Towson University is withdrawing its proposal for a new business analytics doctoral program after the state attorney general’s office raised concerns about the legality of the program’s approval process by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, The Maryland Daily Record reported Friday.
The move is the latest development in a long saga over the program. The commission’s assistant secretary for academic affairs, Emily A. A. Dow, initially told Towson officials in April that the commission rejected the program because it was “unreasonably duplicative” of the business administration doctoral program at Morgan State University, a historically Black university in Baltimore. But the commission reversed course in June and voted to approve the program.
David K. Wilson, Morgan State’s president, then wrote to the commission protesting the approval of the program. He noted that advocates for the state’s HBCUs—Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore—sued the state in 2006 for allowing predominantly white institutions to duplicate their programs. (That lawsuit resulted in the state agreeing to allocate $577 million in additional funding to the state’s HBCUs over 10 years.) He also called attention to possible legal problems with the approval of the program.
Commission Chair Catherine J. Motz sought advice from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General on whether the vote was valid, according to a news release from the commission. Patrick B. Hughes, chief counsel of opinions and advice for the attorney general’s office, responded in a letter that because only seven out of 12 commissioners were present when they voted to approve the program, and because the vote was 4 to 3, the approval wasn’t supported by the majority of the commission and likely legally invalid.
Wilson applauded the attorney general’s opinion.
“On behalf of the entire Morgan State University community, I express our great appreciation for the due diligence of the Office of the Attorney General and the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) in reviewing the circumstances surrounding the unreasonable duplication of Morgan’s longstanding, high-quality and affordable Business Administration Ph.D. program,” Wilson said in a statement after MHEC publicized the attorney general’s comments. “Throughout this process, we remained confident that our concerns would ultimately be fairly addressed.”
Sean Welsh, vice president for university marketing and communications at Towson, said in an email that the university “attempted repeatedly to amicably resolve this situation as we have with many other programs around the state. We withdrew this request for program approval in accordance with MHEC’s request for a voluntary pause on all contested proposals. We look forward to an improved process that centers the needs of students.”
Welsh also noted that “the finding of this administrative error on MHEC’s part” does not indicate the program is “in any way duplicative of any other program, nor does it have any impact upon the merits for the program's approval.”
Towson intends to resubmit the program for approval at a later date “once there is greater clarity regarding the academic program review process,” he wrote.