"Campus plans overlooked blacks"

Sixth in a series
Retriever (Volume 16, Number 10)
November 2, 1981
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Many persons believe a county site was selected for UMBC as opposed to a city site in order to cut down the number of Blacks interested in attending.

The school was advertised while still on the drawing board, primarily in newspapers and in high schools that serve a white clientele.

"Let's face it," said the UMBC director of Admissions and Registration, "we are dealing with the remnants of a segregated school system. Although policy is no longer formulated to keep Blacks out that is sometimes exactly the result."

The university's system of financial aid, admissions standards, location, reputation, and atmosphere seem the primary stumbling blocks to increased black enrollment.

Reginald Lawrence, then assistant director for Admissions, and now director of the office of Human Relations stated that the financial aid process was a stumbling block for many Black students. He identified the major culprits as the processing fee and the processing time. "It takes a month to save $3, usually without family encouragement. They have to plan now, or go to work.

One official personally in favor of open admission for state institutions, drew an analogy between a university that refused to educate certain people because they did not have a certain level of knowledge to a doctor who refused to treat certain people unless they are well. A university's responsibility, agreed Lawrence, is to develop, not gauge, a person's ability.

In 1970, a major report on UMBC was published in the Retriever. The report was compiled by the New University Conference (NUC) at UMBC, a faculty organization that described itself as a "rational organization of radicals who work in, around, and in spite of institutions of higher education." The results of this study were extensive. The following exerpts from that report, through entitled, "Racism in Maryland Higher Education with Special Reference to UMBC."

I) Scope of the problem
... "The United States office of Education rejected the state's plan for integrating facilities as inadequate. Not suprisingly since one of only four proposals for UMBC was to have the entire Baltimore metropolitan community become acquainted with the campus."

The report cited severe criticisms of the Warfield plan, a Governor's commission that presented recommendations about upgrading Maryland higher education.

"The Warfield Commission recommended the upgrading of white teachers colleges (Frostburg, Salisbury, and Towson) but did not plan at all for Coppin State Teachers College, and Morgan State College, all Black, though it agreed that the teachers college as we know it is on the way to oblivion. Evidently it found it unnecessary to 'enrich the depth and breadth of teacher education' for Black teachers." The Commission recommended conversion of all three white teachers colleges to branches of the university but proposed nothing for the black schools."

In a section of the report entitled, "Bringing Blacks to UMBC," The NUC criticized two early university policies, public transportation and city recruitment.

... "This opening need not, however, have destroyed the hopes of the inner city Black community for a readily available branch of the university, if the university had taken certain positive actions. The university could have, but did not, press to have the bus rerouted to the campus or to have a permanent and regular shuttle service established and publicized before recruiting began. With convenient corporation logic, the argument was: first let's see the need; then we'll get the service."

Further criticism was raised in regard to allegation of segregational recruiting practices by the university upon UMBC's first opening.

"But this is not the only reason few Blacks have shown up at UMBC. One key figure may have been the Registrar-recruiter for over the first two years of UMBC's operation, who flatly decline to recruit in predominantly Black city schools. Here there was never question of circumventing the university's admissions requirements, but simply of recruiting Black students who met those these requirements... Hence, there was no recruiting and not even any publicity about UMBC directed at the city. The publicity blackout was a deliberate policy of the administration."

At this point is evident that the report attempted to show that UMBC had no intention or planning to serve inner city students. Since it had provided neither recruiting or adequate transportation during its first years.

The report concluded with several proposals it believed could help eliminate the problems it had accused the university of causing. The wording of the conclusions were as follows:

"This has documented the change of institutionalized racism against UMBC and the Maryland State System of Higher Education, and has discussed proposals which would allow the university to meet the educational needs of all the people of Maryland. The UMBC chapter of the New University Conference advocates the institution of these proposals, specifically: 1) Adoption of a policy of open admission to all institutions of the state system of higher education. 2) Inauguration of a Black Studies Program at UMBC and at other instiutions in the state. 3) Initiation of programs guaranteeing equality of participation by blacks in all phases of university life, at UMBC and at other state institutions.

Charges of racism against UMBC did not go unanswered however, in a response to the charges, Chancellor Albin O. Kuhn said that "the University was working hard to over come those handicaps. Due mostly to direct intensive recruiting Black enrollments doubled that year. Dr. Kuhn expressed dissatisfaction with representation of Blacks in the faculty. In his "State of the University" address he stated that he intended to "question those who propose appointments to fill new vacant positions to determine whether a concerted effort" had been made to find a qualified Black person to fill the position." He also stated that plans for a Black Studies Department were underway and that he was hopeful that the program would be instituted in the coming fall.

Evidence indicates that the impact of the April 1970 "State of the University" address that he would not remain at UMBC after Spring 1971. The move followed a Board of Regents decision that there be separate chancellors for UMBC and for the Baltimore Professional Schools. Dr. Kuhn stated that he would retain his position at the Baltimore campus.

In his closing statements about UMBC and its future. Kuhn cited many points:

  • He predicted a rapid enrollment increase in the future.
  • He called for an increased effort in enrolling Black students, and in hiring Black faculty and staff members.

The departure of Chancellor Kuhn marked the end of UMBC innocence as an institution. It would now be faced with many critical challenges that would continue through the rest of its youthful years.


Continue to part seventh, "Lee hired to develop campus"
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