Chorus Grows in Support of Settling Maryland HBCU Lawsuit. But Are They Actually Saying Anything?

Seems like the circles of legislative influences in Maryland are starting to widen in support of a swift settlement for the state’s 13-year federal discrimination lawsuit involving its four historically black universities.

Maryland State Senate President Thomas “Mike” Miller Jr. last week joined a list including Governor Larry Hogan, members of the Maryland Black Caucus, and the head of Maryland’s Democratic Party in calling for a resolution to the case. From the Washington Post:

Miller said that “there are no easy answers” but suggested the state make capital improvements at the affected schools as part of an agreement. He suggested building a law school at Bowie State, allowing Morgan State to acquire property in Northeast Baltimore and making enhancements to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

While traditionally white public universities in Maryland have 122 academic programs not duplicated elsewhere within the state system, historically black schools count only 11 such offerings.

It would be easy to take a cynical view of the sudden enlightenment on both sides of the aisle on creating comparability and competitiveness for Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. But even in his remarks on how Maryland can create a great racial compromise for higher education, Miller shows just how easy it is for those who perceive they’ll lose big as a result of black folks gaining equality to fall back into old habits.

Miller references three potential items that should be part of a long list of remedies which reduces the gap of unique programs between Maryland’s PWIs and HBCUs, but doesn’t mention opportunities for Coppin State. He also doesn’t mention how the state will work to reduce the disparity of unique programs which six years ago had white schools outnumbering HBCUs 122-11, and now gives Maryland PWIs more than 170 programs which attract students, state appropriations, grant and research funding, and alumni giving.

Maybe these were omissions to charge to Miller’s head, which for a seasoned politician speaking on a hot button issue would be a stretch to assume. Or his comments could be an intentional telegraph of future plans to improve HBCUs with Coppin outside of the scope of help.

Could it be that the whispers about Coppin consolidating with Baltimore City Community College or the University of Baltimore, both of which have long been a part of the state’s higher ed rumor mill are becoming more of a loud reality inbackchannell political talks?

Either way, this is not good or bad news to hear the most powerful lawmakers in the state on both sides of the political aisle on one accord about supporting their HBCUs, after decades of the state stealing billions in revenue and thousands of students away from them to direct to Maryland’s PWIs.

These comments are garden-variety political fodder. And until everyone starts talking numbers – figures on the dozens of new programs requiring at least $1.5 billion in financial support to make HBCUs even partially competitive with PWIs – then there’s no reason to believe that any politician speaking on the matter is telling the truth.

Cue the Godfather.


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