Judge Rules in Maryland HBCU equity trial
By USBE Online
Oct 8, 2013, 13:35
Morgan State University President David Wilson said in an email Monday that a
decision has been handed down in the coalition case.
Soon after the long-awaited ruling, David Wilson,
president of Morgan State University, wrote in an e-mail to Career Communications Group CEO and Publisher Tyrone Taborn,
a member of Morgan's Board of Regents, that based on preliminary reading, "it
appears the State of Maryland prevailed in the area of operational funding
to HBCUs as well as in capital funding."
Wilson added that it
appears as well the Coalition prevailed in the area of program duplication; that
the Judge is ordering mediation between the parties on the issue of program
duplication and was asking the state of Maryland "to invest in two to three unique high-demand
programs of excellence on each of the HBCU campuses over the next two to three
years," Wilson wrote.
Writing in The Afro-American earlier this year ("HBCU Community Awaits Equity Suit Ruling") Alexis Taylor said the coalition was a group of Historically Black University and College (HBCU)
students, faculty, staff, and alumni. They filed a lawsuit seeking $2.1 billion from
the state of Maryland, claiming the Maryland Higher Education Commission has
continuously failed to equally fund the state’s four historically Black
colleges—the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State, Bowie State and
Coppin State universities--compared to their White counterparts such as Towson
University, the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of
Maryland, Baltimore County, Taylor explained.
The HBCU equity lawsuit
started with a six-week trial, which began Jan. 3 2012, followed by a
period of five months when both sides of the litigation were allowed to enter
written briefs, projected findings, and conclusions to the judge, said Taylor.
Both the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and the Coalition for
Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education have been waiting for U.S.
District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake’s ruling in the Maryland HBCU equity
“A part of the case deals with the absence of equal education
opportunities for the African Americans attending HBCUs, in terms of the
academic programs, the infrastructure, funding and the HBCUs’ ability to compete
with traditionally White institutions,” Michael D. Jones, lead attorney for the
Coalition, told Taylor in February. The coalition alleged that the MHEC unjustly
approved program duplications by White schools, a policy that undercut specialty
programs at Black schools.
Morgan State's master's in business
administration degree and Bowie State's master's in computer science degree were
cited as examples of popular programs that were undermined by competing programs
at traditionally white institutions, wrote Carrie Wells of The Baltimore
Sun Tuesday ("Maryland universities unnecessarily duplicated the programs of black colleges, court rules").
"In 1975, Morgan had a diverse population of 263 Black and
White students matriculating through its master’s of business administration
(MBA) program, begun in 1969,” Taylor explained earlier this year. “Since that
time, the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland-University College
and the Johns Hopkins University have all added MBA programs. As a result of the
introduction of these MBA programs into the geographic area, by 2004 Morgan’s
MBA program enrollment dwindled to a total of only 28 students—all Black. Thus
the diversity and enrollment that once existed at the Morgan MBA program were
destroyed by the duplications allowed at the other institutions.
"Therefore Morgan along with others objected to MHEC against the introduction
of a joint Towson University- University of Baltimore MBA program in an effort
to protect its substantially diminished program from being further impacted by
another MBA program. MHEC nevertheless approved the duplication in 2005. The
next year, in October, the Coalition filed their suit. For the reasons
dramatized by the Morgan MBA program and other instances, the Coalition asserts
that the state of Maryland through program duplication and other practices is
continuing the segregated policies and practices it has maintained for decades
that perpetuate a segregated system of higher education to the detriment of
Morgan and other HBCU’s in the state," Taylor wrote.
In the ruling, said Wells, “U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake found
state universities have continued to unnecessarily duplicate programs of the
four historically black institutions, violating the constitutional rights of
those students. Plaintiffs had argued that the historically black colleges were
hurt because neighboring institutions offered similar programs, siphoning away
“The court found that a lack of unique academic programs that
are in high demand has hurt recruitment at these historically black colleges and
universities. The black institutions have 11 such programs compared with 122 at
traditionally white institutions,” Wells wrote.
Wells also said that “While Blake did not
offer a specific remedy, she wrote that a likely outcome would be "expansion of
mission and program uniqueness and institutional identity" at historically black
institutions. In addition, she wrote that "the transfer or merger of select high
demand programs" from traditionally white institutions to historically black
ones would likely be needed.”