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Invest in Coppin, don’t ‘align’ it

Winky Camphor, left, 91, and his wife, Peaches Camphor, 82, both retired educators, have donated roughly $200,000 to their alma mater, Coppin State University. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun video)

Isn’t it interesting that during a time when Coppin State University is in a national search for a new president and, therefore, most vulnerable, that a proposal is made for “alignment” with another institution — a proposal lacking transparency and made without input of key stakeholders? It has not been defined how this “alignment” is to happen, nor which institution, as there must be a lead, will be at the helm.

Coppin State University National Alumni Association irrevocably rejects a proposal of any alignment that may prove to be detrimental to the accessibility of education for underrepresented populations, the mission and vision of Coppin, the growth and sustainability of academic programs and the branding of the university — a 119-year-old historically black institution initially established to educate and provide opportunities for the disenfranchised. Coppin has a strong legacy that continues to impact and inspire every fraction of this city and beyond.

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Despite challenges, which include underfunding and misrepresentation, Coppin has prevailed and continues to live its mission and embrace the tenets of our namesake, Fanny Jackson Coppin — who was born a slave and went on to become an educator, missionary and warrior against oppression — while educating our community, city and beyond from cradle to elderhood, promoting life-long learning, personal and family engagement, and enhancement of community.

Though it is admirable that other institutions may want to “align” or “merge” with Coppin State University, the truth is that Coppin continues to offer many students the opportunity to receive an affordable education essential for personal, professional and economic stability that directly impacts this community, city and state. It is estimated that 80% of Coppin graduates remain in the community. Coppin has proven to be a great resource to the economic power and intelligentsia of this city and region, helping develop leaders in education, law enforcement, nursing, health care and mental health fields, as well as in non-profit entities, scientific research, and local and state government.

Coppin State University's graduation ceremony is held at Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Coppin State University's graduation ceremony is held at Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Contrary to what has been stated, over the years Coppin has fostered long-term continuous partnerships with institutions of higher learning in Maryland including University of Baltimore, Frostburg, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Towson University and Baltimore City Community College. For example, one of the strongest graduate programs in Baltimore is a collaboration between Coppin and University of Baltimore: the Human Services Administration program, which graduated its 19th cohort May 2019. This collaboration is especially innovative in that students take 50% of required courses at CSU and 50% at University of Baltimore. This novel collaboration was the first of its kind in the nation between a historically black college or university and a traditionally white institution, and it continues to grow. Successful partnerships have been developed out of state as well, including a STEM partnership with University of Michigan that included an exchange of faculty.

The complexity of a new governance structure a would add additional layers complicating further partnerships and not add to efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative efforts.

Coppin State University is also a participant in the much-publicized Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland Higher Education Commission. How will this proposed alignment impact the lawsuit, which seeks reparations for years of inequity within Maryland’s higher education system? In 2017, it was noted that an alignment or collaboration of this sort between University of Baltimore and CSU would not solve concerns of budgetary issues, inequity or duplication of programs.

Coppin State University fully appreciates its mission, responsibility and obligation to our students, city and state. As we continue the path forward to meet academic, workforce and societal needs, appropriate academic initiatives and partnerships will be implemented, stronger community engagement will be fostered, and the west Baltimore hub will be strengthened.

Coppin State University, remains of great value to this city and state and provides immeasurable return on the investment. Provide Coppin State University the resources that it so richly deserves and allow the university to prosper and grow as it should.

Mary Owens-Southall (mowens@coppin.edu) is president of Coppin State University National Alumni Association. This position is supported by the association, as well as the Coppin State Faculty Senate and Coppin State University Local 1356 of AFSCME Union.

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