Only one merger has shot of happening

Gov. Haley Barbour should withdraw his recommendation that Mississippi’s three historically black schools be merged.

In the two weeks since the Republican governor unveiled his bombshell, it’s become obvious that the proposal doesn’t have a chance of actually happening. As long as the recommendation lives, all it does is throw this state into a racial spat that distracts from the tough job at hand — reining in Mississippi’s spending until the economy turns around.

No matter how far tax collections dip, there is no way that Mississippi Valley State University and Alcorn State University are going to be merged with Jackson State University. None of the affected universities want it, not even Jackson State, which would get a bigger footprint under the proposal. Students and alumni groups are already holding emotional protests. The Legislature, at least the House, appears to be dead set against the idea. And now Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson has weighed in against it. According to the increasingly powerful Democrat, he and other plaintiffs in the Ayers desegregation case would have to sign off on any such merger, and Thompson says there’s no way he’s going to do that.

The merger recommendation is not just dead on arrival in the Legislature. It’s dead before arrival. Barbour can try to persuade his allies at the Capitol to force a debate on his recommendation, but what would he hope to prove by that? All it would do is senselessly agitate lawmakers, causing them to spend a lot of time and emotional energy — spawning racial ill will all the while — debating an idea that will never come to pass.

Greenwood Commonwealth
Nov. 29, 2009