Many issues plague the higher education arena concerning fair practices. An issue in which a federal judge recently, less than five years ago, ruled on in Maryland concerning fair practices consisted of, the duplication of programs at traditional white institutions, which have in turned, forced students away from the same or similar programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state, causing a decrease in enrollment. This has severe implications for the HBCUs, or any HBCUs affected because decreases in enrollment usually means a decrease in funding, which further leads to inadequate providing of services. The federal judge and ruling judge of this matter, Judge Catherine C. Blake, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The state of Maryland was found to be practicing illegal academic program discrimination through the distribution and duplication of their academic programs at state public universities.
Other issues brought forth in the hearing included discriminatory funding practices, however, the ruling judge did not side with the plaintiffs on those issues. Having being brought forth before, the unequal funding matrixes that exist in the higher education system between traditional white colleges and historically black colleges have dated back decades, hence, they are worth noting and warrant further investigation. One example included the unequal distribution of funds within Maryland institutions of higher education dating back to the 1920’s and 30’s, where majority white institutions in the state, a total of 11, received a total of $11 million in state aid during the decade of 26-36, where the three HBCUs in the state at the time received a total amount of $742,000. It is fear and fact that these same practices are occurring today, not only through discriminatory and unfair funding practices, however, also through illegal academic program distribution and discrimination. The issue concerning the duplication of programs was not just an important issue for the state of Maryland, however, an important issue for HBCUs across the country, as they consider suing the state government in which they operate in for illegal and discriminatory practices of their distribution and duplication of their academic programs.
This case has been referred to as a modern day practice of de jure segregation, where colleges and universities are using academic programs to further perpetuate discrimination and segregation. A practice that only mimics the harmful discriminatory nature the United States once burden, and fought diligently and hard to overcome. The ruling judge in the case noted many instances where program duplication has taken place in the state, and have harmed a Historically Black College or University. For example, she noted the once important policy of offering unique degree programs at HBCUs, in efforts to attract white and other none African-American students and diversify the enrolled student body. “Maryland’s HBIs (historically black institutions) offer only 11 non-duplicated, high-demand, noncore programs, compared with 122 such programs at TWIs (traditional white institutions), for an average of 17 per TWI and only 3 per HBI,” Judge Blake wrote. “Unique, high-demand programs are a key reason white students attend HBIs in other states, and, without them, HBIs ‘are identified by their racial history as opposed to [their] programs.”
The judge suggested that the higher education department conduct a series of mediation between parties and constituents in order to come up with a viable solution, in contrary to her holding subsequent separate rulings on the violations she found. Michael D. Jones, lead lawyer for the black college advocates who sued in this case said he was pleased with the mediation ruling, and considered this a victory for HBCUs across the country, however noting the fact that Maryland now has the choice of revitalizing their HBCUs to appropriate standard, or continuing with their old ways fostering de jure segregation and discriminatory practices. “So Maryland now faces a choice: to embrace the court’s ruling and become an example for the nation by creating transformative HBCUs with the kinds of academic programs that HBCU presidents have long advocated for, or to continue in its fight to maintain policies that undermine its HBCUs….Which position the state ultimate take is an open question.”