional departments.
Hurricane-ravaged Southern University at New Orleans will undergo a drastic restructuring under a new academic plan approved on Friday by the Board of
Supervisors of the Southern University System. The plan, which passed by a vote of 9 to 2, will eliminate programs in 19 academic disciplines, including mathematics, physics, and English, and instead emphasize community development and worker training, according to news reports.
The Chronicle has no quotes from administrators at SUNO, the trustees are mum, and I didn't find any clues from its website. But one dean was found, and he's none too pleased:

Joe Omojola, dean of the university's College of Science, said that Southern University's representatives "went to the Board of Regents to negotiate ... there was no one at the bargaining table" from the New Orleans campus. Louisiana's Board of Regents oversees the state's public colleges.

Mr. Omojola said that it was hard to imagine a modern university that did not award
degrees in such academic staples as math and English. "When you do not have those elements in a university," he said, "you really do not have a university."

He held out some hope that the plan might be renegotiated before it takes effect, in the fall of 2006. "We're going to go back to the table," he said. "I do believe when it's all said and done, there are going to be changes in the new program."

...Even worse, he said, will be the effect on the students the college has traditionally served. "The African-American community -- they all have the feeling that nobody wants them to come back to New Orleans," said [Mostafa A. Elaasar, chairman of the department of mathematics and physics, which is scheduled to be dropped]. "And you do this to their university? ... There is no school, no place to stay."

SUNO may have a new model for what a university that has a historical mission of teaching to blacks, but I suspect this is simply an attempt to cut departments that will have less support politically. If it's part of mission refocus, then as reader jw, who noted this piece to me, said, "sounds like stereotyping to me."