Posted: Jun 10, 2011 8:18 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The transfer of the University of New Orleans from the Louisiana State University System into a different college system that focuses more on regional universities is close to final approval at the Legislature.
The Senate went on record in favor of the proposal when members voted 35-0 Thursday for a version of the bill by Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie. Similar legislation had already been approved in the House, and that measure, by Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, was endorsed Thursday afternoon by the Senate Education Committee. Barring any unforeseen roadblocks, Appel could push Tucker's bill through the Senate next week. A routine vote in the House on Senate language changes could quickly follow.
Early in the session, the legislation was a more ambitious and controversial proposal that would have merged UNO with predominantly black Southern University at New Orleans. That effort was backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal but it was abandoned when it became clear it would not get the two-thirds approval needed. It was opposed by the Legislative Black Caucus and many in the New Orleans political establishment, as well as SUNO students and alumni.
The merged schools would have been placed under the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors under the original proposal. When the merger idea was abandoned, the idea of removing UNO from the LSU system and transferring it to the UL system survived.
UNO was originally called Louisiana State University in New Orleans when it opened in 1958 as part of the LSU system. In recent years there had been friction between UNO officials and the system's leadership in Baton Rouge, culminating in last year's dismissal of chancellor Tim Ryan, who said his funding requests were often not responded to and who complained about LSU "micromanaging" the New Orleans campus.
Sen. J.P. Morrell supported the transfer, saying many UNO supporters felt the school had long been treated "like a red-headed stepchild" under the LSU system.
Approval will put UNO under the board of supervisors that runs eight other four-year universities: UL-Monroe, Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Grambling State in Grambling, Northwestern State in Natchitoches, McNeese State in Lake Charles, UL-Lafayette, Nicholls State in Thibodaux and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.