Coppin State in disarray, students tell committee

Grace-Kelly Anoma stood in front of a special committee convened to address Coppin State University's troubles and let loose with her frustrations.

Some professors teach by reading straight out of the textbook, Anoma told the panel Thursday evening. The dorms often run out of hot water. Students are frequently awarded financial aid, only to wait months for it to be posted to their accounts. The cafeteria food is inedible. Some staff have "the nastiest of attitudes."


"I'm one of those people where I feel like enough is enough," the sophomore nursing student said, drawing applause from a crowd of hundreds.

Anoma, 19, said she works two part-time jobs that add up to full-time work, on top of being a full-time student. Yet it can be difficult to find professors who care, she said.


"Who knows even a quarter of my story?" she asked.

Anoma was one of more than a dozen people who testified at a three-hour public hearing in front of the 15-member committee, which was formed at the request of University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan in December and is expected to finish its work in mid-May.

The committee is charged with recommending ways to reverse the university's problems, which include a six-year graduation rate that is among the worst in the nation.

Coppin President Reginald S. Avery stepped down in January, nearly a year after faculty members criticized his budget management and gave him a vote of no confidence. Mortimer H. Neufville is serving as interim president.

Alumni told the committee their advice or offers of help were ignored. Faculty wondered whether the school would lose its accreditation in its next review. Students worried they would be unable to compete in the job market with graduates from other schools in the region.

Their concerns drew applause or sighs of dismay from the crowd.

A few said they loved Coppin but wanted the university to get its act together. Others said they were considering leaving the school.

Efforts to reach Coppin officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Members of the committee, chaired by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, asked questions of those who testified and thanked them for their comments. Some panel members sought more information to help fix the problems.

The historically black university serves about 2,700 full-time undergraduates, most of them drawn from Baltimore schools. It has the lowest six-year graduation rate of all University System of Maryland institutions, at 16 percent in 2011.

One biology student said that the laboratories frequently lack hand soap and that half of the students in her anatomy class were failing. Several students said professors sometimes fail to show up for class and don't give notice.

Student Cynthia Jackson said she feels as if she has to teach herself. Recent graduate Anthony Littlejohn, who studied computer science, said he received little practical instruction.


Student LaShey Webb's testimony that the curricula in her classes were repetitive led two committee members to tell her to get in touch about internships.

"I feel like when I leave here, I'm not prepared for the outside world," said Webb, a senior who entered Coppin at age 16. "Challenge us, prepare us."

Errol Bolden, chair of the school of social work, brought about 30 students, faculty and alumni to surround him as he addressed the committee.

He spoke of a shortage of faculty and a growing enrollment in the school, and his concerns that the university could lose accreditation over "institutional negligence."

"We should not be made to feel we are at the precipice of disaster," Bolden said. "I know personally I cannot continue this way."


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