Some people are trying to breathe new life into the old turf war between Lincoln and Omaha.
Sparking the attempt is the proposal to merge the electrical engineering program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the Department of Computer and Electronics Engineering at Omaha’s Kiewit Institute.
Both programs currently are administered by UNL.
Two Omaha businessmen instead want to create a new College of Engineering at the University of Nebraska at Omaha that would be independent of UNL.
Rick Gregg of Prism Technologies and John Smith of THG Benefits say they are worried that the move would harm the culture of the Omaha program and eventually mean that the Omaha program would be shortchanged.
They also point to a letter from 1995 from former NU President Dennis Smith promising to revisit the question of whether Omaha should have its own engineering program when the school added more students.
That sort of thinking ought to stay in the past century.
UNL Engineering Dean Tim Wei, who came to UNL last year from the renowned Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, has the right idea.
“My line from Day One has been that we have to stop talking about the Lincoln-Omaha problem … and start looking at Lincoln-Omaha opportunities,” Wei told the Omaha World-Herald.
Creating a new college at UNO would mean creating a whole new administrative layer at UNO.
That added bureaucracy is unnecessary in the 21st century. In contrast, the proposal to merge the two departments would lead to administrative efficiencies. The advantages of delivering services at multiple campuses is shown by the success of the nursing program, which is administered by the NU Medical Center’s College of Nursing, and delivers classes at five locations in Nebraska, including Lincoln.
By combining resources under the merger proposal, an electrical engineering program could be added at the Omaha campus, according to UNL officials.
In the big picture, the merger will help UNL measure up to the standards of Big Ten Conference schools and help achieve the goals of increasing undergraduate enrollment by about 30 percent in the next five years.
The merger proposal, which now is being reviewed and discussed by faculty in Lincoln and Omaha, ultimately will go to the NU Board of Regents.
It’s hardly an oversimplification to say that creation of a new engineering college in Omaha would be a step backward to the era of parochialism and unnecessary duplication. If the regents want to move forward, they will approve the merger.