(Updated 3/1/2016) Faculty representatives from the four Maryland HBCUs – Morgan State University, Coppin State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University – are planning a rally on March 2 at 4 p.m. in Annapolis to draw attention to the ongoing lawsuit over inequality at HBCUs.
The group, which will include busloads of students and alumni from the four schools, is also planning on meeting with Del. Barbara A. Robinson, D-Baltimore, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.
In 2013, Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled that Maryland’s traditional White institutions had been duplicating programs at the HBCUs, which had the effect of segregating the HBCUs, decreasing their enrollment, as well as diminishing the quality of the course offerings at the HBCUs.
The lawsuit was brought by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education – which comprises alumni of Maryland HBCUs – against the state’s higher education body, the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
In the lawsuit, the coalition presented evidence of the HBCUs accumulative funding deficiencies over the years in the amount of $2.73 billion. Such was asserted as being the estimated amount necessary to eliminate the disparities created by the state’s protracted illegal discriminatory practices against the HBCUs over many years.
Following Blake’s ruling, she asked both parties to offer ways of fixing the inequalities. Last May the Coalition submitted their proposals. Among their suggestions: merging the University of Baltimore into Morgan State and moving programs from traditional White institutions to HBCUs.
Last November, the state finally responded. In addition to opposing the merger between Morgan and the University of Baltimore, the state offered $10 million over six years to help HBCUs and TWIs to collaborate and suggested establishing summer programs at HBCUs where recently graduated high school seniors could earn college credit while learning more about HBCUs.
In early February, Blake rejected the Coalition’s proposed merger of Morgan State and the University of Baltimore and also said that the state’s $10 million proposal was inadequate. Both sides are now in the process of submitting new proposals in support of their positions.
“This is an opportunity to inform public opinion on what the state proposed. As faculty, it doesn’t meet our needs. We want to raise awareness. We’re not just asking for money; we’re asking for the opportunity to have equity across the universities,” said Claudia Nelson, faculty senate chair, Coppin State University. “A grant program of $10 million to be shared across HBCUs and TWIs is inadequate. It does not come anywhere near the funding of the needs of institutions in terms of enhancement and programs. The state, making those proposals, undermined HBCUs in a way that is shameful.”
With both sides so far apart in their proposed solutions, whatever help the HBCUs receive from the lawsuit will not happen immediately.
“It will take a couple of decades and a comprehensive remedy to make them [HBCUs] whole,” said Patricia Westerman, chair of the faculty senate, Bowie State University. “That’s why the Bowie faculty doesn’t support the state’s proposals.”
The state’s $10 million proposal to resolve a $2.73 billion fix was not only deemed inadequate by Judge Blake, but also shameful and insulting by many in the Black academic community. Such sentiment appeared to be echoed by Michael D. Jones, a lawyer for the Coalition, who upon learning of the proposal reportedly indicated that the $10 million proposed by the state was probably less than what the state was spending in defending the case.