Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC’s) President, served as lead witness for the state of Maryland in week four of the HBCU Equality lawsuit (Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission

Hrabowski sought to distance UMBC from the legacy of legalized discrimination practiced by Maryland’s predominately White universities while appealing to Judge Catherine E. Blake to leave UMBC’s academic programs untouched as remedies are sought for HBCUs to correct the state’s historic and continuing pattern of discrimination.

“Our abbreviation is HDI. We’re an historically diverse institution.  At that time, 1966, we were talking in black and white terms,” Hrabrowski said of UMBC’s early years. “Today, we have students from 100 countries,” he said.

Hrabowski said he had no problem with the state’s four HBCUs but adamantly petitioned the court to bypass a proposal to move UMBC’s highly regarded engineering programs to Morgan State University to make up for the state’s prior actions which prevented Morgan from developing its engineering program while promoting the development of the engineering program at UMBC.

“We are respectful of other institutions. We want them to have these programs too,” Hrabrowski said when asked by the State attorney’s how he felt about Maryland’s HBI’s having exclusive, high demand programs.

“We need more and not less. “We need so many more people trained in these areas ” Hrawbroski pleaded with the court. “I just don’t believe it, I know it.”

In 2013, Judge Catherine E. Blake ruled in favor of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, avowing that the state of Maryland had violated the U.S. Constitution by continuing a segregated higher education system utilizing among other things, the practice of program duplication.

But Michael Jones, co-lead counsel for the HBCU Coalition, said that Hrabowski on cross examination was forced to admit that he was not aware that that UMCB was founded in 1966 as part of the state’s attempt to sidetrack Morgan State University’s growth.

Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC’s) President (Courtesy Photo)

“Hrabowski acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with the history of how UMBC was started because the state did not want to build up and desegregate Morgan,” said Jones.

“He wasn’t really that familiar with how the state committed to build up programs at the HBCU’s including Morgan and basically reneged on those promises.”

On cross examination Jones said Hrabowski continued to offer support for developing new programs at the state’s HBCUs including scholarships and other funding as long as programs were not transferred away from UMBC’s campus to make up for the historic discrimination against HBCUs.

“One of the issues the judge raised is that she may look at appointing an independent expert to help her fashion a remedy in terms of interacting with HBI faculty and presidents. She was very interested,” Jones said.

Jones indicated while Freeman Hwabroski started the day proudly affirming his status as an expert on higher education and scientific boards and commissions and initiatives, he concluded testimony with no answers for the plaintiff’s attorneys or for Maryland’s HBCUs.

When asked, who Judge Blake might consider to help in fashioning a remedy for the HBCU Equality Case, “Hrabowski answered that ‘he couldn’t come up with a name,’ Jones said.

The remedial phase of the HBCU Equality Case began in January after court ordered remediation talks failed due to the State’s refusal to submit viable remedial plans.  Remedial plans to address program duplication and the development of unique academic niches at each of the state’s four HBCUs – Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, are the focus of the remedial case which is expected to conclude in late February or early March.