Ken Morgan

The Maryland higher education system (MHES) views and treats Coppin State University (CSU) as a ghetto school in the “hood” on North Avenue. Their view is rife with many of the stereotypes law enforcement agencies attributed to Michael Brown and Eric Garner in justifying their murders. The System is trying to shoot and choke Maryland HBCUs to death.

The Maryland Reporter and that other newspaper represent unofficial mouthpieces for the MHES. They allow their reporters to write half-baked stories passed off as objective news and write biased editorials on issues affecting HBCUs. Barry Rascovar is an example, writing for the Reporter recently.

In a story covering the selection of Robert Caret as the new chancellor, he goes out of his way to throw Coppin and University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), two HBCUs, and Coppin professor Virletta Bryant “under the bus.” His context for his diatribe is similar to an old racist Tarzan, Jane and the natives movie that save the natives from themselves. Roscovar paints the good White man, Caret coming in to save the USM’s thriving White schools through “improving the performance of the bottom-rung schools” (UMES and CSU, two of the four HBCUs). The reporter then says, “Coppin’s sorry status remains deeply troubling. There’s a sharp disconnect between the abysmal performance of Coppin compared with the rest of the UMS campuses.”

He then admonishes the “misinformed” Virletta Bryant, the Coppin professor who chairs USM’s faculty council. Her sin was that she failed to give the answer he was looking for in commenting on Caret’s appointment. Roscovar says, “If that’s the best a Coppin professor heading the system’s faculty council has to offer, no wonder Coppin students are getting such a poor education.”

So here are some facts the reporter failed to mention. Federal Court Judge Catherine Blake Oct. 7, 2013 ruled that the higher education system still maintained vestiges of segregative practices that provided disparities between TWIs (Traditionally White Institutions) and the HBCUs in the system.

The newly appointed chancellor Caret’s actions helped to instigate the plaintiffs’ (HBCU students and alumni) lawsuit while president of Towson. Caret attempted to initiate an MBA program with UB, when Morgan State University had already started one. The judge found that TWI duplication of HBCU programs was a primary contributor to the disparate treatment of the Maryland HBCUs. Blake suggested remedies to address disparities that included transferring programs duplicated by the TWIs to the appropriate HBCU. Coppin’s main competitors are Towson, UB, UMBC and UMCP.

Blake ordered plaintiffs and defendants to bring her a proposal within parameters of the remedies she identified. The implementation of Blake’s proposed remedies should impact low retention and low enrollment. So the state’s posture has been to drag its feet on the matter and tighten the screws on the weaker under resourced HBCUs such as Coppin and UMES through severe budget cuts based on low enrollment. Rascovar’s job is to obscure the facts.

What worsens the issue is that the UMS has maintained a blind eye to the fact that many of our students have to work and go to school as well as to deal with economic and social conditions confronting most working class Blacks, including loss of jobs. A significant number of our students come from the Baltimore school system that continues to underprepare students. These students face a difficult challenge enhancing their skills sets to do the academic work while confronting crises in their lives. These forces result in high drop out rates and too often low enrollment.

Considering disparities and other factors mentioned, Coppin like many other public HBCUs through the tenacity and intelligence of our students, perform a stellar job in educating students.

Mr. Rascovar, Coppin is in good standing with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Coppin’s accrediting agency. Our students think they get a good education including Dr. Bryant’s students. Barry, do your homework. Ask them.

The civil rights battles started in 1865 and are still not over.

Dr. Morgan is coordinator and assistant professor of Urban Studies at Coppin State University.