Dr. Ken Morgan
Welcome to Coppin State University and Baltimore Dr. Thompson. The community is so proud that the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents (BOR) chose to select you to be the first woman, and the first woman of color to serve as Coppin’s president. Fanny Jackson Coppin is smiling from above I assure you. I can hear her say, “The appointment of a woman is way over due.”
Over the last ten years Coppin has had three permanent presidents, and two interim presidents that Chancellor Kirwan and the USM BOR selected.
Dr. Maria Thompson, president of Coppin State University. (Photo Courtesy of Coppin State University)
One of Chancellor Kirwan’s jobs is to oversee and evaluate Coppin’s presidents. He assembled a special committee after the resignation of President Avery to find out reasons for low enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. The special committee found mostly the same issues that previous faculty and staff committees and groups had reported as problems. Ignored in the past, president Neufville now acted upon them. His other task was to help the USM to drag its feet to comply with Judge Catherine Blake’s findings and remedies. To date, he has still not even verbally acknowledged Coppin’s underfunding and support of Blake’s decision. The conjecture is that Kirwan and the BOR were trying to sway the pending Maryland HBCU lawsuit outcome still to be decided upon at that time.
Judge Catherine Blake ruled that the Maryland violated the constitutional rights of students at Maryland’s four HBCUs. This was done through unnecessarily duplicating programs at nearby public traditionally white institutions. She found that the lack of unique high demand programs facilitated a segragative effect at HBCUs. It prevented HBCUs from attracting students of all races. The state of Maryland chose to create programs at nearby public TWIs rather than to build unique, high demand programs at Maryland HBCUs. These occurrences caused HBCU program enrollments to plunge. This practice started well before the historic Brown decision.
Blake ordered the parties (lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants) to mediate to create a suitable remedial plan. This plan had to include creating unique, high-demand programs at the HBCUs; transferring programs from TWIs to HBCUs. These steps needed to include the “wide use of resources to enhance the quality of current and newly developed programs” at the HBCUs. A collaborative remedial plan still has not been reached.
No one wants you to be a receivership president or to reside over Coppin’s dismemberment. Your background and talents do not suggest that you desire or will tolerate these things happening. This means that you will have to insist on adequate faculty input to formulate programs cited in Judge Blake’s rulings, findings, and remedies. It means encouraging, bucking or prodding the very persons to whom you report to do the right thing by Coppin State University.
Coppin, located in the inner city mirrors the historical neglect underlying the recent, well-publicized Baltimore unrest. Many of our students reside in these communities.
Your words and history indicate that you are ready to overcome challenges and obstacles to lead us forward. We eagerly await your start date, July 1.
Dr. Ken Morgan is Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Coppin State University.