Maryland's State Board of Education will appoint a seven-member panel today to study the issue of whether the predominantly black University of Maryland Eastern Shore should be merged with predominantly white Salisbury State College 12 miles away.

Officials at UMES have vigorously opposed suggestions that the school close or be merged, fearing that in the latter case it would lose its identity as a black institution.

Board chairman Harry K. Wells said the panel's assignment would be to "explore in depth all the elements that need to be examined and assessed in considering the creation of single institution by using the resources of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Salisbury State College."

To be named to head the panel was John W. T. Webb, a Salisbury lawyer.

Other members to be named were: Bertha Adkins of Oxford, a former assistant secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Eisenhower administration; William Chaffinch of Cambridge, who retires in June as a member of the State Board of Higher Education; Kermit Cottman of Princess Anne, a supervisor in the Somerset County school system; Edward Gallagher III, a resident of Ocean City and the chairman of the board of directors of George's Transfer and Rigging Co. in Baltimore County; De-Wayne Whittington, supervisor of federal programs for the Somerset and T. McKinney, a retired philosophy professor at Morgan State University. McKinney, Whittington and Cottman are black.