Ruling Offers Glimmer of Hope

HBCU Equity Lawsuit

by: Deborah Bailey Special to the AFRO
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Will Court Compel Transferring Programs from Historically White Institutions to HBCU’s to Remedy Maryland’s Historical Constitutional Violations?

(Updated 10/5/2017) Recent actions rendered by the US District Court in Maryland have given HBCU (Historically Black College and University) advocates a new burst of hope that a silver lining is imminent in the long standing Maryland HBCU Equity Lawsuit (Coalition For Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc. v. Maryland Higher education Commission, et. al.).

“Judge Blake issued a one-page order denying the substantive part of the [State’s] summary motions on evidence on reasons that will be explained in a forthcoming memorandum”, Pace McConkie, Director of the Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education told the AFRO.

“I think that gives us hope that the court is close to issuing its remedial order in this case.” McConkie said in testimony before the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus (LBC) in Annapolis this past week.

McConkie reviewed the major framework of the HBCU Equity Trial for the Maryland Lawmakers assembled to hear testimony on a variety of pivotal issues impacting African-Americans across the state.  The basic HBCU Equity Lawsuit was filed more than a decade ago and decided in favor of the state’s HBCU Alumni, students and supporters, in 2013.

“The state not only failed to discontinue the practice of duplication of programs. It maintained and perpetuated [the practice] over the years.  So in 2013 the Court found that the State’s system of Higher Education was unconstitutional and remedies would be required,” McConkie said.

HBCU advocates, alumni and students have anxiously awaited Blake’s final decision in the remedial portion of the trial that ended in June 2017.

“Our Historically Black Campuses continue to be the number one issue for The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland” said Delegate and LBC Chair Cheryl D Glenn (Baltimore-45).  “We plan to make sure that once the Judge hands down the ruling in this case, Attorney General [Brian Frosh] will not move to appeal it.”  Glenn told her General Assembly colleagues and the audience assembled that Governor Larry Hogan said he would not push for an appeal in the HBCU case but made no promises about Frosh.

Delegate Frank S. Turner (Howard County-13) expressed doubt that Maryland’s Higher Education Commission would actually carry out a decision by the court to transfer programs from PWI’s to HBCU’s and create new academic programs at HBCU’s.  “I don’t see the commitment to put new programs at Historically Black Institutions unless the State is forced to do so,” Turner said.

“The Court is going to struggle with the concept of transferring programs,” McConkie said. “But if the Judge is true to her findings of fact and conclusions of law set forth in her liability ruling, she will have to transfer programs.  A comprehensive remedy cannot leave in place the most egregious unconstitutional duplication,” McConkie stated. “If a wound is going to heal, the bandage must be large enough to cover the whole wound.  A comprehensive remedy in this case requires the transfer of certain identified programs.”

“I believe that based on the Judge’s findings of fact and conclusions of law that there will be an influx of new high demand programs at the HBI’s. It was the Court’s idea that there would be academic niches created at each of the four HBI’s. I believe that’s going to happen,” McConkie said.

“I believe that structures will be put in place that will actually force the State to discontinue the practice of unnecessarily duplicating programs,” testified McConkie, concluding that answering “the question of transferring unconstitutionally duplicated programs back to HBIs is also necessary to make the system whole.”

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