Federal Judge Sets Deadline for Maryland Response to HBCU ‘Separate But Equal’ Lawsuit

By: Jarrett Carter Sr.  – @jlcarter_sr

Federal Circuit Court Judge Catherine Blake today warned attorneys for the Maryland Higher Education Commission that a response to a proposal calling for the merger of the University of Baltimore into Morgan State University is due no later than Nov. 20, ending months of delays and procedural maneuvering by the state. 

The decision was made following a conference call between legal officials for the State of Maryland and the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, a group of students and alumni from Maryland’s four public historically black institutions, which sued the state in 2006 alleging discrimination in funding and duplication of programs between the state’s historically black and predominantly white colleges. 

Judge Blake ruled in 2013 that the state willfully maintained a ‘separate but equal’ system of higher education for black and white students, and required mediation for the two sides to develop remedies to cure decades of enrollment difficulties, funding disparities and limited growth opportunities at Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. 

“A state’s obligation is to dismantle the ‘sophisticated’ as well as the simple-minded modes of discrimination that are traceable to du jure segregation,” said Blake in her decision. “…substantial additional resources are needed to ensure that the state’s public HBIs are comparable to its TWIs.” 

In May, the Coalition submitted a 180-page proposal asking for the merger of the University of Baltimore into Morgan State, and the conversion of the online University of Maryland – University College as a open source tool for online degree offerings from the HBCUs and other public institutions. 

The plaintiffs also call for more than 80 new, transferred or blended program offerings among the four HBCUs at the baccalaureate, masters’ and doctoral levels. 

According to a letter from Judge Blake filed among court documents, the Nov. 20 deadline is among several conditions placed on the state, which has filed for extensions three times since the Coalition’s official filing. 

“The State’s request for onefinal extension of three weeks (until November 20, 2015) to file its response to the plaintiffs’
remedial proposal is Granted, on the conditions that: 

  1. no further extension will be requested; 
  2. if the State intends to present a remedial proposal (as it has represented in the
    past), that proposal must be presented by November 20, 2015; and
  3. if the State seeks to identify new experts, it must do so by November 20, 2015 by
    separate motion. 


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