1,000 protest House budget

Morgan State crowd rallies for $3 million that was eliminated

Money to pay for library

Rawlings says mind is made up

Senate leader vows to help

April 05, 2002|By David Nitkin and Tim Craig | David Nitkin and Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Abandoning classrooms and shutting their school for the day, a thousand Morgan State University students swarmed Annapolis yesterday, demanding that the House of Delegates restore $3.1 million to the state budget for a long-awaited campus library.

The students, arriving in nine buses and dozens of cars, marched single-file around the state government complex, delivered speeches by bullhorn from the State House steps and clogged the office hallway of Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, during a brief sit-in. The demonstrations were moving but peaceful, and police made no arrests.

Campus leaders blame Rawlings for eliminating library money from the capital budget while negotiating deals with Gov. Parris N. Glendening to add buildings to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The Senate version of the budget maintains the library funding.

"You have attempted to insult and demean us, Mr. Rawlings," said Allen Blackwell, the student government vice president. "That is not right. That is not fair. That is not just. Clearly the dent in the economy is not a factor, since our sister institution is getting two, and possibly three, buildings."

Todd Tolson, 26, a senior from New York City, said the request was not frivolous. "We are not asking for a club, we are asking for a library," he said. "We cannot prepare for the world without one, and we will not stop until we get one."

Rawlings met with student leaders Wednesday, explaining that planning money for the replacement library wasn't needed because the proposed site has drainage and soil problems and might have a river running beneath it. He did not address students directly yesterday, brushing by some who approached him and saying he was sticking by his decision.

A Morgan alumnus who has a campus dormitory named for him, Rawlings bristled at the suggestion that he was shortchanging the historically black school.

"We were equal-opportunity cutters in the capital budget," Rawlings said, pointing out that his capital spending plan included $26 million for other Morgan projects and trimmed $18 million from UMBC and $44 million for a biotechnology center at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Improvements at Morgan's Baltimore campus are covered under an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights that calls for increased funding for Maryland's historically black schools over five years. Lawmakers say they are doing their share, but Morgan students say some of the projects are taking too long.

Some Morgan administrators said yesterday that UMBC projects appear to have leapfrogged ahead of theirs, a charge that UMBC officials deny.

Yesterday's demonstration drew praise from the several Morgan alumni who are General Assembly members, saying they saw shades of their own student activism.

"I think it is wonderful, and these kids are expressing their deep-held feelings," said Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a Baltimore Democrat and 1950 Morgan graduate who said he was among a group of students who came to Annapolis in 1947. "What I advise [Rawlings] to do is change his mind."

"It was the same issue when I was a student in 1969," said Del. Tony E. Fulton, who recalled barricading the state Senate building. "It needs to be done. It makes you proud of the students and your school."

Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden pledged that the library money would survive a negotiating session to resolve Senate and House budget differences.

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