Several hundred people endured sauna-like temperatures inside the Willard W. Allen Masonic Temple in Bolton Hill yesterday to send a simple message to state officials eager to merge Morgan State University and Coppin State College: No.
"No merger, no study," declared the Rev. Vernon N. Dobson at a rally organized by the Committee Against the Study of the Consolidation of Coppin and Morgan.
The committee, headed by former U.S. Representative Parren J. Mitchell and Samuel T. Daniels, grandmaster of the Prince Hall Masons, opposes a plan by state higher education officials to study a merger of Baltimore's two historically black colleges.
Shaila Aery, the state's higher education secretary, announced the study two months ago along with a plan to reconsider a much larger consolidation of the University of Maryland at Baltimore and UM Baltimore County. The mergers could save the state money by eliminating duplication at the four campuses, creating two strong Baltimore-based universities, she said.
But that's not the way Valicia Davis, a 21-year-old senior at Morgan State, sees the merger. Ms. Davis, who attended yesterday's rally with three college classmates, said the consolidation of Morgan and Coppin would take away resources from the black community and, more importantly, a link to the past.
"If they merge the two schools," she said, "they're taking away a piece of our history."
Opponents of the merger accused the state of underfunding Maryland's black colleges and trying to eliminate them.
"The state has yet to make an ample investment in these two schools," Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told the crowd. "Let the state invest in these institutions instead of studying their merger."
Calvin W. Burnett, president of Coppin State, urged those at the rally to fight the proposed merger, which he said would result in fewer educational opportunities for blacks.
"These institutions belong to the black community," he said. "They don't belong to the General Assembly or anyone else."
He also disputed the benefits of a merger, insisting that Coppin and Morgan have different missions and different programs.
"It makes no educational sense," Mr. Burnett said. "There is no educational justification for it."