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Maryland's black lawmakers urge Gov. Hogan to meet with them to help settle long-running HBCU lawsuit

Maryland’s black lawmakers are asking Gov. Larry Hogan to meet with them to discuss settling a long-running lawsuit that alleges the state fostered segregation at its public universities.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland delivered a letter Friday to Hogan’s office, seeking the meeting “to resolve what we view not as a legal matter, but rather, a matter of political will.”

Representatives from the state’s four historically black universities — Morgan State and Coppin State universities in Baltimore, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne — accused the state of allowing well-funded programs at historically white universities to undermine similar programs at the HBCUs.

The lawsuit was first filed 12 years ago, and the courts ruled in 2013 that the state’s actions did perpetuate segregation.

Members of the black caucus asked for a meeting within 10 days, but Hogan’s office said the governor would discuss the lawsuit when he has a meeting with the group on Feb. 7.

“We 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 in a statement.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court issued an order telling both sides in the lawsuit to meet to work toward remedies. The court set a deadline of April 30.

Members of the black caucus have met with lawyers from both sides and hope to act as intermediaries to bring the parties together, said Del. Darryl Barnes, a Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs the caucus.

“The black caucus is unified in our request that the HBCU lawsuit be settled,” Barnes said.

In the letter to Hogan, Barnes wrote that the governor’s previous offer of $100 million over 10 years is “woefully inadequate” to settle the case. He noted that a similar lawsuit in Mississippi in 2002 was settled for $503 million.

The lawyers for the universities previously sought to have some academic programs transferred from traditionally white universities to the historically black universities. They also proposed creating programs at the HBCUs to attract a diverse student body and sought more money for scholarships and marketing.

pwood@baltsun.com

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