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Maryland HBCU Desegregation Trial Nearing an End

Columnist | , George Curry | 2/8/2012, 12:11 p.m.

After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the state ended de jure segregation, opening the doors for African-Americans to attend all-White public universities.

"In 1965, however, rather than encourage integration at Morgan State, Maryland established University of Maryland Baltimore County ("UMBC"). UMBC was a complete duplication of Morgan State's entire institution, not just its programs," the lawsuit stated.

In 1969, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights notified the state of Maryland that it was one of 10 states operating a racially segregated system of higher education in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Two decades later, the only two states in the group still in noncompliance were Maryland and Mississippi.

Facing the possibility of losing all federal education funds, Maryland reached agreements with the U.S. Department of Education in 1982 and again in 1985. The later called for "the enhancement of HBCUs to ensure that they are comparable and competitive with TWIs [traditionally White institutions] with respect to capital facilities, operating budgets and new academic programs."

A major component of the plan to strengthen HBCs and encourage more Whites to attend them called for the avoiding program duplication at nearby White universities.

However, Maryland allowed the creation of an engineering program at UMBC that duplicated an offering by Morgan State. Salisbury University was permitted to offer a computer science degree that was already being offered by University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. Especially controversial was the decision made by the state in 2005 to allow Towson University and the University of Baltimore to operate a joint Masters in Business Administration program, which had been offered by Morgan State since 1964. Overall, more than a half dozen programs at TWIs duplicated programs already in existence at Maryland's HBCUs.

Testifying as an expert witness, University of Wisconsin Education Professor Clifton F. Conrad said that the state of Maryland still operates a segregated higher education system.

"The dual education systems remain," he testified. "There continues to be substantial differences - severe differences - in terms of the number of programs and the quality of programs. Those students who enter Maryland's historically Black institutions - whether Black, White, or other races - do not have an equal educational opportunity as those students who attend the state's traditionally White institutions."

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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