A federal district court judge handed Maryland's historically black colleges and universities a partial and in many respects problematic victory last week. She denied them the monetary damages they sought but ruled that the state may not allow its traditionally white schools to unnecessarily duplicate their popular, unique academic programs. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake said such duplication has the effect of perpetuating the inequalities inherent in the dual system of higher education established during the era of segregation, and thus illegally discriminates against black students.
But she did not say what the state must do about it, instead sending the parties back to mediation. Now things are about to get really ugly. The state's public universities appear on the brink of a civil war over which programs must now be dismantled or transferred to HBCUs. And the HBCUs, meanwhile, will be forced to confront some uncomfortable questions about their identities in a post-segregation world.