Coalition Counters: Remediating Duplication Damage–Not Governance, is the Focus of the Lawsuit

(Updated 2/17/2017) Kurt Schmoke claims the HBCU Equity Case has been on his radar screen long before 2014, the year he became a formal party to the case in his current role as President of the University of Baltimore (UB).  Schmoke, a Baltimore native served as the first African American elected mayor of the city from 1987 through 1999, a city with two of the state’s four HBI’s and several public and private higher education institutions.  


Schmoke went on to a successful academic career as Dean of the Howard University Law School where he “authorized the participation of the Howard Law School Civil Rights Clinic” to work on behalf of the HBCU’s involved in the case” said Brenda Shum director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and attorney for the plaintiffs.   

Schmoke testified that he sought to prevent a collision course between the University of Baltimore and neighboring Coppin and Morgan State Universities when he became UB’s president in 2014.

“I was asked what problems did I perceive in the future of higher education,” Schmoke said when he interviewed for his current job in early 2014.

“I talked about this case. I thought it was an important matter. I thought we should start thinking about what we should do,” Schmoke said.

Schmoke allowed the agreement creating the joint Towson State-UBMBA program to expire in 2015. The joint MBA was one of the many academic programs that Maryland HBCU’s said directly competed with HBCU attempts to broaden their business degree offerings.

“The Towson-UB MBA decision needed to be revisited. In the interview I reviewed Judge Blake’s decision” Schmoke said.

During cross examination, Schmoke proposed that the court consider developing a commonly adopted academic market akin to a model in place at the City University of New York’s 24 colleges and graduate schools located across the city’s five boroughs.

“I have talked to the regents and others before about adopting in Maryland the model of the City University of New York, and that is create in Baltimore a City University of Baltimore, which would mean — would be comprised of Morgan, Coppin, UB, and Baltimore City Community

College,” said Schmoke.

“It, like CUNY, would not mean a merger, because they didn’t merge any of those institutions. They simply allow them to be distinct, but they collaborated on back-office matters and helped in — to increase collaboration among the institutions,” Schmoke continued.

“If done right, I think could make the strong argument that it’s in the best interests of the State,” Schmoke said.

When asked his views on  Schmoke’s proposal , Coalition president David Burton said, “The Schmoke proposal would do absolutely nothing to address the. problem of unnecessary program duplication the court cited as a violation of the constitution.  It would only make a bad situation worse.  

“The new entity Schmoke proposes excludes the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Towson University, the two campuses responsible for the largest degree of program duplication.  Even if UMBC and Towson were included, however, the new entity would not address the Court’s concern with unnecessary duplication since each campus would retain its current identity and set of programs.”  Burton said.

“The bottom line is that the Schmoke proposal would have the effect of wrongly shifting the focus of the problem from program duplication to institutional governance and control,” according to Burton.

The HBCU Equity Trial is expected to conclude at the end of February.  Judge Catherine E. Blake is charged with issuing a remedy to correct the historic pattern of discrimination against Maryland’s HBCU’s with a focus on ending state sponsored duplication of academic programs.

The original ruling in Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland Higher Education Commission was decided on behalf of the plaintiffs in 2013.