Towson University intends to submit a reworked proposal for a doctoral program in business analytics even though advocates for historically Black colleges expressed concern that the initial plan would have duplicated one at Morgan State University.

In a letter to the Maryland Higher Education Commission last week, Towson University withdrew its initial proposal for the program, which critics claimed violated a 2021 settlement of discrimination claims brought by the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, against the state of Maryland.

The MHEC had previously approved Towson University’s plans, but Attorney General Anthony Brown on Aug. 17 determined that the commission didn’t have enough members present when it voted three days earlier to overturn a decision by the commission’s assistant secretary of academic affairs, Emily Dow, rejecting the program.

Towson University has defended its proposed doctoral program as distinct from Morgan State’s program in business administration, and a spokesman made clear that the university wasn’t backing down.

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“TU fully intends to resubmit the program proposal at a later date, once there is greater clarity regarding the academic program review process, as we strongly believe that our program is not duplicative of MSU’s Business Administration Ph.D., and that offering the Business Analytics Ph.D. will benefit students and Maryland as a whole,” Sean Welsh, a vice president at Towson University, said in a prepared statement.

“The finding of this administrative error on MHEC’s part does not indicate that TU’s STEM-based Business Analytics Ph.D. program — capped at six students annually — is in any way duplicative of any other program, nor does it have any impact upon the merits for the program’s approval,” Welsh also wrote.

Maryland HBCU Advocates said it would oppose any effort by Towson University to revive the proposal.

“By MHEC’s regulations, Towson’s proposal is dead,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. “There simply is no basis for a third review and Towson should not be permitted to resubmit their proposal a third time.”

The group originally shared its concerns about the proposed Towson doctoral program in a four-page letter to Gov. Wes Moore, MHEC’s members and its interim secretary, and top legislative leaders.

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The group voiced concern that the state commission had approved a program at Towson that “duplicates a well-established, functionally identical business analytics administration program at Morgan State University,” a spokesperson said earlier this month.

The group claimed that Morgan State could be ultimately harmed given its close proximity to Towson University and similarities in the scope of the two programs.

The advocacy group’s letter represented its first objection since a 2021 federal ruling that Maryland had to pay $577 million to its four historically Black colleges and universities, settling a 13-year lawsuit alleging that the state underfunded those schools while investing in predominantly white schools.

Previously, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and Morgan State’s president praised Brown’s opinion, with university president David K. Wilson calling it an “equitable outcome.” Wilson also thanked Brown and the commission for “reviewing the circumstances surrounding the unreasonable duplication of Morgan’s longstanding, high-quality and affordable Business Administration Ph.D. program.”

Morgan State University declined further comment Tuesday.

johnj.williams@thebaltimorebanner.com

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years. 

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