TRNN Producer David Tigabu examines a landmark case on racial disparities in funding for higher education, and speaks with President of Morgan State University David Wilson about his role in the lawsuit as well as his experience with a similar case at Auburn University.
DAVID TIGABU, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News. A landmark case in Maryland is pushing the state to enhance the quality of education at historically black colleges and universities. The Coalition for Equity and Excellence won a lawsuit against the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The judge’s findings show that traditional white institutions in Maryland duplicated HBCU programs and received more funding to build TWIs’ duplicate programs. DAVID BURTON, PRESIDENT, COALITION OF EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE: Specifically she indicated in her ruling that Maryland continues to operate a dual system of higher education in which unnecessary academic program duplication is widespread. The fact that the HBIs only have eleven unique and high-demand academic programs compared to 122 at traditionally white institutions, otherwise known as TWIs. And three, rather than dismantle the [du jour] error of program duplication that facilitated segregation in the first place, the state of Maryland has maintained policies and practices that has exacerbated the duplication that facilitated segregation in the first place. TIGABU: On November 20, 2015, the state submitted a proposal in response to the judge’s findings. According to the state, the Coalition is making incorrect assumptions regarding program costs. The state argues the Coalition’s proposal favors aggressive expansion and does not distinguish between unnecessary duplication and necessary duplication of programs. Furthermore, the state argues that it has expanded the roles of the historically black institutions since the segregation era, and via funding and mission has placed them on par with traditionally white institutions. BURTON: One of the proposed remedies for the state was for Towson University to give up its Master’s of Business Administration and to have that program go back to the University of Baltimore. Of course, the irony there, that is the very reverse engineering aspect that allowed them to get the masters program in the first place. Because that was the way through which Towson ended up getting the masters program MBA, which certainly duplicated the Morgan State MBA program. So they’d given up certain things like that, and had proposed other anemic solutions. TIGABU: We spoke with Dr. Wilson, president of Morgan State University, about this issue. DAVID WILSON, PRESIDENT, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Judge Catherine Blake ruled in October 2013 that indeed some of those issues that the group called the Coalition for Equity and Excellence and Maryland Higher Education had brought were meritorious, and therefore the state should move forward and engage the institutions in a process of mediation to see if there could be a remedy. And so I got involved early on in that process, testified in court as to what I saw as I assumed the presidency here at Morgan, in terms of what was here and what was not here, and what the institution needed in order to reach a level of competitiveness and comparability with the other traditionally white institutions in the state. And then participated in the mediation process as well, as we were trying to reach resolution as to what a remedy would be. As the vice president at Auburn, I was indeed the first black person to ever assume a senior position at a predominantly white institution in the state of Alabama. And when I arrived there in 1995, the Knight v. Alabama case was making its way through the federal courts. And Auburn was getting I think about $28 million or so from the state every year to support its mission. And Alabama A&M was getting $500,000, and Tuskegee was getting nothing. And so the case, then, was about the inequity within the land grant funding piece, and how that needed to be addressed. Then the other aspect of the Knight case that was different from the Coalition case is that they looked across those predominantly white institutions in the state and said, you know, you have very, very few black faculty. And you have very, very few black students. And so you really need to diversify your faculties and you need to diversify your students. And so how do you create opportunities to do that? TIGABU: This is David Tigabu, reporting from Baltimore.
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