Speaking Thursday from his seat in the Senate chamber, Miller suggested that the state give Bowie State University money to establish a law school, help fund the purchase of additional land for Morgan State University in Baltimore and reward the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore for a successful physical therapy degree program by creating another sought-after academic curriculum there.
Miller, a Democrat, urged Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to come up with a meaningful offer to settle the suit.
“This is our message to the second floor,” Miller said, referring to the location of the governor’s office in the State House. “We’re here to help. You come up with a program. You come up with a way to solve this issue. We need a win-win.”
Hogan has offered $100 million in extra funding to the universities over 10 years, but HBCU supporters called that inadequate.
“We are in the process of mediation and remain interested in reaching an agreement that will conclude the case in a way that is fair and equitable for Maryland’s college students,” Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill said Thursday in a statement.
Representatives from the state’s four historically black schools — Morgan State and Coppin State universities in Baltimore, Bowie State and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne — have accused the state of allowing well-funded programs at historically white universities to undermine similar programs at the HBCUs.
The lawsuit was filed 12 years ago, and the courts ruled in 2013 that the state’s actions perpetuated segregation. A federal court ordered mediation to work toward remedies. The court set a deadline of April 30.
The governor has declined to discuss the details because the court has ordered the negotiations to be conducted confidentially. However, Hogan has said he hopes to resolve the lawsuit, supports HBCUs and has offered them increased funding since he’s been in office.
Miller said he hopes the case can be settled without an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We need to resolve it right now,” he said.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland have urged Hogan to come up with what they call a meaningful offer to settle the lawsuit.
And the Maryland Democratic Party issued a statement Thursday, also calling for a resolution.
The HBCUs “have long played a critical role in our state by educating generations of African-Americans,” said, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the party’s chairwoman. “The Maryland Democratic Party fully stands with our HBCUs, and we believe that swift resolution of the lawsuit would be ideal for all parties involved.”