“They Think They’ve Won”

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TRNN Executive Producer Eddie Conway speaks with Earl Richardson, Former President of Morgan State University and Kenneth Morgan, Assistant Professor at Coppin State University about the ongoing struggle to achieve equity for HBCUs.

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EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore, and I have with me today in my office two professors, one from Morgan State college, Dr. Earl Richardson, and one from Coppin State University, Dr. Ken Morgan. And today we’re going to discuss the status of the historically black college and university lawsuit in the state of Maryland, and how that’s impacting other states, and black higher institutions of education in general.

TITLE CARD: 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 are duplicating HBCUs’ programs and receiving more funding.

The Case is currently in mediation phase until November 20, 2015.

DR. EARL RICHARDSON: This is not just the self-interest of black people. This is the interest of a nation.

DR. KEN MORGAN: It’s not a black issue. It’s an issue of equality, it’s an issue of civil rights, it’s an issue of civil rights.

CONWAY: Black universities and colleges, the entity itself as institutions, and traditional white inst–is that segregation in and of itself? Or is there a problem maintaining that? Or why is it necessary that you have black institutions and universities? What purpose do they serve?

RICHARDSON: I’ll just put the time limit of back to Brown. I won’t even go any farther than that. Back to Brown. Had our state invested in that institution it would have become the engine of change. The economic engine that would have changed the landscape in West Baltimore.

MORGAN: In Maryland we’re talking about a higher education system that has ignored, that has been desensitized to the needs and struggles of the entire population of Maryland. So–and Dr. Richardson probably has not said that much–it takes a whole lot, for example, for a person of an HBCU to say listen, you know, to speak out. And this is, this is what has not happened, in my opinion, in Maryland.

TITLE CARD: The Real News reached out to Chancellor Robert L. Caret at the University System of Maryland.

Caret declined to comment on the lawsuit but gave us a statement, which said Chancellor Caret has made it a “top priority to increase affordable access to quality higher education for students of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

The Real News contacted Salisbury University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

None of the presidents have provided any comments regarding the lawsuit.

RICHARDSON: And when we create institutions that are attractive to students regardless of race, we come together and we learn that we’re no different. That we all are the same. And that we’re in this together. And if we understand that we’re more alike than we are different, then there’s more of a great affinity for being together and talking together and working together and being one. That’s the, again, the benefit that, the value, the magic, of developing all of these institutions so that America does have this diverse system of higher education that addresses the needs of all of our young people.

CONWAY: Do you want to add something, Dr. Morgan?

MORGAN: To be frank about the matter, the state is acting like it has won the case. And it has lost the case. I know at Coppin State University there’s been severe cutbacks, et cetera, that have adversely impacted the academics there on the campus. And as Dr. Richardson had talked about, you know, we’re talking about six blocks away from Freddie Gray incident, murder. We’re talking about being maybe eight blocks away from North and Pennsylvania. Most of Coppin’s students come from Baltimore.

RICHARDSON: Ken, when he says they’re acting as if they, the state is acting as if it won the case, I think that was the public message they wanted to convey. But they know full well they have lost this case. And the judge has ruled that you are in violation of the constitution. They have so much at stake here, however, because people have made reputations on maintaining the separate but equal system. Our states, particularly our southern states, and Maryland is deeply a southern state in attitude and behavior, with all the rhetoric–.

CONWAY: And geography.

RICHARDSON: That’s right. That’s right. They will resist, just like they resisted getting rid of slavery. They said if slavery is eliminated, the economy of the South will fall. Well, you have some of the same kind of rhetoric now bubbling up. If you transfer our programs the whole higher education system will disintegrate. Nonsense. Do the right thing. Do the right thing, and you would be surprised the difference that it makes in our society.

CONWAY: Okay, that’s the final word there. I want to thank you, Dr. Richardson, Dr. Morgan, for joining me and shedding light on this. We’re going to revisit this again sometime after the 20th, and maybe have additional discussion about it. And thank you for joining the Real News.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.