While schools in Virginia struggle to meet state-mandated desegregation standards, the University of Maryland's College Park campus is for the first time attracting black students at a rate exceeding goals set by Maryland's State Board for Higher Education.
Of the 165 new, full-time freshmen enrolled at Maryland this spring, 21, or 12.7 percent, were black. Combined with 9.6 percent black enrollment in the much larger incoming class last fall, the overall freshman class is now 10 percent black, according to a school spokesman. Of the 27,381 undergraduates on campus, 7.6 percent are black.
The state board's 1980 desegregation plan requires that 10 percent to 12 percent of College Park freshmen be black. The state uses the fall percentages to gauge desegregation progress, and the campus must meet its goal by 1985.
Joseph Durham, director of the state board's Equal Education Opportunity Division, said the improvement in recruitment of blacks at Maryland was "a positive trend. We hope that it will continue."
Joseph Samuels, director of the campus Office of Minority Student Education, said several programs have been designed to attract academically talented blacks to College Park, including offering scholarship money, holding open houses for minorities, especially on sports weekends, and working with high schools to spot gifted math students.
Campus officials said, however, that they have not resolved many of the problems faced by black students there.
"There's been a real effort on the part of the institution to attract black students," Samuels said. "The efforts that have been made are beginning to show. But we still are only graduating half the level of white students," he said.
According to a report released by David Fram, the College Park student member of the Board of Regents, the university's governing board, 74 percent of the black students who enrolled in the fall of 1977 left College Park before graduation, compared with 48 percent of the white students who enrolled in 1977. The report does not say, however, whether any of those students enrolled in other colleges or universities after leaving Maryland.
Fram's study, which said that College Park blacks are victims of an "alarming attrition rate," proposed several steps to keep black students at Maryland, including a stronger minority student office on campus and creation of a black student center on campus.
Durham said the desegregation plan calls for all state institutions to equalize retention rates between blacks and whites, but unlike the University of Virginia, Maryland is not threatened by a cutoff of federal funding if the goals are not reached.
At Virginia, under increased pressure from federal officials and Gov. Charles S. Robb to meet desegregation goals set by the state in 1978, officials drastically changed admissions policies for minority students, announcing that they will accept any qualified black student until the first day of classes in the fall.
About 100 black students at the University of Virginia recently rallied on the marble steps of the school's famed Rotunda to protest what they called the school's indifference to minority students.
Samuels said his office at Maryland has created several programs to work toward keeping blacks at College Park, the most successful of which has been the Personal/Social/Academic (PSA) program, in which minority students meet with other students and campus staff members to work out problems.
"What we're trying to do here . . . is to be much more diligent in designing more programs" to deal with both black recruitment and retention, Samuels said.
Fram said desegregation problems at Maryland are receiving more attention than ever. "For once, I think people are really recognizing the problem," he said. "Naturally, a lot of it has to do with desegregation goals" and federal funding that depends on reaching those goals. "I don't think we've had enough progress on recruitment to take it easy. I won't be satisfied until we eliminate the problems," Samuels added.
Three black undergraduates who were interviewed agreed with him.
Charles Bell, a junior urban studies major, said desegregation efforts at Maryland "have stagnated. The fault would have to lie on the administration and on the students themselves." Bell said "more racism has become overt . . . . I think it the campus is fairly segregated. It helps me prepare for the outside world." Patricia Bradley, a junior business law major, said, "Segregation is very, very noticeable on this campus. It's going to take a lot more than what's being done."
Kelly Washington, a senior math major who was interviewed in the campus Roy Rogers restaurant, said that while "I see more blacks here this year, we call this section [of the restaurant] the black section."