By Alexis Taylor, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –
Maryland’s four historical black institutions continued to forge ahead Monday with their $2.1 billion case against the state, claiming injustice in the way of funding and segregated practices.
Among the scheduled witnesses for the day was Dr. Sue Blanshan, who currently serves as Director of Planning and Academic Affairs for the Maryland Higher Education Committee (MHEC). Dr. Blanshan spoke about the program approval guidelines and the occurrence of program duplication specifically within the state of Maryland. Though Dr. Blanshan gave extensive testimony on the topic of program duplication, her testimony on the steps taken to minimize the occurrences of program duplication related to instances well after those raised in the lawsuit.
In 2005, Morgan State University (MSU) and Towson University were negotiating a special 3+2 Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) program. With Towson unwilling to allow MSU to be the sole grantor of the degree, a deal was inked with the University of Baltimore (UB) and approved by the MHEC. Towson’s agreement with UB consequently decimated the number of White students in MSU’s MBA program, even though the MSU MBA was the more mature program.
“Program duplication is very detrimental. It provides an opportunity for a student to make a choice based on race as opposed to what program is being offered at one institution or another,” said former president of Morgan State University, Dr. Earl S. Richardson.
Aside from program duplications, enrollment trends at Black and White institutions were also discussed. Dr. Donald Hossler, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University, gave extensive information on how and when students make their decision to attend an institution of higher learning. Author of 24 publications, Dr. Hossler has studied everything from improved admission and marketing tactics to financial aid, retention and much more. Dr. Hossler now serves as executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Dr. Hossler testified to a trend seen in other states where non-Black students seem to attend more at night, on weekends, and at off-site locations rather than during the day in regularly scheduled classes with Black students.
Though his words seemed to help the plaintiff’s case in many regards, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Dr. Hossler said funding into the billions for Black schools would mean that institutions “would be forced to choose between being a traditionally Black institution and a historically Black institution.” Meaning that adequate funding would bring an influx of non-black students, making its HBI status a reference more to its past roots, not necessarily the actual student body.
“Dr.Hossler was intimating that for us to be successful at one level we would have to accept the possibility of HBIs becoming historical only in name and he is entirely off base there,” said David Burton, president of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. “To think that way you lose sight of what we’re trying to do here- and that is to make HBCUs competitive with TWIs. Let’s achieve that first and worry later,” said Burton, who also disagreed with Dr. Hossler’s view that program duplication is inevitable in metropolitan areas. “With the dual mission that HBIs have, we will always have the mission of outreach to Black persons who need assistance, and that’s not something that TWIs are going to do,” said Burton.
“There’s a reason we have historically black colleges and universities and we have to make sure they are adequately funded,” said Sen. Ben Cardin outside of Courtroom 7D, where the heated battle for Maryland’s four historical black institutions continued.
Senatorial ethics strongly discourage members of Congress from actually stepping inside ongoing proceedings, under the premise that it could be “intimidating for a federal judge” and unduly influence the trial’s outcome.
Nevertheless, the Senator joined a couple of his staff members, which included an alumnus of North Carolina’s Bennett College and a current senior at Morgan State University in the Garmatz Federal Courthouse to add his support.
“I want to see education put first,” he said. “It’s clear to me that we have to guarantee that every child has access to quality education.”
Alumni from all four institutions continue to encourage more students to come together at the courthouse. “We must get more attendance from each college,” said Marvin “Doc” Cheatham in a release calling for students from Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore to converge on the courthouse Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“For so long we allowed inequality to persist in the name of progress at the various institutions,” said Luther Perry, an alumnus and former instructor at Morgan State University. We allowed ourselves to be unequal while we were building. We were deluded, and it is kind of like carbon monoxide: you can’t see it, you can’t smell it- but you can die from it,” said Perry, who also served as a counselor at Coppin State University. “Hopefully this case will be like tear gas that causes us to scream when we become aware of these things.”