By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun
7:21 PM EST, January 16, 2013
A Morgan State University alumnus who is leading a coalition suing the state over discrimination at historically black colleges and universities has criticized the university's embattled president for showing "minimal interest and involvement in the lawsuit."
David J. Burton, president of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, wrote in a letter to Dallas R. Evans, chair of Morgan's Board of Regents, saying university president David J. Wilson's actions could "be interpreted as his being against rather than in support of the Coalition's case."
In early December, the regents abruptly moved not to extend Wilson's contract when it expired at the end of the academic year — a decision that drew fire from faculty members, students and alumni who praised Wilson's vision for the university. The regents voted 8-7 in a closed session to seek a replacement for Wilson, who has led the university for 21/2 years.
Late last month, the regents — with the exception of Evans — voted to give Wilson a new contract for an additional year at the university. The regents are slated to meet Thursday, although the purpose of their meeting has not been disclosed.
In a harshly worded letter, Burton chastised Wilson for protesting the board's initial decision, saying Morgan appeared to be "torn apart by the turmoil created by the President." He noted that other presidents did not protest when forced out of the state's public universities.
"I do not understand why the Morgan Board is tolerating it," Burton wrote. "To allow the president to create havoc at the university by presenting only his version of the Board's action is inappropriate."
Neither Evans nor Wilson responded to a request for comment.
Wilson has kept his public remarks brief since the board's decisions, but did appear at a rally organized by students and faculty in his support last month. A couple of weeks later, hundreds of students, alumni, professors and community leaders packed the board's most recent meeting to show their support for Wilson, and many testified to the board on his behalf.
Burton, a 1967 Morgan graduate, leads a group that filed a 2006 suit contending the state has systematically discriminated against Morgan and three other historically black institutions. The suit demands additional funding for the historically black colleges and universities and asks that the state dismantle programs at other universities that are similar to those at the black institutions.
The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake. Both parties agreed to discuss a settlement last summer.
Burton also criticized what he said were efforts by state legislators to limit the terms of Morgan's regents, many of whom have served on the board for 20 or 30 years. Such a move "raises serious questions about the role of these individuals in seeding the current circumstance at the Morgan campus," he said, adding that "the current board has served Morgan well for over three decades."
Burton wrote that Wilson, who testified at the coalition's behest, has only met with him twice since taking office. "He has not shown further interest in being kept abreast of the case or otherwise being involved," he wrote.
Wilson has said that university attorneys advised him to remain neutral on the suit.
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