Talking Points for Comments on Status of HBI Coalition Case

The July 30 deadline for a court-directed mediation of the lawsuit brought by a coalition of students, faculty, alumni and other supporters of Maryland’s four historically Black universities has expired without an agreement and the case has returned to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for a ruling. During a hearing in December 2017, the appellate court had said that the case could, and should have been resolved earlier and if the two parties were unable to resolve their differences neither side may be happy with a decision from the court.

A lower court ruled in October 2013 that Maryland was operating a dual and segregated system of higher education in violation of the U.S. Constitution and in November 2016  that court ordered the State to address the violation by establishing at each HBI a set of unique and high demand programs  with additional funding for scholarships, recruitment and marketing. The Coalition is simply asking that the state of Maryland abide by the remedy ordered by the court inclusive of the prohibition against unnecessary program duplication in the future.

Academic programs are the heart and soul of a college or university and the court found that Maryland’s Traditionally White Universities have more than a 10 to 1 advantage over the Historically Black Institutions in unique and high demand programs. The severity of the program disparity, coupled with the lack of student financial aid and support for recruitment and marketing, negatively affects the ability of HBIs to recruit a critical mass of faculty, secure appropriate facilities, increase and diversify student enrollment, retain and graduate students, secure government and corporate funding and maintain creditable standing within the academic community.

Contrary to a recent proposal providing for the combining of Coppin University and Baltimore Community College with the University of Baltimore under a new governing board, the issues facing the HBIs are unrelated to structure. Otherwise, those issues would have been addressed in the mid-sixties when HBIs were made part of the Board of Trustees for State Colleges, or in the late eighties when HBIs were incorporated into the University System of Maryland.  Moreover, the Court reasoned that such mergers were not educationally sound.

The problem continues to be Maryland’s policies, practices and politics for the approval and distribution of programs and related resources among its Traditionally White and Historical Black institutions which has given rise to the segregated system of higher education in Maryland. The court has ordered a remedy for addressing the continuing harm done to HBIs under the dual system of higher education and the State appears determined to preserve the status quo.  

Absent the court’s remedy, the injury to Maryland’s HBIs and their students will persist, and their future will continue to be uncertain.  The HBI Coalition refuses to concede such a dismal future for the HBIs and wait anxiously for a ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Meanwhile HBI students, alumni, faculty, staff and other supporters must continue pressuring Governor Larry Hogan and other lawmakers to spare us the rhetoric and settle the case. It is not enough for our governor to defend the City of Baltimore and our state against the viral attacks of the President of the United States; he must instead transform our HBIs into engines of community change and stability comparable to TWIs in other communities.