Morgan State President is Pawn in Maryland Strategy to Undermine HBCUs
  

Last May, Morgan State University President David Wilson faced internal and public scrutiny over his plans to develop shared programs with Towson University, less than seven months after federal court judge Catherine Blake ruled that merger and transfer were necessary elements in dismantling the state’s ‘separate and unequal’ system of higher ed.  

The plans were a frightening look into the future, as they mirror the state’s recent proposal to dismantle the racially biased system through collaborative degree offerings with predominantly white institutions and summer programs for HBCUs.

Fortunately, this lawsuit and its impact on the nation’s higher education landscape are bigger than Wilson, bigger than Morgan State and bigger than Maryland itself. It is about the role and rule of law, and how law supersedes the racial, political and economic comfort of maintaining the status quo.

One thing HBCU communities can know for sure; whomever and whatever the state promotes cannot be, by legislative intent and social design, inherently good for HBCUs or the people they serve. So it is no great surprise that Wilson, whose administration at Morgan has become a national poster child for the results of HBCU board dysfunction and campus violence is now being hyped as the model HBCU president to bring innovation and post-racial partnership between black and white schools.

Maryland seems locked in an era long gone, and proven obsolete by judicial intervention. The uprising of black students at PWIs throughout the state and nation shows just how bad and how long disparities have played out, even under the auspices of diversity building. And while the city simultaneously works to fight and pray at the beginnings of the trials of officers accused in the murder of Freddie Gray, Wilson continues to emphasize Morgan as a global institution, while distancing the institution and its legacy of civil rights advocacy away from Baltimore’s struggle for social justice.

Wilson’s work is a reflection of Maryland’s schizophrenic approach to racial progress on its campuses. In two weeks time, Maryland’s flagship institution erects a statue honoring native freedom fighter and statesman Frederick Douglass, in the shadows of a football stadium named for a known racist in Curley Byrd. Meanwhile, state higher education officials are in court and in the press suggesting that legitimate HBCU development is counterproductive to what is best for Maryland and all of its students, regardless of race.

Maryland’s stubbornness and covert efforts to stunt HBCU growth is counterproductive to a slow-moving trend throughout the south to expand HBCUs, either through judicial force or social prudence. A federal court forced Tennessee to merge the predominantly white University of Tennessee-Nashville into historically black Tennessee State University in 1979, and the result has helped to create a racially-inclusive flagship for the city, with comprehensive offerings and expanding value to Nashville’s industrial output.

The merger of Darton State College into Albany State University will soon create a flagship for Georgia’s southwestern region, ahead of a racially-charged federal lawsuit, and ahead of the uncomfortable discovery just how many billions were diverted away from Georgia’s public black colleges in less-progressive past generations. Georgia understands that the maintenance of one quality institution is more cost-efficient, culturally tolerant and socially healthy than duplicative offerings among proximate black and white institutions. It is the same principle advanced in broader societal terms during the abolitionist period and during the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s.

But Maryland believes that through Wilson and his role as Morgan president, it can spread a message of partnership and concession while avoiding responsibility for the segregation that unlawfully set its HBCUs on a path of second-class existence for generations. It is the same philosophy he held as an “expert” witness in the federal Knight vs. Alabama case, in which he advocated for greater diversity at Alabama PWIs against development of Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University. And because he is black and leads a black school, Maryland believes its black citizenry to be incapable of seeing through its game of race-based peekaboo on policy and costs associated with transfer and merger into its four HBCUs.

Maryland should know that its students and families deserve better than that, and not just because black lives matter. But because the law matters, and it matters most when it has been broken and the time has come to make good on the consequences for doing so.

7 comments
  1. This blog’s disrespectful depiction of Morgan State University is akin to white supremacist analysis of our institution. The board at Morgan is not dysfunctional even if they had some discord two years ago. The campus is no more violent than any other campus. Would you describe UVA as violent? You argument would be more credible if the tenor of the article was less cantankerous.

  2. I am ok with the merger as long as the PWI’s merge with the HBCUs that is the only way. Keep in mind token negros and sellouts come in all shapes and sizes, and some you never would have known were sell outs until the sale is complete.

    1. As an alumnus, and a former student activist who fought to save Morgan State in the early 1980s, this article is filled with inaccuracies. This is poor journalism and I state that as a journalist. Morgan State University happens to be one of the most stable public HBCUs in the nation, with a growing enrollment and an impressive campus that ranks among the best of the state’s public universities. We also hold the distinction of being one of only two Maryland colleges with an independent Board and not under the authority of the University of Maryland system. To be clear, there is no dysfunction on our Board of Trustees; alumni intervened and strongly supported Dr. Wilson when there were elements on the Board that were working against the best interest of the university. Get your facts straight. This is shoddy ‘journalism.’

  3. The essay makes a number of serious charges that calls into sharp question, the professional integrity and efficacy of Dr. David Wilson’s leadership. It is in very poor taste to suggest that David Wilson is partying with those who are seeking to sustain their long standing campaign to weaken the ability of HBCUs to provide a high quality, rigorous, competitive, and relevant 21st. Century education. Why should we be afraid of articulating a few joint programs with Towson, particularly if these programs are mutually beneficial? Let’s separate fact from fiction! Morgan State University along with Coppin, Bowie, and UMES are engaged in a just and principled struggle for equity and redress for years of blatant discriminatory practices by the Maryland General Assembly.

    Thanks to the tireless leadership of Dr. Earl S Richardson and others, Maryland’s HBCUs are moments away from benefitting from a Federally mandated program of remedy. To suggest that Dr. Wilson is a co-conspirator in a scheme to derail long overdue justice, in part because he suggested entering into a collaborative relationship with a PWI, is incomprehensible and inexcusable.

    Whereas the jury may still be deliberating on the future of Morgan State under Dr. Wilson’s leadership, we need not manufacture potentially damaging charges against his integrity. As with all leaders the jury will reach a decision and return to the courtroom to deliver a verdict. To indict or exonerate must be based on facts and not innuendo and malice.

    1. Your point is well-taken for sure. I can only hope that the effort to spur awareness of these key issues facing Morgan and other HBCUs in the state meets its intended mark. Like many things which are political in nature, it takes time for the truth to come fully out.

      But I am convinced that all advocates and supporters will be exposed to and convinced of Wilson’s role to suppress this lawsuit and to limit HBCUs for his own gain; much sooner than later…

  4. Dr. Wilson leadership should be questioned….his views in Knight v State under-minded the education of blacks, that advocated free education for non-blacks. 40% of ASU ACADEMIC GRANT BUDGET WENT TO WHITES only, BLACKS GOT LOANS…THIS PROCESS has allowed for the gradually take over of HBCU’s .its was bad when my efforts challenged this self serving thinking and bad now for the progress of blacks.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UclkdmyAyq8

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