Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore President, knows something about making lemonade. She recently told Judge Catherine C. Blake about how she squeezes and juggles the difficulties she faces at UMES and stirs in as much success as possible, while beating back flies that are attracted to the sweet taste.
“We have to be vigilant about duplication of our programs outside of the Eastern Shore. There have been many attempts to have other institutions offer Hospitality and Tourism outside of the Eastern Shore and we have to keep pushing back against that,” Bell said.
She then creates a family atmosphere at the Historically Black 1890 land grant institution that anchors rural Somerset County. She explained that with Somerset County consistently ranked among the poorest counties in the State of Maryland, the students, faculty, programs and facilities at UMES are all in need of a tall glass of fresh lemonade.
Bell, told Judge Blake and the audience at the remedial phase of the Maryland Higher Education Desegregation trial how she has been working and collaborating to get the campus a new library to replace the current mid-century, water-damaged building.
“Our #1 project was a new library. Our current library was built in the 1960’s and has water damage, but that program got bumped,” Bell said. Although the library does not house a specific academic program, Bell made the connection between the central role of the library on a college campus and all academic programs.
The UMES library was bumped to accommodate the urgent need to place the campus’s pharmacy program that had been threatened with suspension into a suitable space for accreditation approval.
Like all HBCU Presidents, Bell’s testimony provided a glimpse into the comprehensive nature of the fix needed to dismantle the vestiges of racial discrimination in Maryland’s Higher Education System. In 2013, Judge Bell ruled in favor of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, agreeing that racial discrimination had not been dismantled in Maryland Higher education. The parties tried to work on an agreement in mediation but after two years, talks were unresolved.
Now, the case is back in court to determine the fix.
Bell explained just how she and her faculty juggle with academic accreditation bodies who are faced with having to suspend otherwise worthy academic programs because of a lack of acceptable facilities.
“Our Pharmacy program is an example where we have a successful program, but we did not have the facilities to house the program,” Bell told the court.
In her 2013 ruling, Judge Blake proposed that compliance meant additional academic programs in high demand areas and without duplication would need to compliment current offerings of HBCU’s.
Bell’s testimony explained the inter-connection between academic program creation, infrastructure and funding support for academic program matters, such as faculty support.
“One of the problems we have experienced is that these programs have started without resources. We know these programs attract students of all races but we have to retain these programs.” Bell said.
“Some of our faculty positions were funded through Title III funds. This made it very difficult to attract qualified faculty,” Bell said.
In cross examination, attorneys for the State of Maryland zeroed in on a barrage of questions about UMES’s ability to recruit White students and how the White student recruitment effort was represented in the institution’s strategic processes.
“You didn’t study what kinds of programs would attract White students?” the state’s attorney pointedly asked Bell.
Looking directly at the row of all-White attorneys representing the state of Maryland, Bell responded simply.
“We are not seeking programs that are only attractive to White students. We are seeking programs that are attractive to all students.”