Delegate Julian Ivey is working on legislation to ensure Maryland’s HBCUs retain their independence and keep them from falling under the University System of Maryland (USM). (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer

Prince George’s County Delegate Julian Ivey (D- 47A) wants Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – excluding Morgan State – to retain their independence and plans on introducing legislation to keep them from falling under the state university system.

Morgan is the only HBCU in the state of Maryland that does not fall under the jurisdiction of the University System of Maryland (USM). Morgan State University has its own board of regents headed by Cong. Kweisi Mfume. His contention is that all of Maryland’s HBCUs should enjoy the autonomy that Morgan has from the USM, which previously has not prioritized support for HBCUs or Black students in general. 

“Our HBCUs have been underserved and underfunded for far too long,” Ivey said in an exclusive interview on this reporter’s podcast, The Gray Area.  “We know now that our HBCUs are more than ready to govern themselves and we should be allowing them to do just that.”

As First Vice Chair of the Prince George’s County House Delegation, Ivey plans to introduce a bill titled The Maryland HBCU Independence Act to grant Bowie State, Coppin State, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore autonomy from the University System of Maryland whenever the state legislature reconvenes. He has been pushing for Governor Larry Hogan to call a special session to address a myriad of issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has fallen on deaf ears. 

According to Ivey, the USM has previously acknowledged its own role in perpetuating structural racism. However, the system doesn’t recognize the issues of disparities between Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) and HBCUs. He feels the USM board doesn’t reflect the racial diversity that is necessary to provide adequate oversight and support to Maryland’s three HBCUs who are under that umbrella. 

“Every school is going to have it’s unique set of issues,” Ivey said. “They should be allowed to make decisions on funding of contracts to companies that are servicing them to promote relationships with minority owned businesses as they expand facilities and programs on those campuses.”

 Ivey contends the USM board lacks the racial diversity that is necessary to provide proper oversight and support to the state’s three Black colleges under their authority.  The USM has never had a Black chancellor, and the USM’s 19-member board is represented by four Black people with just two having ties to HBCUs. 

Under Ivey’s bill, each of Maryland’s HBCUs would have its own 15-member Board of Regents composed of leadership who are familiar with how to manage those institutions.  His ideas include having a chair person who attended an HBCU with at least five members who attended as well.  The Ivey plan would also call for three members selected by the alumni association of the respective HBCU and another member selected by the local branch of the NAACP.  He also believes that the majority of each board’s members should be Black featuring two voting student board members.

“Right now we have quite the opposite structure in place and we should be moving in the opposite direction,” Ivey said.  “Individuals from those communities who are familiar with the school whose board they are serving understand the challenges that are facing them.”

Maryland’s HBCUs have been fighting for fairness and won a legal battle with the state where they were awarded $1 billion in what would have been a form of academic reparations in 2016.  Former Senator Joan Conway introduced and helped lead to the passing of a bill to keep the state’s flagship HBCU independent from the USM where she cited the HBCU lawsuit in her testimony.  Conway also noted that she would have supported having all of Maryland’s HBCUs be independent of the USM.

However, after the state assembly reduced the funding to $575 million, it was vetoed by Hogan and the funds have yet to be appropriated.