HBCU Advocates Take to Annapolis to Plead for Equality

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HBCU students, alumni and advocates across the state packed the Senate Office Building in Annapolis this week to testify on behalf of SB-712, a bill to guarantee supplemental funding to the state’s four public HBCUs.

“I’ve been fighting this battle a long time,” Senator Joan Carter Conway said to members of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee. Conway is the primary sponsor of SB-712, The Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI Comparability Program.

State Senator Joan Carter Conway is the primary sponsor of bill that equitably distribute funds to Maryland HBCUs. (Courtesy photo)

Carter summarized the state’s history of discriminatory actions negatively impacting Maryland’s HBCUs and the legislation she has sponsored through the years to seek parity in funding between the state’s HBCUs and TWI’s (traditionally White institutions).

Conway testified that the state’s HBCUs continue to experience limitations due to inequitable funding on a material level resulting in campuses that are under-resourced in comparison with the state’s TWIs.

“It takes an HBCU project 7 to 10 years longer to get their capital projects built,” Conway offered as a tangible example of the continuing inequity between the state’s HBCUs and other state universities.

Morgan State University President David Wilson, the only HBCU president present to testify on behalf of SB 712, echoed Conway’s analysis of the disparity between HBCUs in Maryland and better funded and resourced, state institutions.

“Much more is needed for Morgan to reach a level of parity,” Wilson said.

“We have the highest percentage of contract faculty of any institution in the state.  We have a $375 to $400 million-dollar capital backlog,” Wilson said.

Contract faculty are not considered permanent employees of the university and are employed subject to funds available. A capital backlog occurs when projects have been approved for funding but money has not been allocated to implement the project.

Students and alumni from Morgan and Bowie State University described the impact of the state’s lack of equitable funding for their colleges.

“It really hurts me to know that we are here fighting just to get equal funding. Our HBCUs are very special,” said Ron Washington, Bowie State University Student Government Vice President.

Ricardo Mitchell, National Director of Bowie State University’s Alumni association ended his testimony with a question for members of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

“If we fail to act as a state and continue on the path of not properly funding these institutions, where will we be?”

Supplemental funding bills for Maryland’s HBCUs sponsored in prior legislative sessions have failed to clear both the State Senate and House of Delegates. The current legislation would require the Governor to provide funding for the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) for distribution to the HBCUs. Currently, MHEC funding allocations to public four-year higher education institutions is discretionary.

HBCU advocates will have another opportunity to support the Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI Comparability Program at HBCU Night in Annapolis, on March 21st.