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SUNO Fits the Bill

  I disagree with the opinion of Clancy DuBos in the March 22 column, "Merger Most Foul?". Whether or not it is called a "merger," the Board of Regents consultant's recommendation has the same effect. Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO) and the University of New Orleans would be managed by the same president in a merged management structure. It is difficult to see how the consultant's recommendation that the mission and culture of SUNO be preserved could be achieved under such an arrangement.

  SUNO's mission and culture are defined by the fact that it is a Historically Black University (HBCU) that is part of the nation's only HBCU system. If SUNO is moved as proposed, there is a real risk it will lose its HBCU designation — and that the Southern System will ultimately cease to exist.

  His reference to SUNO as a "fiefdom" belies a lack of recognition of the new Southern. As a system, we are committed to positive change, and our Project Positive Direction has us well down the road of reform. In addition, the work of SUNO's Chancellor, Dr. Victor Ukpolo, and his administration, is completely student-centered.

  DuBos misses the main point made by the consultants. The demographics of New Orleans dictate that the greatest higher education task in New Orleans is the work of SUNO. It needs to and it will improve six-year graduation rates. Twenty-five percent of SUNO's students are part time and 25 percent are transfer students. The latter are not counted in graduation numbers. In any event, we expect the rates to continue to rise and reach 25 percent in less than five years.

  More important, the average SUNO student works, is low income, and takes nine years to graduate. They are people, often in challenging circumstances, seeking to better themselves with a bachelor's degree. They should be commended for persevering. SUNO should be commended for producing 52 percent of the bachelor degrees awarded to African-Americans by New Orleans public universities in 2010.

  The Southern System proposed — Honore Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement — has most of the elements recommended by the consultants. It is student-focused, affordable and won't require a constitutional amendment to implement.

Ronald Mason Jr.
President, Southern University System


The Real Mission

  Ian McNulty ("In the Pool," March 29) could've served the public interests 90 times better had he just listed the website for the Fully Informed Jury Association (www.fija.org). His "personal look at completing ... and survival guide of sorts" is good as far as informing one to bring a book, a sweater and lunch, but to really make a difference when picked to serve on a jury, reference fija.org. From their "Purpose" page: "The FIJA mission is to educate Americans regarding their full powers as jurors, including their ability to rely on personal conscience, to judge the merit of the law and its application, and to nullify bad law, when necessary for justice, by finding for the defendant."

  In other words, you and me, as jurors have the power to change laws! What a responsibility! What a missed opportunity to really put some substance into a story.

J. López

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