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Sojourner-Douglass College will overcome its present difficulties [Letter]

Your recent story on Sojourner Douglass College revealed these students' distress and uncertainty about their futures ("With Sojourner-Douglass' accreditation in jeopardy, students in limbo," March 30).

As an African-American who once experienced a similar situation at Morgan State University in the 1960s, I'm feeling those students' pain. During my four-years at Morgan our college was constantly and consistently underfunded and ignored while students were treated as second-class citizens by being denied the most basic necessities.

Yet we students responded by successfully completing our education and went on to graduate despite the continuing budgetary barriers and academic hurdles we had to overcome.

Because Morgan taught us that we "must never lose hope for the future," I'm very hopeful these students will also be inspired to maintain their faith that Sojourner-Douglass College's present difficulties are merely a temporary setback that likewise can be overcome.

The Sun's story revealed an effort to cast blame for the college's poor financial and accreditation posture from certain students as well as faculty and staff persons. However, as one who has been extremely close and involved with the college and its president, Charles Simmons, in a collaborative and holistic effort to resolve its many problems, I want to completely dispel, dispute and correct the record relative to the issue of just who is at fault or blame for the college's poor fiscal and accreditation conditions.

First as is very often the case, there is plenty of "fault and blame," which quite truthfully we all must jointly and collectively endeavor to share and take full responsibility therefore, as we move forward. Indeed, exactly what happened at the college in past years relative to its finances and accreditation may not even be relevant or material to the very important and equally controlling question as to just how we all move forward together in resolving this very critical and determinative questions.

Notwithstanding, the opinion of a handful of students and faculty, President Simmons has in fact done what can only be described as a very extraordinary job of guiding the college throughout the last seven years, which have been negatively affected by the worst economic recession since the 1930s. We are of a strong and unambiguous belief that absolutely no human being would have done a better job than Mr. Simmons.

If the truth is told, the president will be greatly applauded and honored for a job well done. Under the most difficult and unbearable fiscal and other conditions and environment, long and deeply embedded in the college's organic culture and operational systems which no one man can reasonably be expected to successfully manage not to mention conquer.

Finally, our newly formed "Interfaith and Business Alliance" has taken off with a big or even gigantic bang. We have already had several successful organizational meetings with key government, business and labor leaders, with more meetings scheduled for future months, for we know that Sojourner-Douglass College's long-term fiscal and academic solvency and stability must be viewed and approached pursuant to a "long-term" strategic plan.

Even now, with all the students' and faculty's expressions of discontent and mal satisfaction with the college's management of its fiscal and academic resources, it will nonetheless completely survive its current troubles, and soon return to compete and absolute fiscal and academic solvency and stability for future years. Thus, all Sojourner Douglas College's students can now fully rest assured that both its fiscal and academic troubles can and will be completely and timely remedied which will render their Sojourner Douglas College academic degree fully negotiable and acceptable, exactly as it is now.

This development represents a completely different and radical changed picture told and pointed by The Sun. This radical and changed picture of the college simply underscores how ordinary citizens possess the power and ability to effectuate transformative change in their local communities of and when they come together under a common banner, with full and equal respect and admiration for our different views, opinions and positions. The college's many financial and academic difficulties could clearly have been completely avoided if we in the larger community had reached out and thrown it a lifeline. Indeed, our entire community, Black and white, stood idly by and did nothing while the college drowned in red ink, neglect as well as outright bureaucratic obfuscation and inertia from our elected and political leaders.

It is patently amazing and absolutely unacceptable how our high elected political leaders have each very arbitrarily and capriciously rebirthed that ole bankrupted racially biased, "Separate but Equal" policy completely invalidated in the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board, Equal Protection Case. What is happening to this great and historic Black College speaks higher volumes about our city and state elected political leaders than it reflects badly upon the college and its administrative managers.

Both our city and state political leaders seem to have ultra viresly and at times, unlawfully adopted and pursued a certain economic and business assistance public policy which is deeply slanted toward and in fact, principally favors rich and powerful developers whose only notable qualifications for public assistance are their penchant and ability to make large campaign contributions. Indeed, our elected political leaders have been tiding the large White developers and penny-pinching our Black business and educational institutions like Sojourner Douglas College. That the State's Executive Department would have the audacity to give White-owned H & S properties $47 million as an unconditional gift to ostensibly complete construction work on its Inner Harbor East Four Seasons luxury hotel is patently insane and borders upon favoritism and extravagance.

That the Baltimore City Mayor and Council would outright grant the White developers for the infamous Harbor Point development project a total of $107 million, while historic Sojourner Douglas College is forced into insolvency smack at invidious and obvious racism. Indeed, this is racial politics and subjugation at its very lowest, evidencing absolutely no good, positive and redeeming values.

However, our Black business and educational institutions will someday be completely vindicated and free, for somewhere I read that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Thus, as our great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once remarked: " We shall overcome, we shall overcome because while the arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlye is right, no lie can live forever. We shall overcome William Cullen Bryant is right, truth crushed to earth will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, truth forever on the scalpel, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scalpel sways the future. And so with this faith, we will be able to hue out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope, with this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our Nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Yes, we will be able to speed up the day, when all of God's children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, all over this nation will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last."

Arnold M. Jolivet

The writer is Co-convener of the Interfaith and Business Alliance for the Preservation and Enhancement of Historic Sojourner-Douglass College.

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