A proposal to merge Southern University at New Orleans and the University of New Orleans died in the Legislature late Wednesday when House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, pulled the measure from consideration. The bill, strongly backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, and just as strongly opposed by the Legislative Black Caucus, would have merged the historically black SUNO with the majority white, but racially mixed, UNO into a single lakefront campus with two units.
Tucker said he withdrew the bill from consideration after he concluded that he didn’t have the required 70 votes to pass it and send it to the Senate for consideration.
“It’s unfortunate because I really, really thought this was the right thing to do,” Tucker said.
Instead of a merger, Tucker said he would pursue separate legislation to move UNO from the Louisiana State University System to the University of Louisiana System, where he thinks the university will be better served by being with other “tier 2” universities.
He said members of the Black Caucus have pledged to support the UNO move, and the creation of new cooperative agreements among SUNO, UNO and Delgado Community College.
Jindal, Tucker and other supporters had said the merger was needed to save both schools, which have low graduation rates and declining enrollments.
The House of Representatives had been scheduled to take up House Bill 537 on Monday, but Tucker, R-Algiers, said at least two of the members who had committed to voting in favor of the measure were called away on business. Tucker’s bill would have melded both schools into University of Louisiana at New Orleans starting in fall 2013. The new entity was to have been part of the University of Louisiana system.
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