A special task force has recommended against merging the predominantly black University of Maryland Eastern Shore with the larger and predominantly white Salisbury State College, only 12 miles away.
Instead, urged the task force, UMES should retain its black identity for the time being, but its academic program should be strengthened and a campaign should be undertaken to attract more students.
John W.T. Webb, chairman of the task force and a Salisbury lawyer, told a news briefing "there is almost unanimous opposition from the general public in the region, administration, faculty, students and alumni of both institutions to the idea of a merger."
He said members of the task force shared those feelings, especially in regards to "the swallowing up of a black institution by a white institution." tr for ad 1
The task force was appointed by the Maryland State Board of Higher Education last spring in response to recommendation from a legislative analyst that UMES be shut down because it cost too much to operate.
That recommendation triggered a storm of protest, particularly from black organizations, and in March higher education commissioner Sheldon H. Knorr announced that UMES would not be closed but that merger with Salisbury State would be studied.
In announcing the recommendations of the seven member task force, four white and three black, Webb said that in order to strengthen UMES, "the board of regents of the University of Maryland must be required to reassign areas and programs of strength, substance and uniqueness to UMES, and to institute an intensive program for increased enro am for increased enrollment.
One specific proposal he suggested was that the School of Agriculture at College Park be moved across the bay to UMES at Princess Anne on the lower Eastern Shore.
Additionally Webb said, his committee will recommended to the State Board of Higher Educaton that steps be taken to see that the missions of both Salisbury State and UMES be spelled out clearly and that there by no duplication of programs.
"UMES should be specified as an institution specializing in agricultural sciences, environmental sciences and marine and estuarine studies, both on the graduate and undergraduate level. Salisbury State should operate as a strong liberal arts institution with a specified enrollment limitation," Webb said.
He added that the University of Maryland implemented a 1970 recommendation calling for a strengthening of programs at UMES and an increase by 1980 to an enrollment of 3,000 students, "today's crisis situation would not exist."
Currently UMES has 909 students, 80 per cent of whom are black while Salisbury State has 3,037 students, all but a handful of whom are white. Supporters of UMES have argued that Salisbury State has been expanding its programs and, in effect, competing with UMES for students, slowing the pace of integration of the UMES campus.
Webb said that while the task force's recommendation will permit UMES to retain its black identity for the time being, he expects that as enrollment there increases the school will someday be predominantly white.