Not many days ago, Jackson State University announced a plan to expand its campus beyond the city limits of Jackson into Madison. Many Jackson supporters received this announcement with enthusiasm about the university's future as well as the opportunity to see JSU more proactively open her doors to a clientele that ultimately creates a more diversified Jackson State University.
For those who have kept up with Jackson State University over the last 20 years, this move should not be a big shock. Jackson State has been growing in program offerings as well as making a crawl across more and more acreage. This is the way of higher education. Progressive schools of higher learning are morphing to meet the demands of creating a more technically educated populous while catering to a convenience-seeking group of potential students. Mississippi State University has established extensions throughout the state. My alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, has an expansive campus that reaches from the Hub City of Hattiesburg to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. So, the idea of university expansion is not a novel one.
The reaction to JSU's announcement, however, was immediate. Tulane University, supported by Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, came out in opposition to Jackson State's expansion to Madison. Since then, we've seen Facebook debates and special news reports. Even the normal barbershop conversations have centered on the push back that Jackson State University has encountered from Tulane and Hawkins.
Tulane University established a satellite campus in Madison in 2010, almost three hours away from its parent site in Louisiana. Greeted with open arms as the first of its kind in Madison, the school has the obvious desire to maintain the level of exclusivity it currently enjoys. So, Tulane's "proposed" opposition against the JSU expansion is actually palatable.
What is not palatable is a question that has surfaced in this conversation from people on both sides of the issue. In some instances, both proponents and opponents of the move are asking, "Why does JSU want to expand to Madison?"
I submit that we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the question we should propose is, "Why shouldn't JSU expand to Madison?" Is it really the competition factor? If so, does it mean that Madison is closed for business to any other state-supported institution of higher learning proposing to expand there?
Why not JSU? Riddle me that, Batman!
Tony Yarber is president of the Jackson City Council. He represents Ward 6, and will be running for re-election this year.