The Prince George’s County NAACP backed Del. Julian Ivey’s proposed bill that would remove three Maryland HBCUs from the University System of Maryland and make them independent. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

The Prince George’s County branch of the NAACP is putting pressure on the State’s Legislative Black Caucus to support Delegate Julian Ivey’s proposed bill that would remove three HBCUs from the governance of the University System of Maryland (USM).

In a strongly worded letter to Delegate Darryl Barnes, chairman of the  Caucus, the County’s Chapter President Robert E. Ross charges the USM with being “racially restrictive” and “a modern day conveyor of a system that has not done right by Maryland HBCUs.”  Two weeks ago Ivey unveiled a plan that would pull Bowie State, Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore from beneath the authority of the USM allowing the trio of HBCUs to join Morgan State with the same autonomy to govern themselves.

“We must unchain HBCUs so that we can unleash their potential restrictions of the USM holding them back,” Ross wrote.  “We can no longer casually nor hopefully await the incremental evolution of a flawed USM which continues to fail Black Colleges.”

Ivey’s plan is modeled after the same bill that was passed after being authored by former state representative Joan Conway which allows for Morgan to keep its independence forever while retaining its state funding.

It calls for a 15-member board of regents at Bowie State, Coppin and UMES that includes several provisions such as a chair who attended an HBCU.  At least five of those members would have attended HBCUs and three others who were selected by the alumni association of each specific Black college. One of the members would be selected by the local county/city branch of the NAACP. The racial demographics would be composed of a majority African-American board and two student board members who vote. 

“As we approach this moment of reconciliation we ask that the Black Caucus fights for all HBCUs to gain independence from ,” Ross continued.  “We must unchain Maryland’s HBCUs as they serve as catalysts for positive changes in Maryland’s Black communities.”

In a time of unprecedented social change Ivey is looking to influence Maryland’s collection of Black elected officials to join the attempt to influence the entire general assembly to back this bill.  However, due to the pandemic it has been difficult to persuade Gov. Larry Hogan to call for a special session to address issues specific to COVID-19 throughout the earlier portion of the summer.