Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Maryland's Remedy for Segregation in Higher Education Is "Woefully Inadequate," Says Legislative Black Caucus
A decade and a half into the litigation over Maryland's failure to integrate and treat its Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) fairly, plaintiffs have a new offer on the table. The state is offering $100 million over the next ten years in increased resources for its HBCUs, which is twice as much as it previously offered. For those new to the case, the Supreme Court in US v. Fordice considered segregation in the context of higher education and established standards for remedying the problem. Of course, the fact that enrollment in higher education is voluntary makes the desegregation of higher education different than k-12. But the simplest way to further integration in higher education is to avoid "program duplication." Rather than offer programs in agricultural science and hotel management at both an HBCU and a traditionally white institution (TWI), the state could offer agricultural science at the HBCU and hotel management at the TWI. It can also fund both schools fairly. If it does so, the thinking is that students will voluntary integrate schools over time.
In a nutshell, the trial court found that Maryland has done the opposite over the past couple of decades. It has opened new campuses and expanded others when it could have been expanding the HBCUs. To make matters worse, it offered new programs at other schools that duplicated the programs already being offered at HBCUs. It goes without saying that the politics of university funding run high. Add race and legacies to it and it only gets worse. It is not clear that the state has made any good faith effort to fix the problem, even after having it brought to the state's attention.
From afar and given the findings by the trial court, $100 million looks like a relatively small offer. The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus calls it "woefully inadequate." The Caucaus released this letter:
I write in response to your chief legal counsel’s Feb. 7, 2018, letter of information regarding the status of the case — Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education Inc. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission et al — and your administration’s goals.
The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus appreciates that correspondence and your desire to end litigation in a manner satisfactory to all parties and to all Marylanders. We share your desire and believe that justice in this matter is long overdue.
Respectfully, your “comprehensive settlement” offer of up to $100 million over ten years is woefully inadequate given the district court’s finding that, in the decades since Brown v. Board of Education, the state has violated the constitutional rights of students at Maryland’s Historically Black Institutions. We note that similar lawsuits in other states such as Mississippi and Alabama have been settled for over $500 million and still have proven inadequate to alleviate longstanding educational discrimination in those states. While supplemental appropriations are necessary and appropriate, any proposed settlement should include the establishment of programmatic niches, academic enhancements, and a reformed process for approving new academic programs, at each HBI. We believe the court’s remedial framework, which would be overseen by a special master, goes a long way towards a truly comprehensive solution.
In sum, the single greatest state-sponsored educational deprivation in Maryland’s history deserves more. Given the proven, multi-generational discrimination against Maryland HBIs and the enormous importance of these institutions to our state, we believe an Amazon HQ2-like commitment is warranted from your administration.
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn
Chair, Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland