Alumni and friends of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore recently gathered on the Princess Anne campus for the annual homecoming festivities. During the week, many of us commuted from our hotels in Salisbury, passing by Salisbury University as many as several times a day. We could not help but notice the tremendous contrast between the level of investment the state has made in that campus compared to the meager resources invested in our alma mater. It leaves no question why a Federal judge recently ruled that Maryland continues to operate a segregated system of higher education in violation of the U.S. constitution.
Properties which once housed private residences, a medical center, a corporate plant and apple and peach orchards, are now the sites of Salisbury University’s beautiful classroom buildings, administrative office buildings, a university sponsored retail center, an athletic complex and a sprawling complex of student housing. It is at an illustration of how well Maryland has supported the Salisbury campus and how poorly the state has supported UMES. We were stunned to hear that, for the period of 2005 to 2010 alone, the state invested $113 million in facilities at Salisbury while appropriating only $3 million at UMES. However, actually seeing the disparities created by the vast difference in funding between the two campuses was like pouring salt into an open wound.
But the injury gets worse. All of the growth and development at Salisbury is built around programs once unique to UMES which were duplicated at the Salisbury campus during the late 1970s. Programs in business and computer and information sciences which historically accounted for a large percentage of enrollment at the Princess Anne campus now represent the largest enrollment at Salisbury.
Those facts are a grim reminder of how Maryland State College President John Taylor Williams once pleaded with the governor and legislators to provide more operating funds, student financial aid and acceptable classroom space; how President William P. Hytche argued against Salisbury State College’s duplication of UMES business and computer science programs; how Presidents Delores Spikes and Thelma Thompson struggled with the state for programs in pharmacy and engineering, an appropriate match for federal funding for agriculture and cooperative extension, and sorely needed classroom and research facilities.
Our current, President Juliette Bell, will undoubtedly make similar attempts to develop the campus. Unfortunately, she too is doomed to fail in her attempt to bridge the disparities in resources. Neither her commitment nor competence will matter unless alumni of UMES and the other Historically Black Institutions insist on the remedies outlined in the Oct. 7 federal court ruling for addressing disparities in academic programs and related funding and facilities. That is the only way UMES can become what a previous president referred to as “a multidisciplinary, multiracial, multicultural and multinational university”.
Dianna Rodgers-Ford is a member of the Class of 1969 (then Maryland State College now University of Maryland Eastern) and past president of the UMES National Alumni Association