The giant M implanted in a bank of flowers near the main entrance of the University of Maryland "still stands for 'massa,'" says a disgruntled black student at the University of Maryland's College Park campus.
Another black student, Lakita Stukes, now a sophmore, very nearly ended her academic career as a first-semester freshman by taking on a staggering load of astronomy, physics, psychology and three other courses.
"Being a freshman I didn't know what to take (so) I took all the things that looked good on the schedule," said Stukes, who came to College Park with top marks from high school but found no one to advise her on the kinds of courses she should take as a freshman.
A hostile racial atmosphere on the predominantly white campus and poor counseling and support services for minority students are among the reasons black students give for the university's dismal record in recruitment and retention of minority students.
The State Board of Higher Education, however, in an attempt to deal with the persistent problem of unmet goals, has now said its desegregation targets are unrealistic, and has lowered its goals for all state universities and colleges.
Maryland was one of nine states told by the federal government in 1969 to integrate their higher education systems. Under the desegregation plan that resulted, the number of black full-time undergraduates at the campus rose from less than 2 percent of the student population in 1968 to a high of 7.7 percent in 1977.
The black full-time undergraduate enrollment at College Park has dropped back to 7.5 percent -- 1,885 students, including for the first time black foreign students -- this fall, far below the 1980 black enrollment goal of 13 to 16 percent. An estimated 20 percent of Maryland high school graduates are black.
The state board recently announced that a black enrollment of 10 to 12 percent by 1985 is a "more realistic" target for the red-brick and white-proticoed campus of 37,000 students that bears a strong resemblence to the plantations of Maryland's agricultural past.
The 1980-85 desegregation plan, which has not yet been accepted by the U.S. Department of Education for compliance with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, emphasizes retention of black students as the key to meeting its lowered goals, but asserts that the state should shift its focus from desegregation to providing for "the educational needs of all its citizens."
State figures show that 36 percent of blacks who started at College Park in 1977 did not return in 1978, compared with 24 percent for the entire student body. Students and administrators agree that poor high school training among many blacks plays an important role in attrition. A state education official also pointed out that predominantly black Morgan State's non-return rate is 42 percent.
However, the same figures show that 33 percent of the blacks who left College Park transferred to other schools, compared to 22 percent for whites. At Morgan only 15 percent left for other schools.
Sheldon Knorr, state commissioner of higher education, argued that there are not enough black students in the state to reach the old desegregation targets.
"The number of black students available is not sufficient to increase by a large degree the number of black students at one of our large colleges without wiping out the predominantly black schools," he said.
Black students and administrators interviewed say they are not surprised that the goals were lowered, and charge that there was no real commitment by the university to meeting the goals.
Black students say that the history of the university's Office of Minority Student Education, originally charged with running a wide range of programs designed to attract more black students and to help provide a supportive environment for their studies, shows a lack of concern for their aspirations on the campus.
The office's first director, Andrew Goodrich, was fired "without cause" in 1977; under university personnel policy, administrators may be dismissed without reason before acquiring tenure after seven years. The second, J. Muruku Waiguchu, resigned in protest last spring.
"They fired me because I was sort of a thorn in the side of the institution, because I was an advocate not only for black students but for black faculty there," said Goodrich, who now runs a program for minority students at the University of Illinois. "That campus (College Park) is really the plantation of higher education. It is mentally unhealthy (for blacks) to be at that institution."
Goodrich charged that the school is systematically eliminating faculty and administrators with strong voices on issues related to blacks. "There are a few coloreds kept in there because of (a willingness to keep in their place)," he said. "Strong black males they cannot tolerate."
In 1976 the administration removed the Office of Equal Opportunity Recruitment, a key program, from the minority student education office, making it a separate office within the department of academic services.
But according to Ken Morgan, who ran the recruiting office from 1973 to 1979, the change "basically weakened the communications links between the minority offices on campus and weakened the advocacy posture. It rendered (the minority student education office) less effective in developing programs to deal with the bureaucracy."
The minority recruitment office was abolished last spring. Morgan, who had been involuntarily transferred from the office in 1979, received a letter last May advising him of his dismissal without cause, one month before he would have earned tenure as an administrator. He said he has filed a complaint with the U.s. dEpartment of Education over his dismissal.
Chancellor Robert Gluckstern acknowledged a "disagreement over responsibility" between the administration and the office of minority student education. He maintained that the original office had failed to reach the university's goals, particularly in getting black students with good acedemic credentials.
"It was our perception that we could make a more convincing case if the admissions person responsible for (black students) was responsible for all students," he said.
Mary Cothran, associate director of admissions, oversees eight admissions councelors who are responsible for recruitment of the entire freshman class. The old minority recruitment office had four counselors who focused only on minorities.
Cothran says her office does not emphasize recruitment of minorities.
"I don't view my job as trying to meet a desegregation goal," said Cothran.
"My job is to help all students meet their educational goals."
Gluckstern and Cothran said that more traditional approaches used in getting information about the school to all students will be more effective than the minority recruitment program. For example, they are placing emphasis on using a black alumni organization to reach prospective black students. Gluckstern conceded that the alumni organization is still embryonic because the university was effectively segregated until 1969.
Wendell Gorum, who had been active as an advocate for the rights of black students at Dartmouth and Stanford earlier in his academic career, is now acting director of the office of minority student education. He points out that black students are more likely to be brought up on charges in the dormitories than whites, whether it is their fault or not.
"Many of the things that white students do they call pranks. When blacks do it, they call it a security problem and call security," he said, remembering a typical incident in which a black student who walked out of the dining hall eating an ice cream sandwich, a minor rule infraction, ended up with a criminal misdemeanor charge when police were called after a fight between the student and a white cafeteria worker.
Several black students said that their friends left to escape what they see as a racially hostile environment, even it if meant paying a higher tuition at a private school like Howard Universiy. They say their social activities are restricted in ways that white activities are not, that whites in dormitories refuse to tolerate the cultural or political interests of black residents and that campus police are called at the slightest suggestion of trouble when the blacks are involved, even when a handful get together and sing on a campus corner.
Michael Gilbert, a black senior from Washington who heads the coordinating committee for the black fraternities on campus, says that residence hall authorities routinely deny space in dormitory lounges and cafeterias for black fraternity functions.
"Anything black and constructive that makes noise is a threat," said Gilbert. "But the whites can have panty raids, streak, etc., and they don't call the police."
"And when white folks give a party they tear up, busting windows and all," added Imani Countess, a senior from Baltimore.
Countess is one of several black students who said that it takes an extra reserve of faith and self-confidence for black students to make it at Maryland and that a solid high school academic record is not necessarily enough.
"I've had teachers tell me I'm not qualified, that I can't do the work. They sometimes won't even direct things at you in class," she said.
According to Terry Minor, a senior who works in the OMSE office, black students are afflicted with poor or non-existent counselling, particularly freshmen. She said it is common to find black students carrying course loads far heavier than they should. The administration has distributed retention responsibilities, including counselling, among the major academic departments, but studens say that the white instructors are hard to find and often indifferent, leaving them to fend for themselves.
Chancellor Gluckstern admits that "there is the perception among the black students that the environment is not quite as supportive of them as white students. All I can do is to say that it's the campus's responsibility to move from theoretical equality to actual equality."
But perceptions may die hard at College Park. As one black student put it:
"Well, you know what the word on the street is -- "Don't come here."