Protect our Inner HarborEdward Gunts' timely article,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Protect our Inner Harbor

Edward Gunts' timely article, ("Barging in on the Inner Harbor," June 25) drew needed attention to the irony of letting entrepreneurial developers like David Cordish and merchant titans like the ESPN Zone direct the revitalization of our waterfront. Their commercial interests may not coincide with what is really best for Baltimore.

We have had 20 years to see that it is the waterfront that draws visitors. The ability to walk right up to the water's edge and look up at a huge ship just a few feet away is a precious gift.

Restaurants can locate anywhere, but tall ships need a waterway and the citizens of Baltimore need better protection for theirs.

Elizabeth H. Lehmann

Phoenix

My husband and I recently returned from visiting the tall ships in the Inner Harbor. Prior to that we had a delightful dinner in one of the many new restaurants down in Canton.

As we strolled through the crowded harbor, staring up in awe at the magnificent sailing ships, I couldn't help but reflect on the origin of the Inner Harbor. I distinctly remember the protests from the owners of restaurants in Little Italy. I recall "anti" Inner Harbor posters that were in many of the restaurants.

I remember people from Boston coming to Baltimore to tell us about the pitfalls of Faneuil Hall, upon which the Inner Harbor was to be patterned. I recollect many environmentalists complaining that the project would spoil the view of the natural harbor.

However, I also recall that William Donald Schaefer fought for this wonderful centerpiece to our city and won.

With the advent of the Inner Harbor came a restaurant boom, hotel boom, football and baseball stadiums, an aquarium and a science center, as well a revitalization of Federal Hill, Canton and Locust Point.

After my wonderful evening out, I just wanted to personally thank our former mayor and governor, William Donald Schaefer. His goals were always that which would make our state a better place in which to live.

Barbara Blumberg

Baltimore

If Rob Kasper wonders where all of the tourists to the Inner Harbor come from ("Harborplace Sails Along Smoothly," July 1) I ask him to come to The Top of the World in the World Trade Center.

I have been a volunteer docent up there for almost all of those 20 years, and I can tell you that visitors come from all over the world. I continue to be amazed at the array of nationalities, as attested to by our guest register.

These foreign visitors from Australia to Zimbabwe and out-of-staters are more interested in the planning, history and growth of the area, than are the local shoppers and snackers.

Bob Odenheimer

Baltimore

It is my hope that everyone read "Barging in on the Inner Harbor" by Edward Gunts. It should be reprinted. It is a true report on our Inner Harbor written by a very knowledgeable person.

This type of construction should end, along with so many marinas. As an example, the view from Bay Cafe in Canton was lovely. Now there are two big marinas on either side.

Twenty years ago, it was such a delight to stroll around the harbor and enjoy the water. Now there isn't much water to see. We are losing more and more water and waterfront to development as big dollar signs take over.

Do I enjoy going to the Inner Harbor and will I continue to go? Yes. However, much has been lost that cannot be regained.

We are trying to preserve Maryland's open spaces. What about our precious waterfront in Baltimore?

Jean R. Harmon

Baldwin

Debating merits of Morgan's engineering program

Will the real Morgan State University stand up?

Is it a "stellar" institution, a "sterling" institution as stated by Jamal-Harrison Bryant (letter, June 30)? Or is it one whose lights would dim if there were an alternative to its monopoly on electrical engineering programs in the Baltimore area?

The same supporter argues both points in the same letter. I want to know just how an alternative program at an integrated institution would hurt Morgan at all. It won't make a significant impact by drawing away non-black students. They only make up a tiny fraction of the enrollment in Morgan's electrical engineering program.

Given the fact that black students have the opportunity of attending an all-black institution, and many seem to prefer this, I don't see the UMBC program drawing down the black enrollment in that program, either.

So where's the beef? What harm could a little honest competition do to such a fine institution? It's not like Morgan was losing its program, or even losing students.

Now let's discuss that overused word "diversity."

Morgan is the least racially diverse institution in the Baltimore area. Yet it is held up as a model for increasing diversity. How? Is it because it increases the total numbers of black college graduates?

Or is it because by admitting and graduating students with poorer academic credentials it makes the crop of college graduates more diverse by including some of the inner city poor?

Both points are argued by Morgan supporters. On the first point, Morgan existed and graduated students back in the days of legal segregation by race. So its role in graduating black students has been a continuing one.

If there is an increase in black graduates, we can credit the integrated institutions. Their number of black graduates has gone from zero to significant. On the second point, a case can be made for outreach programs and playing the role of "urban university." But care must be taken that academic standards do not slip.

Now who says Morgan's standards for admission and graduation are lower? James L. Fisher, a defender of the Morgan monopoly, is one.

He states that Morgan students with SAT scores high enough to warrant admission elsewhere have higher graduation rates than equally qualified students in other institutions.

In other words, Morgan admits students with lower scores; and students with high scores find it easier to graduate at Morgan than elsewhere. These are not my statistics, they are Dr. Fisher's.

There is indeed racism at work here -- and it is not white racism. The promoters of Morgan want Morgan's position to be enhanced by any means necessary precisely because it is a historically all-black institution.

Morgan is therefore to be measured by a different yardstick than integrated institutions. I thought we got rid of that kind of thinking during the implementation of the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education court decision?

Perhaps we should merge Towson and Morgan, pick a new name, and get rid of segregated schools once and for all

Peggy Stiegmann

Eldersburg

The Sun's June 25 editorial states that "economic development efforts (in Maryland)are hurt because the state's public universities don't produce enough graduates in this field to meet the demand."

The Sun adequately and accurately put forth the problem. However, its solution, to establish an undergraduate electrical engineering program focused on photonics, optical communications and image processing at UMBC instead of expanding the existing program at Morgan is as shortsighted as it is divisive.

If Morgan is inferior to UMBC, as the editorial implies, and if "what Morgan lacks are the types of superlative programs that attract the best and brightest students of all races," then what is the reason for denying Morgan what it expressly needs?

Since regional economic development is as much a goal as producing electrical engineers, all of the public universities, including Morgan, ought to be provided with resources sufficient to attract students of any race.

Over the last two decades, Morgan has been phenomenally accurate in anticipating fields of potential academic need. As a result of painstaking efforts it has created an academic niche for itself in at least three disciplines; electrical engineering, business administration and the doctoral program in education.

That niche has paralleled growth in those professions. Now that Morgan has achieved some measure of success and is poised to reap the benefits of that success, other public universities, including UMBC, want to move in.

While UMBC, The Sun and others protest Morgan's monopoly, during the past 10 years the University of Maryland, College Park has experienced a decline in the enrollment of undergraduates in its electrical engineering program.

If UMBC is granted permission to establish a program, it will not only be a duplication of Morgan's program, but will also duplicate the under-enrolled program at the College Park campus.

If UMBC is permitted to establish a program, it will undoubtedly be better funded than the Morgan program, reviving the "separate, but unequal" practices discredited by the Supreme Court in 1954.

The editorial implies there is something wrong with Morgan because its student enrollment is 98 percent black. There is nothing sinister, wrong or criminal about the configuration of the student body at Morgan State.

Its doors are open to all races and students choose to or not to matriculate there. You will undoubtedly find, however, a greater proportion of white faculty at Morgan than African-American faculty at UMBC. The Sun would have Morgan become the victim of its own success, punished for the very excellence it was mandated to achieve.

I propose that the funding that would be used to create a parallel program at UMBC be instead used to expand and improve the already established and proven electrical engineering program at Morgan, putting taxpayer money to the best use.

Luther James Perry

Baltimore

Baltimore has the education infrastructure to establish itself as a powerful hub of the new economy. Unfortunately, at a time when our economic potential looks bright, growth at local institutions of higher education is being stunted by shortsighted public policy.

Backed by the federal Office of Civil Rights, and on advice of the Maryland attorney general, the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) recently denied a doctoral program in education at Towson University and a doctoral program in business at the University of Baltimore.

A bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering proposed by the University of Maryland Baltimore County appears to be next for denial.

Policymakers consider all three programs as unnecessary duplication of existing programs at Morgan State University, and, therefore, harmful to the development of the historically black institution.

In a response to UMBC's proposal for a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, MHEC advised that such a program "appears to be an unreasonable program duplication, which would cause demonstrable harm to another institution, in this instance, Morgan State University."

It also said the proposal appears to be "in violation of the state's equal educational opportunity obligations under state and federal law, again adversely affecting the comparable and existing Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at Morgan State University."

Given the boom in technology firms in the greater Baltimore region, a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering at UMBC is essential to continued workforce development.

A 1992 MHEC Task Force on Engineering Education identified electrical engineering as one of the fastest-growing fields in Maryland and recommended that UMBC develop a proposal for a new undergraduate electrical engineering program.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics State Occupational Projections (1996-2006) predicts 480 job openings per year in Maryland for electrical engineers over the next five years. Maryland colleges and universities currently produce fewer than 300 graduates a year.

While our own colleges and universities cannot produce enough workers, Maryland businesses are forced to look elsewhere. Local companies are turning more frequently to surrounding states and even to foreign countries to fill open positions.

If we plan to effectively fill the technology work-force gap, we must rely on our local colleges and universities.

UMBC, with strong programs in science and engineering, is able to prepare large numbers of talented students for careers in technology fields. This is demonstrated through its production of 40 percent of Maryland's bachelor degrees in information technology. But it can do more.

When free to meet market demand, UMBC has a track record of quickly responding to the needs of the work force. Its computer-engineering program, started two years ago, has already enrolled more than 200 majors. If given the opportunity, UMBC would draw on its powerful optical communications and optical networking faculty to create the next generation of engineers to fill jobs in the red-hot fields of fiber optics and wireless communications.

Once a segregated state, Maryland is now among the most diverse in the nation, and UMBC is model of that diversity. Founded in 1966 as a diverse institution, UMBC's undergraduate student body is 34 percent minority. African-Americans make up 16 percent of the student body and 22 percent of the undergraduates in engineering.

UMBC was among the first universities in the nation to receive the Presidential Award for Mentoring Minority Students in Science and Engineering and continues to be the only Maryland university to achieve this honor.

The Meyerhoff Scholars program has been hailed by the College Board's Task Force on Minority High Achievement for enabling minority students "to achieve at very high levels in engineering and science, and to go on to doctoral programs in large numbers."

It is unfortunate and illogical that UMBC, an institution considered to be a national model of diversity and excellence in science and engineering and the only institution in the nation with a graduate electrical engineering program without a complementary undergraduate program, would be denied the opportunity to bolster the numbers of engineers from all races and help Maryland close its technical work-force gap.

At a time when out-of-state recruiting and visas for foreign high-tech workers are on the rise, Maryland must be forward thinking in its approach to work-force development.

As demonstrated by MHEC's denial of programs at Towson, the University of Baltimore and UMBC, Maryland has spent too much time looking back.

Peter M. Martin

Baltimore

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Provident Bank, education committee chair for the Greater Baltimore Committee and a member of UMBC's Board of Visitors.

Mothers want identity revealed to adoptees

I am very distressed that someone with Howard Altstein's inability to see reason is training a future generation of social workers, most of whom will probably soon be practicing in Maryland ("Disclosure may hurt adoption," Opinion

Commentary, June 20).

He states that women who relinquished their children to adoption wanted to remain anonymous.

But surely he has seen studies from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services which indicated that 95 percent of women who relinquished do not want their identity hidden from their children.

He's right about one thing: Many relinquishing birth mothers who agreed to have their children adopted were "confused and in great distress" and, if minors, often under parental admonition to do so.

Until recently, abortion was not a legal option in Maryland. States where adoption records are open, such as Kansas where original birth certificates have been available to adult adoptees for 25 years or more, have statistically lower abortion rates than states that seal records.

He says the Supreme Court's decision reverses the historic granting of anonymity and violates solemn promises given by sanctioned authorities. But until 1946, adoption records in Maryland were not sealed. The requirement for anonymity comes from the agencies and not the birth mothers.

This time-honored history he speaks of is, in reality, a practice of less than 50 years and one that was urged upon legislatures by social workers like himself when the number of young, white, middle-class women pregnant out-of-wedlock increased dramatically.

What has lowered the number of white infants available for adoption is birth control and changing societal standards, not to mention welfare programs administered by social workers, that provide these young unwed mothers with other options, including keeping their children.

He says the court's decision to allow adult adoptees access to their birth mother's identities will complicate an already tenuous situation for adoptable children in foster care, conveniently overlooking that these measures allow adult adoptees -- who would be out of foster care by virtue of turning 18 -- to access their records.

He also ignores the fact that the largest majority of those children he's so concerned about (long-term foster children) will never face a question about "Who am I?" or "Who were my parents?" because they are living in foster care under the names they were given at birth.

Many are old enough to know and remember their biological history and are in most cases in contact with that biological family to some extent. Being adopted will not erase their memories, regardless of whether their records are sealed. And the reason these children remain hard to adopt has nothing to do with open records and everything to do with a preference for infants.

I am not a birth mother, but an adoptee, so I'll leave it to others to answer Altstein's question "What of the birth mother's rights?"

But I will say that most of those I know welcome the opening the original birth certificates to the adult adoptee because that will at least give them hope their child can find them.

I have not seen the study that Altstein claims to have made regarding inter-country adoption to verify his claim that prospective adoptive parents prefer foreign-born infants over American-born child so they won't have to deal with birth parents.

What a transparent fallacy. Again, the court's decision about open records laws in Oregon allows adult adoptees to have access to their original birth certificate.

My adoptive mother says that if you have not bonded with your adopted child by the time he/she is 18, you never will. We agree that opening birth records to that adult adoptee will not affect the relationship between adoptive parent and child, provided the parent is also prepared to act like an adult.

The law in Oregon also allows birth parents to express a contact preference. While not binding, it does allow those who wish not to be contacted to say so. So far the number of birth mothers who have exercised this option in Oregon is fewer than 30.

He may be right about how some prospective adoptive families feel about birth parents. It is a sad commentary on the motives of those parents. Adoption is supposed to be about what's in the best interest of the child, not about what is most convenient or most reassuring for the parents -- adoptive or biological.

In recent years, many loving adoptive families have been formed through open adoption, which allows both the biological parents and the custodial parents to share in the joys of watching a child grow to adulthood.

The Child Welfare League of America, the oldest and most respected professional association, and one which represents over 1,000 adoption agencies in the U.S., recently issued best-adoption practice standards that advocate open records for adult adoptees.

Only the National Council for Adoption, which represents fewer than 40 American adoption agencies, including the Gladney Agency of Texas (which placed adoptive children with Jeb Bush), opposes open records.

Ann Wilmer

Salisbury

The writer is national coordinator of the Green Ribbon Campaign for Open Records.

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