The Washington Post recently published an article examining a lawsuit that’s designed to end inequality within Maryland’s public higher education system.
Among the people the Post speaks with to address this nuanced topic is UW-Madison’s Clifton Conrad, who has served as an expert witness and consultant in a range of high-profile civil rights cases involving higher education over the past several decades.
Conrad has spent more than three decades studying race and gender in higher education and has visited more than 50 historically black colleges and universities as part of his work with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. Conrad, a faculty member in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and the faculty director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE), co-authored with Marybeth Gasman the 2015 book, “Educating a Diverse Nation.”
The Post report begins: “Traditionally white public universities in Maryland count 122 academic programs that are not duplicated anywhere within the state system. Historically black state schools have only 11 such offerings. That disparity is at the core of a lawsuit, spanning more than a decade, to end inequality within Maryland’s public higher education system. Advocates of the state’s four historically black universities have fought for more high-demand academic programs they say would enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of each school. A recent ruling in the case could achieve those objectives and set Maryland and its four historically black universities on a path toward dismantling the legacy of segregation. But achieving parity among the state’s institutions of higher learning may challenge notions of equity and identity as the four schools lay the groundwork for their future.”
The report goes on to note how U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake earlier in November ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to create clusters of unique and high-demand academic programs at Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Blake also instructed the monitor to provide an undetermined amount of annual funding for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid and any related initiative over the next decade.
The Post adds: “If the ruling goes unchallenged, it could bring to an end a lawsuit dating to 2006. That year, a coalition of alumni from Maryland’s public historically black institutions sued the state for not spending enough on their alma maters. The graduates argued that Maryland was undermining the four schools and encouraging segregation by allowing well-funded, traditionally white public universities to duplicate programs offered at the historically black schools.”
“Judge Blake has provided a foundation for a potentially far-reaching remedy that will over time enhance the institutional identities of the historically black institutions beyond race,” Conrad tells the Post. “Equity is about more than just money.”
From 1997 to 2010, Conrad served as a consultant to the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education regarding higher education desegregation in Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. He also has played a significant role in designing statewide plans for advancing desegregation in higher education in six states. From 2011-17, he served as a consultant in the case of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education vs. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al. The judge ruled that the State of Maryland continues to perpetuate a segregated system of higher education by traditionally white institutions. That decision is based largely on the research and testimony of Conrad, who is cited throughout the decision.
Conrad explains to the Post how a dual and unequal university system is a vestige of segregation in higher education. He notes how that inequality is reflected in the disparities in the academic offerings within Maryland’s public higher education system.
“When you have institutional identities anchored in programs, then the money will come along with that in terms of students bringing money to programs, hiring faculty who can bring in external funding or getting more resources from the state.” Conrad tells the Post.
To learn much more about this topic and the lawsuit, check out the entire Washington Post report: “At Md.’s historically black schools, the pursuit of equity without forgoing identity.”