Morgan State seeks greater autonomy

January 14, 2004|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

Morgan State University President Earl S. Richardson said yesterday that the college will press ahead with its request for more autonomy despite legislative criticism of Morgan's compilation of a dossier on the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings as he fought cancer last year.

In his first public statements on the issue, Richardson said he is confident that new revelations about Morgan's strained relationship with Rawlings, who died in November, will not hurt its prospects during the General Assembly session that starts today.

"He's passed now, and we don't intend to resurrect any discussions of that," said Richardson, speaking after a Morgan Board of Regents meeting. "For us, the delegate has passed, and that whole issue is dead."

The Sun recently reported that Morgan's general counsel spent much of last spring assembling a lengthy report to use against Rawlings in future legislative showdowns.

Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and Morgan alumnus, had long criticized the college's management practices and fought its efforts to gain more autonomy.

Morgan is a public institution that receives $48 million a year in state operating funds, but it is not part of the state's 11-campus university system.

While it has gained greater authority in some areas, it must still seek state approval for many purchases. The system's other schools have less state oversight.

Morgan's research about Rawlings included requesting the tax records of an organization he was associated with and his ethics disclosure forms.

University officials deny that was an investigation, saying they were only trying to organize a response to Rawlings' criticisms of the university.

Key state lawmakers said last month that revelations of the research could hurt Morgan's push for greater autonomy and its request for a 15 percent increase in operating funds for next year.

Del. Norman H. Conway, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said yesterday that he had yet to talk with a colleague on the Senate budget committee about whether to schedule a hearing on the Rawlings report.

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