Cumberland Times-News

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October 31, 2013

Md. agrees to mediation in black colleges suit

ANNAPOLIS — The state of Maryland and attorneys representing historically black colleges have agreed to attempt to mediate a resolution to create high-demand academic programs at the schools, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley confirmed Thursday.

The announcement comes after U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake issued a 60-page ruling in October after years of debate in Maryland, where all four of the state’s historically black colleges are a short distance away from at least one traditionally white college. While Blake did not find fault with two other policies examined in the case, she found the state is violating desegregation law by perpetuating the duplication of programs at predominantly white colleges.

“The parties have agreed to attempt to mediate the remaining issue in the case, and U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm will serve as the mediator,” Dori Henry, an O’Malley spokeswoman, said.

In her ruling, Blake noted that during the 1960s and 1970s, Maryland’s historically black colleges began offering unique, high-demand programs and attracted significant numbers of white students.

“Rather than building on that progress, however, Maryland made very large investments in (traditionally white institutions), particularly newly created Towson and (University of Maryland Baltimore County), that undermined preliminary gains in desegregation,” Blake wrote. “These investments included further duplication of programs at already existing” traditionally white institutions “and creating new public institutions in geographic proximity” to existing historically black institutions.

Blake specifically cited the joint University of Baltimore and Towson University MBA program, which was developed in 2005 over Morgan State University’s objections, as an example of the state failing to address the duplication problem. Morgan State is a historically black university.

The judge did not find fault with two other policies that were under review after a coalition of plaintiffs sued in 2006. For example, the ruling found that the state has worked to expand the roles of historically black colleges to mitigate the effects of past discrimination during the era of segregation. Blake also found that the state’s traditionally black colleges are not underfunded by the state for operational expenses.

In her ruling, the judge cited a study that found Maryland’s historically black institutions have only 11 unique high-demand programs, while the traditionally white institutions have 122.

 The judge also noted that between 2001 and 2009, 18 new programs at traditionally white institutions unnecessarily duplicated programs at historically black institutions, 13 of which were high-demand. As a result, the judge wrote, the state never dismantled duplicated programs that facilitated segregation — and has even maintained policies and practices that have made the problem worse.

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