Dr. Ken Morgan

Will there be a new university on North Avenue and Warrick called “UB-Coppin?” The University of Maryland System (USM) is working on it.

Here’s the down and dirty. Federal Judge Catherine Blake’s ruling October 7, 2013 found that the state of Maryland’s  higher education system poorly addressed ending the segregationist programs. These actions predated the ending of Jim Crow (1938).

Blake’s 60-page ruling said that Maryland “offered no evidence that it has made a serious effort to address continuing historic duplicating academic programs by  traditionally white institutions (TWIs) of historically black institutions (HBIs or HBCUs).

Chancellor Bob Caret is now overseer of the 11 higher education institutions. When president of Towson University, he helped to preside over Towson’s duplicating HBCU academic programs. Seven of the eleven Maryland universities are TWIs.

Blake concluded the system’s failure to address adequately this issue continues to cause a deep drop in HBCU enrollments. This problem fails to attract white and other students, who choose to attend TWIs. State revenues are tied to first time full time student enrollment.

Other factors worsen this problem. Coppin continues to be a commuter, mostly working class, university. Students often have to work full-time and attend school. For too many students this mountain is too much to climb in four to six years. Add to this issue, a healthy portion of students without the best preparation to succeed right away. Coppin’s primary TWI competitors are the University of Baltimore (UB), Towson University (TU), and UMBC.

Despite these things, the USM claims that Coppin’s ongoing financial issues are Coppin’s fault because of its low retention rate and because it does not attract enough students. Drastic cuts in school operations have resulted.

Dr. Maria Thompson, Coppin’s titular head, similar to other presidents before her, stays silent on the matter. Her rebranding of Coppin with fancy slogans such as “High Tech, High Touch, High Impact” mean little without Blake’s tentative remedies that include the transfer of programs from TWIs to HBCUs. Other remedies include HBCUs developing unique high demand programs attached with a revenue flow (author’s conclusion).

The USM is running Coppin some have concluded. The USM’s system’s team includes Julie Phelps, the CSU interim v.p. for administration and finance on loan from USM and her boss at USM Joseph Vivona, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

Judge Blake suggested HBCU-TWI collaborations as a complimentary way to bolster HBCU competitiveness, but not at the expense of the HBCUs.

Enter the term “u b coppin.”  The USM has organized a multitude of collaborations between CSU and UB that smells like a merger. Remember that UB was a failing private institution that the Maryland state of higher education bailed out many years after Coppin and Morgan became part of the public higher education system. Figure that one out.

UB-Coppin resembles street Ebonics talk that means “u b coppin”. Coppin does not mean illegal drug purchasing, but it is close enough to say USM UB-Coppin.

Dr. Ken Morgan is Coordinator, Asst. Professor of Urban Studies, and Faculty Senator at Coppin State University.