Court-Ordered Mediation In Maryland HBCU Case Ends without Agreement


Court-ordered mediation of a 13-year old case brought by a coalition of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has ended without a resolution.

The passing of the deadline without a deal has further frustrated efforts for fair funding that the coalition is seeking to help level the playing field with non-black institutions in Maryland.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had imposed a July 31 deadline for the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education to settle the case with the state.

“There was no resolution,” said Jon Greenbaum, the chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which represents the coalition of HBCUs, which includes the universities of Coppin State, Morgan State, Bowie State, and Maryland Eastern Shore.

The case was initially filed in 2006 when the coalition alleged the state practiced discrimination against its HBCUs by deliberately underfunding the universities and by allowing traditional state schools to continue to create new degree programs that were duplicative of those at the historically black institutions.

The coalition also argue that the state’s actions have placed pressure on enrollment at HBCUs.

They have demanded increased funding and, to achieve parity, they’ve asked the state to merge the University of Baltimore with Morgan State, which is Maryland’s largest public historically black university.

In 2013, Judge Catherine Blake of the U.S. District Court of Maryland, found the state in violation of the 14th Amendment rights of its HBCU students and alumni.

Her ruling said Maryland continues to “operate vestiges of a de jure system of segregation,” specifically by continuing a longstanding practice of duplicating academic programs offered at HBCU’s, rather than investing in making the HBCU programs attractive to a diverse range of students.

In 2017, after initial failed mediation between HBCU advocates and the state of Maryland, Blake ordered parties back into court.

Blake then ordered the state to remedy the lack of investment in Maryland’s HBCUs, and mandated that Maryland officials establish a set of new, unique and high-demand programs at each HBCU.

“The Plan should propose a set of new unique and/or high demand programs at each HBI, taking into account each HBI’s areas of strength, physical building capacity and the programmatic niches suggested by the plaintiff’s experts,” Blake wrote in a November 2017 ruling.

In January 2019, the court again ordered mediation between the parties and set the July 31 deadline for the parties to resolve the dispute.

“The HBCU coalition leading the lawsuit on behalf our HBCUs is doing a great service for our institutions,” Deborah Powell-Hayman, the president of the UMES National Alumni, said in an earlier interview with NNPA Newswire.

“This case holds more promise than anything I know, for getting the number and mix of academic programs, facilities and funding to make our alma mater as competitive as traditionally white institutions in attracting quality students, faculty and staff and federal grants and contracts,” she said.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has declined to comment.

“What we’re hoping for is that this case can get resolved not too long from now and that the HBCUs will be in a more competitive place,” Greenbaum told Maryland Matters, a website that focuses on Maryland government.