Southern U. Officials Dispute Land-Grant Funds: LSU, Southern Disparities at Issue

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Southern U. Officials Dispute Land-Grant Funds: LSU, Southern Disparities. at Issue

BATON ROUGE, LA -- Officials at the historically Black Southern University system claim that they're still getting short-changed by the state of Louisiana, despite a recent settlement in a long-running federal desegregation lawsuit that will pump more than $100 million into the Bayou State's historically Black colleges over the next decade.

The only part of the 21-year-old desegregation lawsuit that is still pending in court is a dispute between Southern University and predominately white Louisiana State University over land-grant funding.

Louisiana's 1995-96 state budget, approved by the Legislature in June, will give LSU's Agricultural Center $56 million for land-grant functions.

By contrast, state funding for Southern University's three campuses and law center next year will total only $51.4 million, including only $1.8 million for land-grant programs.

Funding, Opportunities

Southern University System President Dolores Spikes said the unequal distribution of land-grant funds has resulted in an unequal distribution of opportunities. "We maintain because of the inequities in land-grant funding, we don't see as many African-American faces in professional agricultural and forestry positions as you would expect in a state that is about 30 percent African American," Spikes said.

"We believe we can contribute toward a better representation if we had been allowed to have a greater involvement in the land-grant activities of the state," Spikes added.

Rouse Caffey, chancellor of the LSU Agricultural Center, said his institution serves the state's entire agricultural community, regardless of race, with agricultural extension and research programs.

Caffey said his opposition to a proposal during the recent legislative session to create a Southern University Agricultural Center was based on concern that it might duplicate LSU's programs and compete for scarce state dollars. Spikes said LSU is merely trying to protect its turf, adding that their attitude will likely force the dispute into court.

"LSU makes statements suggesting that we want to go back to `separate but equal,' which always amazes us, because that's been the problem: it's been separate but unequal in the past. It's never been separate but equal." Spikes said.

Spikes said Southern University has no intention to duplicate LSU's existing land-grant programs, which focus mostly on traditional agricultural areas such as rice farming. …