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Statement Issue by Dr.

Lezli Baskerville, President and CEO, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), on the Case, the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland's Higher Education Commission. Issued: January 1, 2012 Today, the nation is focusing on the Hawkeye State (Iowa) which is set to move the 2012 campaign season into full swing with the Tuesday night caucuses that have the potential for narrowing the Republican Party presidential field and moving the nation one step closer to determining who will be the Republican presidential candidate and standardbearer in 2012. But the eyes and attentions of all who believe in the value of public education and the importance of a just and equitable public education system, should be focused on another campaign that will reach a pinnacle tomorrow in The Old Line State (Maryland). After decades of maintaining a separate and unequal higher education system, The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education will shift its petition for an investment in the States HBCUs such that they are comparable and competitive with the States HWCUs, from the legislative and executive suites into the halls of justice in The Free State. In Courtroom 7D of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, the plaintiffs will finally have their day in court. I will be at the trial, and I will report to you daily on the progress of the trial. As the non-profit membership association of the presidents and chancellors of the Nation's 105 public and private HBIs and 50 Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), NAFEO has played a central role in moving this nation closer to realizing its stated goal of achieving a public higher education system that is devoid of the vestiges of de jure discrimination, and prodding the Adams States, including the State of Maryland, to realize the letter and spirit of successive consent decrees and court cases mandating that states that maintain dual higher education systems, invest in HBCUs such that they are comparable to and competitive with the states HWCUs. As NAFEOs pro bono counsel for two decades, I was privileged to work with NAFEO in the Adams States, helping to shape and enforce the Adams Decree. The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc., Et Al v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, Et Al, is the culmination of more than 35 years of focused, strategic work and dogged determination by many leaders and friends of HBCUs in the State of Maryland and the legal work by many who are passionate about using the United States Constitution to prod justice in America. The case would not have come to the fore without the tactical, shrewd, steadfast, exemplary leadership and work,

and dogged determination of Dr. Earl Richardson, the immediate past president of Morgan State University; the wind beneath the sails of this case. It will directly impact the shape of the higher education debate in 2012 and beyond in the 25 states that have HBCUs and HWCUs, as well as the work of NAFEO. NAFEO worked with the State of Maryland for more than thirty years (30) to shape policies, programs and practices, and to prod investments of public financial and other resources in a manner that does not perpetuate dual and unequal higher education, or that wittingly or unwittingly perpetuates the vestiges of past discrimination and maintains the status quo ante. For example, NAFEO was there when, at the time of NAFEOs founding in 1969, Maryland was operating a segregated system of higher education. With NAFEOs prodding, that of the then Maryland HBCU presidents and chancellors, HBCU alumni and others, the State was forced by federal oversight to take action designed to erase vestiges of higher education segregation. The state outlined steps it would take to erase past discrimination in the several Partnership Agreements it reached with the U.S. Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the most recent of which covered the period 2000-2005. That agreement required Marylands full compliance with federal and state laws related to discriminatory practices, as well as the requirements under U.S. v. Fordice. When the agreement expired, Marylands higher education commission reported to OCR in June of 2006 that the State has satisfied its commitments and that there are no vestiges of a dual higher education system that once existed in the State, NAFEO disagreed based on information available to it from its members, public documents and reports. When the commission submitted its report of having satisfied its commitment under the consent decrees, NAFEO also disagreed based on the fact that Maryland had approved the duplication of at least one HBI program at a nearby TWI that same year, in violation of U.S. v. Fordice. Two bills were subsequently introduced in the state legislature, one to prohibit such duplication, and the second petitioning lawmakers for supplemental funding to HBIs to eliminate funding disparities with TWIs. Both measures failed. The Maryland Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, an advocacy group made up of alumni and friends of HBIs, filed a rejoinder to the states report to OCR, which challenges the states contention that it is in full compliance with state and federal statutes as they relate to Black schools. The group later filed a lawsuit against Maryland claiming the state has failed to live up to its Partnership Agreement with OCR. This case is the one that will move to the trial phase beginning tomorrow morning.
Note: The reader is also referred to the 2008 testimony by NAFEOs President, Dr. Lezli Baskerville, given before the State Commission to Develop the Model for Funding Maryland Higher Education, available at: