Lawyers for the Coalition for Excellence and Equity in Higher Education, which represent Morgan State University, Coppin State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University have been engaged in a legal battle alleging unlawful duplication of their programs by traditionally White Institutions since October 2006.
The legal wrangling has reached the mediation phase between the two sides, and still very little is known by the general public in reference to what’s really at stake for the state’s historically Black colleges and universities.
A town hall style meeting on the plight of the state’s HBCU is planned for 6 to 8:30 p.m., May 13 on the campus of Coppin State University. Veteran award-winning journalist George Curry is set to moderate the discussion at the school’s James Weldon Johnson Auditorium to shed light on the historic lawsuit.
“I think the goal is to educate the public, the broader community as to what this case is all about and what its implications are for the future of historically Black colleges and more generally of Maryland higher education,” said Dr. Earl Richardson, former president of Morgan State University, one of the participants in Coppin’s town hall event. Richardson was president of Morgan when the Coalition lawsuit was filed against MHEC in 2006. He says the Black community needs to be stirred to action over the plight of HBCU during this primary election year.
“Now is the time to force the hand of the candidates force the hand of the elected officials,” Richardson said. “It’s within your (politicians) power to resolve this issue now. It’s been in the courtroom simply because of your refusal to address what is obviously a major example of discrimination and segregation,” he added.
Veteran defense attorney A. Dwight Petit, a former member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents will also participate in the town hall meeting.
“We need to continue to put pressure on the state,” Petit said. “The governor’s office has called the shots the attorney general’s office is carrying out those shots and the Board of Regents as well as the Secretary of Higher Education…(We need) to bring this matter to a complete and just result without it having being returned back to the federal courts,” Petit added.
State Senator Joan Carter Conway – a vocal advocate for HBCU – who has attempted to pass anti-duplication laws through the legislature for nearly a decade will also participate in the meeting at Coppin.
Michael Jones, from Kirkland and Ellis, one of the law firms representing the Coalition is also scheduled to attend the town hall meeting.
Prince George’s County Delegate Aisha Braveboy, chair of the state’s legislative Black Caucus and a candidate for Maryland Attorney General has also been invited to participate in the event at Coppin.
But, perhaps the invitee with the highest profile is former Maryland Lt. Governor and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele.
Steele, who has been a staunch supporter of HBCU wrote in a commentary on The Grio website last October: “With so many of the civil rights battles behind us, and the satisfaction that comes from the success of African-Americans in business, politics, sports and entertainment, it is no surprise that the assault upon the integrity and historic purpose of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) has been little noticed by mainstream media and, more sadly, the black community itself.”