Judge Orders Appointment of a “Special Master” to Resolve Maryland Desegregation Suit

Federal Judge Catherine C. Blake recently issued a ruling in the longstanding lawsuit filed by historically Black colleges and universities in Maryland. In 2013, Judge Blake ruled that state’s actions continued to foster segregation in the state’s higher education system. She ordered the state and the plaintiffs to come up with a plan to remedy the situation. The HBCUs wanted the state to close programs at predominantly White institutions that were similar to programs offered at the HBCUs because they were draining enrollments from the Black universities.

The latest ruling by Judge Blake was met with some confusion. Consider these two headlines, one from the Washington Post and the other by the Baltimore Sun:

Courts Side with Maryland HBCUs in Long-Standing Case
Over Disparities in State Higher Education

Federal Judge Rejects Proposals to Boost Diversity at Maryland’s HBCUs

The judge actually admonished both sides in the case to work harder to find a solution. She wrote that “neither party’s remedy, as currently proposed is practicable, educationally sound, and sufficient to address the segregative harms of program duplication.”

The judge said she would appoint a “special master” to oversee the negotiations. He or she would have one year to come up with a plan agreeable to the court. The judge suggested that new, unique programs should be created at the HBCUs that would be attractive to students of all racial and ethnic groups and that funding to help recruit students to these programs should be made available. However, she stated that she did not want to force closure of programs at predominantly White institutions unless both sides agreed to do so.

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