By Luke Broadwater
Advocates who want increased funding for Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities took the fight to Attorney General Brian Frosh‘s office Friday, urging Democratic primary voters to write in “HBCU” rather than vote for Frosh next month.
The protesters contend the state owes Maryland’s four historically black colleges more than $1 billion for systematically discriminating against them over decades, and they accuse Frosh of delaying settlement of a decade-long lawsuit over the issue. Frosh’s office has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that would appoint a “special master” who would come up with a plan for increased funding.
“What we are asking the Democrats to do is rather than vote for Frosh, write in HBCU as a protest vote,” said Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, the former president of the Baltimore NAACP, who led the protest.
As the small rally went on, Frosh emerged from his office and spoke to the protesters. He said he was going forward with the appeal because he has a constitutional duty to defend Maryland’s government in lawsuits.
But he said he supports the advocates’ mission and urged them to contact Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who Frosh said could resolve the suit by cutting a check.
“It’s my job to defend the state when it gets sued,” Frosh said. “I would encourage you to make your voices heard to Gov. Larry Hogan. … I don’t write the checks. All I can do is try to bring people together and I have done that.”
As he spoke, longtime activist Leo Burroughs shouted at him: “You are obstructing justice!”
And Cheatham urged Frosh to meet one-on-one with Hogan to resolve the suit.
“You two have not met face-to-face to discuss this issue,” he said.
Hogan has said he is open to spending as much as $100 million to settle the 2006 suit, which was brought by a coalition of historically black colleges in Maryland. But advocates say that’s much less than the colleges should receive.
The four HBCUs — Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore — contend that Maryland had long fostered segregation in higher education by allowing well-funded academic programs at traditionally white universities to undermine similar ones at historically black schools.
Judge Catherine C. Blake has ruled that the state’s actions perpetuated segregation and said she would appoint a “special master” to help the two groups develop a plan focused on creating unique, high-demand programs at historically black colleges. She said the plan also should provide sufficient funding to help the schools with recruiting and financial aid.
But the state this year appealed Blake’s ruling, further delaying the drawn-out case and angering activists.
On Friday, several candidates for statewide office joined the small rally, including Democratic candidate for govenror Krish Vignarajah, a former policy adviser to first lady Michelle Obama, and Green Party gubernatorial candidate Ian Schlakman.
Vignarajah on Friday released her plan for the state’s HBCUs that she said she will enact if elected governor. It calls for a $500 million investment in the schools and providing $100 million in matching funds to grow endowments at those institutions.
“I want us to stop saying we are supporting HBCUs and actually start supporting HBCUs,” she told the rally.
Frosh’s Republican opponent for Attorney General Craig Wolf also attended, and blamed Frosh for the lack of a settlement.
“Our historically black colleges and universities need to be sufficiently funded,” he said “We’re in the same place we were four years ago. I lay the blame on Brian Frosh. He’s had four years to solve this problem.”
Via Baltimore Sun
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