During the 2015 Annual Legislative Weekend (Nov. 5-7) for the Maryland Black Caucus Foundation residents, government workers, business, school leaders and students of Maryland HBCUs gathered at a workshop to discuss ways in which the education institutions could successfully move into the future.

The “Plight of HBCU’s: Where Are We and Where Need to Be” workshop on Nov. 6 included panelists from the areas HBCUs who spoke about current challenges the schools are facing. At the top of the list is the prolonged legal battle between Maryland HBCUs and the state on fair and equal practices.

“The state of Maryland has failed to eliminate vestiges of the form of segregation system of higher education and it continues to exasperate the system through its policies, practices, related to the unnecessary duplication of programs, assignment of missions and funding that primarily is the basis of the lawsuit,” said David Burton, president, Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education during the discussion. The coalition is an organization of prospective, current and former students of Maryland historically black institutions of higher education.

Along with Burton, panelists included Earl S. Richardson, the former president of Morgan State University; Phylicia Henry, executive vice president of the Prince George’s County Young Democrats; Juliette Bell, president, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Mickey Burnim, president, Bowie State University and David Wilson, president, Morgan State University.

According to Burton, the coalition and the state have been in this same legal battle since a lawsuit was filed in 2006. Federal Judge Catherine Blake stated, in a formal opinion in 2013, that there were implicit 14th Amendment violations with the state in accordance to providing Maryland HBCUs with the necessary resources needed to compete with their White counterparts in attracting high quality students. The judge noted that HBCUs in Maryland only offered about 11 high demand programs compared to the 122 offered by majority institutions. She then required both the state and the coalition to present remedial briefs to address the problem.

Burton said the coalition submitted their proposal, but the state has continued the process by requesting a series of extensions. As of October, Blake allowed the state its final extension, requiring them to submit a proposal along with any notification of change of counsel by Nov. 20.

During the discussion panelists also spoke about other ways the institutions could expand their resources and competitiveness, including partnerships with foreign countries to provide students with more variety and resources in their learning. Wilson spoke of the scholarships his school was able to obtain from the Chinese government for students.

“I believe that if our institutions had the broad range of programs, had the support of those programs, facilities, if they made our campuses as beautiful as other campuses we will compete,” said Richardson.