Governor Larry Hogan’s recent letter to Legislative Black Caucus Chair, Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45), offering to settle the 12-year long Maryland HBCU Equity lawsuit evoked strong reactions from HBCU advocates and Maryland lawmakers this week.
The language of Hogan’s letter, offering up to $100 million to settle the HBCU lawsuit, is being perceived by some as simultaneously an affront and a back-door peace offering to HBCU advocates who believe Hogan’s initial offer is unrealistically low. “I was very insulted about it,” said State Sen. Joan Carter Conway, (D-43). “Why would anybody in their right mind accept $100 million at 10 million a year for 10 years,” Conway said. The Governor’s offer stipulated the payment would be made in installments to each HBCU over a 10 year period.
Conway is principal author of SB-252, which would implement the Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI (Historically Black Institutions) Comparability Program and has advocated for economic parity between the state’s HBCU’s and TWI’s (Traditionally White Institutions) for more than a decade.
David Burton, lead plaintiff for the Maryland HBCU Coalition said Hogan’s monetary offer was a “slap in the face” and not a sincere gesture.
“$100 million is just the beginning of a long conversation. It’s nowhere near the requisite amount to meet what is needed to restore HBCU’s to a position of parity as required in the judge’s ruling,” Burton said.
Del. Nick Mosby (D-40), author of HB-450, the companion bill to SB-252, told the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee that Hogan’s offer, “equates to $2.5 million per institution over the next 10 years. That’s like throwing peanuts at a very gigantic problem.”
Coalition plaintiff and HBCU Matters Convener Marvin “Doc” Cheatham said that billions, not millions, of dollars will be needed for the state to reverse years of discrimination at Maryland’s HBCU’s.
“It will take at least one to two billion dollars to craft a remedial plan to eliminate vestiges of the prior de jure system in the area of unnecessary program duplication,” Cheatham said.
Robert F. Scholz, Hogan’s chief legal counsel and author of the letter on Hogan’s behalf, laid out the state’s interest in working out an agreeable settlement.
”Ultimately, I am writing to let you know that Governor Hogan wants to bring this litigation to an end in a manner satisfactory to all parties and in the best interest of all Marylanders, especially current and future HBI students,” wrote Scholz.
Hogan’s interest in ending the decades-long HBCU dispute, coupled with the fact that he is running for a second term in a crowded gubernatorial candidate field, gives some HBCU advocates, like Glenn, cause for cautious optimism.
“We are happy that the Governor is in the frame of mind to resolve this lawsuit. This is not a settlement, but the start of a process and of course this is an election year,” said Glenn
Conway said she spoke with Glenn about Hogan’s response. “We were just incensed by the fact that they would make such a ridiculous offer. And they had the audacity to say that the offer did not include the legal fees,” Conway said.
“The legal fees alone would amount to a quarter if not more of the $100 million,” Conway said.
Burton warned that there was no quick fix for the years of discrimination perpetuated by the state toward HBCU’s.
“There should not be any signaling at any level from anyone that the governor’s proposal addresses the long-term remedies that will be necessary to resolve this long-standing issue,” said Burton. “There is no easy way out of this.”