A federal appeals court ordered yesterday a speedup of college desegregation in Maryland but left standing a lower court order that blocks federal officials from proceeding with a cutoff of funds.
In a 41-page ruling, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals directed the Department of Health. Eudcation and Welfare to oversee the Maryland college desegregation process, under the supervision of a federal judge.
It gave the Department 90 days to produce desegregation guidelines for approval by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.The state of Maryland will have 60 days after that to produce an acceptable college desegregation plar.
Officials at HEW's Office of Civil Rights said they were "pleased with the decision. It clears they way for us to move."
Yesterday's decision was the latest development in a marathon of litigation that began in 1970 when the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sued HEW for failing to enforce college desegregation in Maryland, Virginia and eight other states.
Eighteen months ago, Maryland was separated from that lawsuit when U.S. District Judge Edward S. Northrup ruled that HEW had exceeded its authority by beginning steps to cut off up to $65 million in federal funds to Maryland colleges. HEW appealed that decision and since then the federal college desegregation effort has been in limbo in Maryland.
In effect, yesterday's decision permits federal re-entry into the Maryland college desegregation issue, although the appellate panel ruled that HEW had exceeded its authority by beginning a cutoff.
Maryland has been operating under a college desegregation plan since the lawsuit was filed in 1970, but the plan has failed to win federal approval.
Sheldon H. Knorr, Maryland's commissioner of higher education, said he could not immediately predict what course the state would follow in light of yesterday's decision.
"It's early and we're going to continue to follow the plan we've been acting under," said Knorr.
Maryland's current desegregation plan, which sets forth a variety of state desegregation goals by the early 1980s, has been successful in some areas, but less so in others, Knorr said.
For example, he said, the percentage of blacks enrolled in state-supported colleges in Maryland has risen from 11 per cent to 22 per cent since 1970, in line with the desegregation plan.
But the bulk of those students remain at the four predominantly black institutions, Morgan State University, Bowie State and Coppin State Colleges and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Morgan State and Coppin State are about 90 per cent black while Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are in the neighborhood of 80 per cent black.
At other branches of the University of Maryland the pace of integration has been varied, Knorr said. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has already reched its 1980 goal with a student population that is 20 per cent black, but the main campus at College Park is only 8 per cent black, well behind its goal.
College desegregation in Maryland, as in most Southern and border states, is complicated by the presence of the predominantly black schools and the concerns by many black groups that they be permitted to retain their black identities in the process of integration.
"Black school serve a distinct social and cultural role as suggested by the testimony given before the District Court," the appellate court said yesterday in a footnote to its decision. "It is apparent therefore that guidelines are most needed in the field of higher education . . ."
In Maryland the predominantly black school issue currently is mot acute at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore where a task force is holding hearings on the school's future.
Citing declining enrollments, a legislative analyst last winter proposed closing the school, a move that brought strong protests from the NAACP and other black groups. Since then, proposals have been advanced that it be merged with predominantly white Salisbury State college, 12 miles away, and that Salisbury State be merged into the university with UMES retaining its separate identity. A recommendation is due by the end of the year.
Officials at HEW's Office of Civil Rights said it is likely that the desegregation guidelines to be issued for the Maryland colleges will be similar to those issued last month for colleges in Virginia and five other states.
Essentially those guidelines call for increasing the number of blacks at white colleges and the number of whites at black colleges.
However, the plan recognizes the "unique role of black colleges in meeting the educational needs of black students" by assigning them a special two-stage role in the desegregation process.
The guidelines envision the black colleges as retaining their separate black identities during a period when increasing opportunities for blacks are opening at white schools.But after a time, white enrollment at black schools would be increased until they become "part of a unitary system, free of the vestiges of state imposed segregation."
"Traditionally black and traditionally white institutions are subject to the same constitutional and congressional mandate to provide and education to all citizens without discrimination," said HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. in announcing the guidelines.
Besides Virginia, those guidelines were aimed at Arkansas, Floria Georgia, North Carolina and Oklahoma, the remaining states in original lawsuit. Of the other state the suit, Pennsylvania is negotiation desegregation plan and Mississ and Louisiana are being sued by Justice Department.
In addition to ruling in the Maryland college desegregation case yesterday, the appeals court affirmed HEW's decision to move against Baltimore public schools. Rerers an opinion by Judge Northrup, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Court of Appeals said the federal government could begin administration proceedings against Baltimore schools would have to be limited to monies "that an used in or support programs which practice discrimination."