Category Archives: Higher Education

The New Segregation in Maryland Colleges

By Barry Rascovar

November 5, 2013 — U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE Catherine C. Blake missed the mark by a country mile in her decision on eliminating vestiges of racial separation in Maryland’s state colleges and universities.

Indeed, her remedy perpetuates Maryland’s “shameful history of de jure segregation throughout much of the past century.”

Blake wants Maryland’s predominantly white colleges to give up popular programs so historically black institutions  (HBIs)can develop monopolies in those areas.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake

Judge Catherine C. Blake

This, she reasons, will send white students flocking to HBI campuses.

That idealistic but flawed logic – students have numerous options today that make mass transfers to HBIs highly unlikely – is now guiding discussions between the two parties in Blake’s courtroom.

Central Issue Unaddressed

But the root of the problem remains firmly intact. Indeed, it wasn’t even touched upon in Blake’s 60-page ruling.

The most effective and rational way to eliminate segregation at Maryland state colleges? Dramatically transform the schools that remain overwhelmingly segregated.

Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore were established to give African Americans separate college opportunities.

That is still the case – only the education offered at HBIs is too often inferior:

  • Which Maryland state colleges have, by a wide margin, the lowest SAT scores for entering freshmen? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the highest remediation needs, by far? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the lowest graduation rates, by far? The HBIs.

Maryland has tried to solve this by throwing money at the problem.  Yet even Judge Blake concluded the HBIs get far more state aid per student than other colleges.

This approach hasn’t worked.

Expensive construction projects for HBIs have given those campuses beautiful new buildings and state of the art equipment. Yet they remain segregated.

And they underperform academically, which punishes students.

Perpetuating the Problem

As long as Maryland supports colleges grounded in perpetuating their role as HBIs, they will remain out of the main stream – and unlikely to ever become well-integrated campuses.

That’s the cruel truth African American leaders don’t want to hear.

Morgan State students

Morgan State students in class

Over the decades they have vehemently resisted any suggestion other than pouring more and more money into the HBIs.

They’re proud of their colleges, which have endured incredible hardships.

They especially don’t want HBIs to lose their special status as incubators for African American professionals.

21st Century Solution Needed

But this is the 21st century, not the early or mid-20th century. You can’t live in the past.

Colleges segregated by sex are nearly extinct. Military colleges are dwindling. Diversity, not exclusivity, is the goal of universities.

It’s ironic that attempts to truly integrate Maryland higher education meet the strongest resistance from leaders of the African American community.

White politicians have gone along with their African American colleagues rather than face a firestorm of angry bigotry accusations.

This simply continues the status quo – a de facto, segregated higher education system.

By the Numbers

Students, meanwhile, are voting with their feet. Every year historically white state colleges draw a more diverse group of students:

  • University College, the online option at the University of Maryland, enrolls more students of color (19,299) than whites (16,713).
  • At College Park, white students (19,669) make up only a little over half the student body (37,241).
  • At UMBC, white students (6,548) constitute less than half of overall enrollment (13,637).
  • At the University of Baltimore, black (2,412) and white enrollment (2,888) is close to even.

Now look at the situation at Maryland’s four HBIs:

  • Morgan State has 273 white students out of total of 6,677 (4 percent).
  • Bowie State has 198 white students out of 4,731 (4 percent).
  • UMES has 675 white students among its student body of 4,454 (15 percent).
  • Coppin State counts just 49 white students out of a total of 3,039 (1.6 percent).

It’s not just whites who feel out of place on those campuses. Even fewer Asians or Hispanics sign up there. It’s a dismal situation.

Blake’s remedy might be part of a broader solution, but simply redistributing popular academic programs won’t do enough.

After all, colleges operate in a competitive marketplace. If HBI campuses remain comfortable islands of black students, other students will simply gravitate elsewhere.

It’s already happening. Shifting academic programs isn’t a compelling answer.

Unpopular Options

What might work? Mergers, consolidations and intensive collaborations among Maryland state colleges.

Here are some ideas – all too hot for politicians or educators to handle:

UMES

Salisbury University and UMES already are engaged in successful intra-campus academics that are popular with students from both institutions.

UMES campus

UMES campus

What’s now needed is a long-range plan to gradually merge Salisbury into UMES.

The goal should be strong academic centers of excellence on both the Salisbury and Princess Anne campuses – only 12 miles apart.

Two-campus institutions are eminently workable. A prime example: Stevenson University’s enormous success operating a liberal arts Greenspring Valley campus and a new, fast-growing Owings Mills campus with a quite different academic focus.

The howls of protests would be fierce. Yet the benefits for students attending a twin-campus University of Maryland, Eastern Shore would be immense.

Morgan State

Morgan State Logo

Morgan State Logo

Of all the HBIs, Morgan State University is best positioned to evolve into an academic gem. It needs special status, though, similar to the arrangement the state established for St. Mary’s College.

It would take considerable extra state support and creativity to develop a range of targeted, demanding, urban-focused programs that appeal to a rainbow of students from Mid-Atlantic states and beyond.

Coppin State

Few students arrive on this West Baltimore campus well prepared. Most need an enormous amount of remedial help. The graduation rate is a terrible 20 percent.

Coppin needs to give laser-like attention to undergraduate education.

An affiliation with the Baltimore City Community College seems the best fit. After all, community colleges do a great job preparing poorly educated high school graduates for the rigors of college academics – Coppin’s biggest failing.

Close collaboration with the University of Baltimore is a necessity, too.

UB offers quality undergraduate teaching for its diverse student body and popular post-graduate programs.

Consolidation or merger of the two nearby schools would be the best long-term outcome.

Bowie State

This campus should become the adopted “little sister” of the University of Maryland, College Park. There’s no telling how many niche programs from the flagship institution might fit neatly onto the Bowie campus.

Bowie_State_University_GatewayThe caliber of teaching would be vastly improved with close collaboration, too.

A second step: Bring Prince George’s Community College onto the Bowie campus to mentor and prepare freshmen for college-level courses.

Adjusting to Today’s Realities

None of the four HBIs should continue to exist in their current role.

Through no fault of their own they represent the shameful, segregated past. They were created and perpetuated to keep the races separate.

That separation remains in place today, but for different reasons.

It is time to put this sad history to rest through steps that truly integrate Maryland’s HBIs into this century’s more inclusive American society.

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Smart Growth, Dumb State (Guess Which One)

owings mills metro centreBy Barry Rascovar / June 19, 2013

THE STATE OF Maryland boasts mightily about its Transit Oriented Development (TOD) programs. Just don’t bother looking for much in the way of tangible results.

“Maryland has great TOD potential” brags the state on its transportation website. Dig a little deeper, though, and it turns into wishful thinking, not boots-on-the-ground achievements.

TODs are the ultimate in Smart Growth.

They turn transit stations into job-centered areas of dense, walkable neighborhoods in both cities and suburbs. Other towns, like Seattle and Denver, offer examples of how to do it. (For more on the potential of “transit villages” in Maryland, see my 2006 Goldseker Foundation report – “Five Years, Fifty Thousand Jobs,” page 13.)

The Baltimore-Washington region, unfortunately, offers examples of how to draw up great plans and watch them fall apart or gather dust.

That thought came to mind at a ribbon-cutting Monday for the state’s one true TOD – Owings Mills Metro Centre.

Brand New Neighborhood

What you see along Grand Central Avenue (see photo above) is a long row of apartment buildings on one side of a broad boulevard and a six-story, library-community college building on the other side flanked by a massive garage — soon to be doubled in size — and an office high-rise under construction.

All of this sits beside the Metro station that connects to downtown Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Hospital. On the east side of the tracks is a huge parking lot. This eventually will become part of the mixed-use TOD.

A brand-new neighborhood is being created where none existed before.

The rail station, library and community college are the draws. A short walk up the hill is a multiplex cinema, townhouses and an aging mall that, if reimagined properly, could extend the scope of this TOD. Just down the road is a large retail development in progress, centered around a Wegmans supermarket.

This TOD will boast a residential population of 2,500 with many more office workers populating the area during the work week. Shops and restaurants will occupy ground floor space. Over 11,000 community college students a year are expected to take day and night courses at the new Community College of Baltimore County campus, sharing facilities with the already popular library branch (the largest in the county at 54,000 square feet).

Persistence Pays Off

What made this a reality was the unwavering commitment of county officials, from Dutch Ruppersberger to Jim Smith to Kevin Kamenetz. They not only funded key infrastructure, they stuck to the vision of making the Owings Mills TOD primarily a residential community.

Instead of transplanting a state agency to a transit station – the state’s feeble stab at the New Carrollton TOD in Prince George’s County – Baltimore County insisted on a library and a community college. These are the sort of amenities people want to live near.

(Had officials taken the same approach at the stalled and deeply flawed State Center TOD in Baltimore – by turning the property into a large mid-town residential neighborhood with appealing attractions – there might have been only token opposition.)

The path to the Owings Mills ribbon cutting wasn’t easy. It proved long (well over a decade) and arduous, especially during the dark days of the Great Recession.

But the county persisted. Officials continued their dialogue with developer Howard Brown until the economics worked.

You can see the future emerging at the Owings Mills Metro. It’s what every TOD should look like.

It’s just a shame Maryland has been so slow catching on to what works, and doesn’t work, in making this valuable Smart Growth tool a success.

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Look to Shock Trauma’s success

By Barry Rascovar / The Community Times / May 15, 2013

After a response team dragged unconscious firefighter Gene Kirchner from an intense three-alarm house fire on Hanover Road in the early hours of April 24, he wound up in the only place equipped to deal with his life-threatening injuries, the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Unfortunately, even the renowned doctors at Shock Trauma could not save Kirchner, an eight-year veteran of the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company.

He died last Thursday, only the second firefighter to die in the line of duty in the 100 years of the RVFC.

It is not often that Shock Trauma loses its battle to preserve life. Fully 96 percent of those admitted survive.

Trauma doctors there believe that if badly injured patients arrive at Shock Trauma within that “golden hour” following an accident they can be saved.

Using unconventional methods such as simultaneously treating multiple aspects of a patient’s critical injuries immediately upon arrival, the Maryland Shock Trauma Center has revolutionized emergency medicine.

But sometimes there is little doctors can do to help someone as critically injured as Gene Kirchner.

Ironically when the center’s staff and guests gathered for their annual gala recently, the evening centered on another fatality that had been turned into a remarkable “gift of life.”

Physician-in-chief Dr. Tom Scalia described how he and his team fought to revive a pedestrian who had been struck by a car, 21-year-old Joshua Aversano of White Hall. Sadly, Joshua’s brain injury was too severe.

At that point Joshua’s family made the decision to contribute Joshua’s body parts to help others. What followed was a true miracle.

Over a three-day period, six people were given life-saving organs, Joshua’s heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and lung. It was a mighty tribute to Joshua and his family, and to the enormous skills of the Shock Trauma team at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

But the truly amazing part of the story was yet to come: using Joshua’s facial bones, skin, tongue, teeth and underlying muscle and tissue to perform the world’s most extensive full-face transplant.

Over 150 doctors, nurses and other professionals participated in this 36-hour marathon. The Virginia patient, who had lived as a recluse since a 1997 gun accident shattered his face, received a new lease on life.

When 37-year-old Richard Norris walked on stage, he was a man reborn with nary a wrinkle.

An incredible amount of research preceded the surgery, much of it funded by the Office of Naval Research. The hope is that similar facial transplants will aid servicemen maimed by explosives.

Each year, 8,600 gravely injured people arrive at Shock Trauma, most of them via State Police Medevac helicopter, part of Maryland’s integrated emergency medical network.

It is a remarkable organization, heavily supported by taxpayer dollars. They did their best to save Gene Kirchner. He would have been the first to recognize their heroic efforts.

Barry Rascovar of Reisterstown is a writer and communications consultant. He can be reached at brascovar@outlook.com.

Towson University leaves teams abandoned

By Barry Rascovar/ The Community Times/ May 1, 2013

If your son excels at baseball or soccer and is looking to play that sport in college, you can forget about sending him to Towson University.

In a comedy of errors, Baltimore County’s largest higher education institution disbanded the two men’s teams, despite the popularity of each sport.

President Maravene Loeschke wielded the ax. She bought the logic of her athletic director that Towson must divert sports revenue to turn its basketball and football programs into regional powers.

Unfortunately, her public explanation also involved the need to bring equity to women’s sports at Towson. She picked an odd way to make that happen.

Especially cruel was the university president’s delivery of the bad news. On short notice she summoned the two teams, showed up with security guards, made her announcement and left without answering questions from the stunned audience.

It was a heartless display of authority. The students were treated more like discarded furniture than confused, emotionally upset individuals. Loeschke shattered their college dreams yet couldn’t take time to show any empathy.

No wonder she ended up in hot water with both the governor and state comptroller. No wonder her actions precipitated vocal protests from some alumni.

Baseball won a two-year reprieve when the governor found $300,000 to rescue the program while supporters try to raise funds to make the reprieve permanent. Soccer, the world’s biggest sport, got no such relief.

Critics have pointed out that shifting resources to the football and basketball programs won’t turn Towson into the UCLA of the East.

Even if every seat in Towson’s new arena and Unitas Stadium is filled, the crowds will be puny next to the College Park teams that join the Big Ten athletic conference next year.

Towson will never be — nor should it be — a training ground for athletes who turn pro after a few years in college. Loeschke is throwing money at a vision that isn’t realistic.

At the same time, complying with federal equal opportunity regulations need not come at the expense of existing sports programs. Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, roiled that suburban Washington campus when he disbanded eight men and women sports teams last year for lack of funds. But he did so with a great deal of compassion, calling his decision “heart-wrenching.”

In both cases the affected students felt betrayed. Their college lives had been ruined by administrators who couldn’t balance their budgets.

Many are transferring to other schools. But that will be traumatic and expensive.

It is a sad story, which will reverberate for years at Towson University. These student-athletes deserved a better fate.

Barry Rascovar is a Reisterstown writer and communications consultant. He can be reached at brascovar@outlook.com.