Two years ago, Maryland settled a half-billion-dollar lawsuit to end a multi-decade lawsuit claiming that the state deliberately underfunded historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The suit argued that HBCUs have been devalued and underfunded by predominantly white institutions (PWIs) creating duplicative programs nearby, thus reducing attendance at HBCUs.
A 2013 court ruling found that duplicative programs perpetuate segregation. Now, Morgan State University President David Wilson is accusing Towson of creating a duplicate doctoral business program, in clear violation of the lawsuit. He also said that Towson is planning another duplicative program in bioenvironmental science.
President Wilson sent letters to Maryland state Sen. Brian Feldman (D-District 15), chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Energy, and the Environment, and Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (D-District 13), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking for intervention in the process. Atterbeary plans to meet with Wilson and Maryland Higher Education (MHEC) leaders later this month.
“We believe there is duplication. Two, the proposed program at Towson would cause harm to the existing program at Morgan. And three, we do not have an educational justification for the duplication,” said Emily Dow, the MHEC assistant secretary for Academic Affairs, during an online meeting on June 14.
“I would like to acknowledge the agency’s explicit effort to encourage Towson to work with Morgan to develop a program that is not duplicative of Morgan’s existing program,” she continued.
However, the Maryland Higher Education Commission voted to approve the new program at Towson in a 4-3 vote last month while in closed session, overriding her past assessment.
The chair of the MHEC disagreed with Dow’s ruling.
“The decision is based upon the determination that Towson’s proposed program is not unreasonably duplicative of Morgan’s Ph.D. in Business Administration generally or of the concentration in Supply Chain and Logistics Management,” wrote now-previous MHEC Mary Pat Chair Seurkamp, whose term expired July 1. “The majority found that while some elements of the programs were similar, ultimately the two programs have distinct differences in their curricula. This finding was made with the understanding that Towson’s admission criteria for the program are geared toward students who have a STEM background. Furthermore, we found that there was insufficient evidence of demonstrable harm to the existing program at Morgan.”
The primary differences between the programs are that Towson’s doctoral program would require a STEM background. However, that was not included in Towson’s application for said program.