NAFEO Letter to the Editor: Resolve HBCU Case Before Election 2018

In an August 4, 2018 article, What Baltimorians Should Ask Gubernatorial Candidates, Open Society Institute presents some important questions for both candidates for Governor of the State of Maryland to answer. Members of the HBCU Community and allies who believe in the value of the diverse higher education system in America and in the State, including HBCUs, are eagerly awaiting word from both candidates about when and how they propose to settle the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc., et al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al., lawsuit. This case between the State and alumni/friends of Maryland’s public HBCUs, challenges the failure of the State to invest in HBCUs such that they are “comparable to and competitive with” the public historically white colleges and universities (HWCUs) in the State, as required by law.

Continue reading below, or download a Word document version of these comments.

Five years after District Court Judge Blake held the State of Maryland liable for perpetuating a separate and unequal system of higher education, segregated by race, in violation of the law, and mandated remedial actions, the case has not been settled. The policies and practices traceable to the vestiges of de jure segregation by the State of Maryland persist.

The electorate deserves to know when and how the Democratic candidate for governor and the incumbent Republican Governor will close the book on this dark history and present blight on the “the Free State.”

Data abound about the impact of Bowie State University, Coppin State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Morgan State University on the State. For example, Morgan State documents its annual statewide economic impact of nearly $1B. It creates 6,500 jobs and provides $47M in State tax revenue. Bowie, Coppin, and UMES likewise document disproportionate progress in moving the State toward closing its education, economic, wealth and employment gaps.

We are optimistic that the State wants to and will move to finding a fair, equitable, and efficient way to removing the vestiges of the discrimination in Maryland higher education and to closing the chapter on the ignominious dual and unequal higher education system in the State. Now is the time to do so, when the electorate can consider whether, when and how both candidates will resolve this 35-year old blight on the education and economic progress of the State.

Before 2019 when Maryland will mark the 400th year of Africans in America looking back at the 20 Africans who arrived in Port Comfort in 1619, and the tremendous progress people of African descent have made in Maryland since then, we want to celebrate “the Free State” as being first state to eliminate the scourge of its dual and unequal higher education system, and the state to define “comparability and competitiveness” for all other Adams states.

Lezli Baskerville, Esquire
President & CEO
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)