School That Served Low-Income Residents of Baltimore Sees Its Final Graduation

TRNN Executive Producer Eddie Conway reports on the closing of Sojourner-Douglass College amid allegations of financial mismanagement

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Story Transcript

EDDIE CONWAY, PRODUCER, TRNN: I’m Eddie Conway from the Real News Network in Baltimore.

It would be the last time students at Sojourner-Douglass would gather to say goodbye. A bittersweet moment for the final graduating class from this historic institute that has provided a place for low-income city residents to receive higher education. That’s because amidst allegations of financial mismanagement and the recent loss of its accreditation, Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, a higher education institute founded in 1972, is shutting down.

Former Black Panther and journalist Paul Coates who served as the graduation’s commencement speaker received the institution’s last honorary Ph.D.

SPEAKER: Mr. President, the Board of Directors of Sojourner-Douglass college authorizes you to confer the Doctor of Humane Letters upon Mr. Paul Coates.

CONWAY: Since its founding Sojourner-Douglass was the site of community organizing, community activism, with a curriculum focused around Afrocentric studies.

SPEAKER: We came out of a brave effort of Antioch College to initiate community control of institutions of higher learning across this country. And that desire and a desire of local community activists here in Baltimore came together and gave birth to this school.

CONWAY: Plans to reorganize the college into Stratford University and transfer programs between Sojourner-Douglass and two other institutions, including Morgan State University, fell through. Recently Sojourner-Douglass College filed a lawsuit against the Middle State Commission of Higher Education alleging discrimination from the organization in withdrawing its accreditation. Sojourner is a predominantly black college. Why did the college lose their accreditation in the first place. Persistent financial problems. The school’s finances are somewhat opaque. They don’t cover [supported] finance reports. Last year the IRS filed a more than $5 million tax lien against the institution.

Closing the college is a blow for the predominantly black community it serves, as educational institutions like it continue to close around the country.

For the Real News Network, I’m Eddie Conway.

SPEAKER: Thank you. Gracias. Merci. Shukran.

End

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