Ending Segregation Through Duplication

Nov 10th, 2017 | By | Category: Diversity, Education, News & Features

A federal judge will appoint a third party to address segregation imposed upon Maryland’s public historically black universities, issuing a middle-of-the-road decision that does not completely fulfill the requests of either side in a bitter and long-running court case.

Judge Catherine C. Blake on Wednesday ordered the appointment of a “special master” who will create a remedial plan and monitor its implementation under court supervision. The plan is to create a new set of unique or high-demand programs that build on the strength of Maryland’s four public historically black colleges. It will also include a yet-to-be-determined amount of funding for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid and other initiatives over the next decade.

But the plan will not be allowed to include a proposal that had proven highly controversial among Maryland’s public higher education institutions — transferring programs from some traditionally white state institutions to its historically black universities.

The judge’s ruling could prove to be the culmination of a lawsuit stretching back to 2006, when a group of historically black college and university supporters called the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education sued the state for violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Constitution’s equal protection clause. At the heart of the suit was whether the state had effectively caused segregation at its historically black universities by allowing traditionally white universities to duplicate historically black institutions’ programs — preventing the historically black universities from drawing a diverse set of students with successful programs.

In 2013, the court ruled unnecessary program duplication in the state’s higher education system has effects of segregation that the state could not justify. The parties subsequently went through mediation but could not agree on a path forward, and they submitted competing proposals to remedy the situation in 2015.

The case continued in court until Blake’s ruling Wednesday. She wrote that none of the proposed remedies were proper.

“The court finds that neither party’s remedy, as currently proposed, is practicable, educationally sound and sufficient to address the segregative harms of program duplication at HBIs,” the judge wrote. “At least in part, this results from parties’ failure or inability to consult with the other side in crafting their proposals.”

Nonetheless, advocates of the state’s historically black universities supported the judge’s decision. They welcomed the judge’s plan as one that should end harmful program duplication, provide historically black institutions with more resources and help those institutions stand out by creating in-demand clusters of programs.

“She’s putting an end to program duplication going forward, and so that’s a win,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, a public historically black institution in Baltimore. “I think it’s a win for the state, I think it’s a win for Morgan and it’s a win for taxpayers, because you don’t necessarily have to now pay two or three times over for programs that were being offered at Morgan.”

The court’s order requires Maryland to end the segregation-era policy, said the lawyer leading the case against the state, Michael D. Jones, in a statement.

“The most important area of inferiority was to deny the black schools exclusive, unique, well-funded programs,” said Jones, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “With this order, Judge Blake brings that era to a close.”

Read more @ Inside Higher Ed

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