The membership of a Maryland Higher Education Commission task force that will study consolidation of Morgan State University and Coppin State College was designed to win the support of the local black community, says a member of the panel.
Quentin R. Lawson, vice chairman of the commission, was appointed yesterday to head the all-black 10-member panel that is expected to file a report on the controversial merger proposal with the state board next July.
Lawson said he believes the members of the task force, which includes representatives of Coppin's and Morgan's alumni associations, former Baltimore school Superintendent Alice Pinderhughes and Anne Emery, president of the local chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, will conduct the study as a "due and open process." That will help win support for the proposed merger, Lawson said.
The panel may get a white member, Lawson said.
The task force will study academic programs, how to establish "cooperation" between professional and graduate programs and enhancements at both Baltimore institutions with the goal of molding a strong doctoral-granting urban institution, Lawson said.
The schools have been ordered to cut a total of $5 million from their operating budgets since last year, and consolidation of certain programs would make state funds -- shrinking because of the recession -- go further, he added.
But the plan remains controversial.
Yesterday, several hundred students and their supporters rallied against the proposed merger at Coppin State.
On Sept. 8, about 200 people protested the plan in an event sponsored by the Committee Against the Study of Consolidation of Coppin and Morgan, a group formed by former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell and Samuel T. Daniels, grandmaster of the Prince Hall Masons.
The Sept. 8 protesters included Coppin State President Calvin W. Burnett, who told the crowd the schools "belong to the black community" and not the General Assembly.
Lawson predicted the study will produce ideas to "better" conditions for students, faculty and administrators at Coppin and Morgan.
"The results of the study could pale the concerns of the political groups," Lawson said. "The members carry sufficient credibility and sufficient representation that eventually the most adamant of the opponents of the study will realize that this is not a foregone conclusion."
Because of the controversy surrounding the issue, Lawson said, state Higher Education Secretary Shaila Aery interviewed each candidate for the task force.
Aery, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Coppin and Morgan State alumni and members of the Legislative Black Caucus met last month to discuss Aery's merger proposal. Aery also has proposed a study of the merger of University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Maryland at Baltimore.