Judge Calls for Mediation in Maryland Legal Case - Higher Education
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Judge Calls for Mediation in Maryland Legal Case

by Walter Hudson

A federal judge has appointed a “special master” to help craft a plan to resolve a longstanding battle over whether historically Black colleges and universities in Maryland were denied the chance to attract students of other races because academic programs at HBCUs were duplicated by traditionally White institutions.

Judge Catherine Blake

Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled that Maryland must address “unnecessary program duplication in the public higher education system” but stopped short of requiring the state to invest money into the state’s four HBCUs—Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore—to remedy years of funding disparities, as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit had hope.

Instead, she ordered that the state establish new programs at each Black institution.

“This case has been in the courts for decades in the state of Maryland, a state with great diversity and a significant African American population,” said Dr. Marybeth Gasman, the Judy & Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education and director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania. “The state should want what is best for all of its Black citizens and that means supporting HBCUs at the highest level and allowing them to have the strongest programs.”

Gasman said that for too long, the state has withheld “much needed resources and failed to hold itself accountable for providing equity in higher education across its various institutions of higher education.”

It was unclear if the Maryland Higher Education Commission would fight the ruling. In 2005, the Commission approved a joint MBA program between the University of Baltimore and Towson University. Although the joint degree program was not finalized, the announced partnership between the two institutions sparked widespread criticism from HBCU alumni who said that the duplication of another MBA program in the state would severely decrease the number of Whites who would enroll in the MBA program at Morgan.

“African American students and others deserve well-funded, high-quality, and rich programming across institutions and the state has an obligation to ensure that HBCUs have access to funding to make this possible,” Gasman added.

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