Four HBCUs are suing the state for more equitable funding.
A lawsuit that was originally filed in 2006 by an advocacy group representing Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities is closer to being heard in court.
Lawyers told a federal court judge last week that the state of Maryland underfunds Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore—all HBCUs.
A major part of the plaintiff’s argument is that the Black schools’ original programs are being duplicated at surrounding institutions. Because the Black schools are underfunded with little to no money to start capital-improvement projects, the lawyers claim that other schools have an unfair competitive advantage, especially because other schools receive money two to three times faster than the Black schools.
"The result is [that the four colleges] fall farther and farther behind," said John Greenbaum, a civil rights attorney representing the advocacy group that sued the state's higher education commission.
The commission maintains practices and polices followed by the HBCUs, but the lawyers argued last week that those policies are rooted in segregation and that they are the reason the four HBCUs are more segregated today than in the prior decades.
"If the plaintiffs believe that, they're drinking some kind of Kool-Aid," assistant attorney general Campbell Killife, who represents the Maryland Higher Education Commission, told the Baltimore Sun.
"Maryland is not Mississippi and Maryland is not Alabama last century," he added. He said the state does not have any remaining vestiges of segregation polices and that, therefore, the HBCU lawsuit should be dismissed.
The district judge said that she would soon rule on whether the case can go forward. It is currently scheduled for a June bench trial.
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty)