Decision Postpones Justice for Md. HBCU’s; Special Master Appointed

HBCU Equity Lawsuit

by: Kamau High AFRO Managing Editor khigh@afro.com
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The long-running lawsuit by HBCU alumni, students, and others against the state of Maryland over the effects of duplicating successful programs at HBCUs took another twist on Nov.8.  U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake, who has been overseeing the case, declared that neither party’s proposed solutions were adequate to effectively address the “de jure segregation” that had resulted from Traditional White Institutions (TWI) duplicating successful academic programs at HBCUs.

Instead, Blake ruled that a Special Master, will be appointed, who in turn will be assisted by a committee of his choosing, to develop a plan that attempts to address the inequalities between state funded TWIs and HBCUs. Once the Special Master is appointed, he or she will have one year to file a plan with the court on the method to effectively end segregation at Maryland higher education institutions. The judge did not say how much money would be needed to provide relief to the HBCUs.    

In the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education lawsuit, originally filed in 2006, the U.S. Federal District Court found that the state of Maryland continues to operate a de jure system of segregation in higher education that has systemically discriminated against students at Historical Black Institutions.

The Special Master’s job will be to decide which “unique, high demand programs” should be created at Maryland HBCUs. These programs would, in theory, draw more non-minority students to them. Blake decreed that no programs would be transferred from TWIs to HBCUs because of the possible negative effects the TWIs would suffer. She also ordered Maryland to give additional funding to HBCUs for student recruitment, financial aid and marketing. Any new programs started at TWIs must be approved by the Special Master, to avoid further duplication.

“…the court finds that neither party’s remedy, as currently proposed, is practicable, educationally sound, and sufficient to address the segregative harms of program duplication at the HBIs,” Blake wrote. “At least in part, this results from the parties’ failure or inability to consult with the other side in crafting their proposals. Further, the court has not been given sufficient information about the cost of the proposals. Instead of adopting either one as it stands, the court will appoint a Special Master to develop a Remedial Plan.”

Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, contributed to this report.

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