I have close friends and colleagues who teach at both. They devote their time, craft, sweat and intellect. Sometimes the reward is that flush you feel when a student "gets it." Sometimes it's a paycheck. It's like that with education, both "higher ed" and teaching kiddies in this brutal economy. We've all heard bad news about Coppin State University in B-mo-Careful (now no. 2 to Detroit in murders, but Charm City will rock 'em next time--after all it had The Wire...Detroit only had Axel Foley and Kwame Kilpatrick!) and the University of the District of Columbia.
The AEI study we lamented...published as roundly as David "Kill Bill/Kung Fu" Carradine's auto-asphixiation-erotica found that only ONE IN FIVE duly registered and enrolled students will ever graduate, and that's after a "Bluto" from Animal House time frame ("Seven years of college down the drain."). The lowest in the nation.
OK we can parse and plumb the reasons later; he's some background as to Coppin, and the news report on UDC. The hint to my thesis can be found in the facetious title of this post, and my nod to Thomas Swift (meaning I'm not truly being mean, elitist and self-hating in what I'm about to say). All right?
First, some people--and here it happens to be black people (including foreigners enrolled in both places)--aren't cut out for college. Not college as we know it and no I don't mean as you measure up with my alma mater, Princeton, or Mrs. Nat's, Howard U. (and HBCU like Coppin). But local school systems have to boast depositing someone they graduate into somewhere. There are not enough Vo-tech institutions and somehow community colleges cannot be the final repository. Besides, they're only for two years. You have to get that "degree" somewhere. The diploma mills you see advertised on the Net or during Maury might be the last resort for many dumbasses and bad luck sufferers or too many members of our military thanks to Uncle Sam's pandering and schitzophrenia (e.g. high standards and big research $$$ on one level, offering scraps to our troops on the other. Frankly I would have thought the wingnuts would have picked up on this). Then again too many of our troops and their spouses are the product of our nonintellectual culture (otherwise would they have enlisted?) and bad high schools regardless of location or racial make-up. These folks don't need a degree. There must be alternatives. We have to admit this and get over it.
Second, and most insidiously, why do these places exist. Wasn't Coppin a "State College?" Now a "University?" Does the District need a "state university" a la Ann Arbor or Charlottesville or Berkely or Chapel Hill just so it can act like a state? You see where I'm going with this, don't you? These institutions are largely the creatures of African American politicians who want to deliver some pork/goodie/promise/symbol--and have in return a legacy and goodwill from duped constituents. OK so let's call something a "University." As Morgan State struggles but manages to educate cadres of students, are those students themselves up to snuff? Can they hack it against mine at Georgetown, or at Princeton. Hell yes, and hell no. The top, the dedicated, will always flourish and, as Hannibal said in 218 BC when asked how he was gonna kick white folks' asses, "will find a way, oe make one." But the least common denominator at Morgan couldn't last at day with Princeton's dregs, let's get over that. They would meltdown at Howard. All the online diploma mills are called "universities" and these "at-risk" or needing additional support students--let's say the C students (without the over indulgent gradeflation and lower standard kicker). As for UDC, it's existence is purely a contrivance of identity politics for black folks, Sowetoization by whites, and some pride need for a statehood analog. It's sad, and it's stupid.
Now let's roll back to the nitty gritty, hinted at in point #1. Not everyone's cut out for college, so why expend the resources to overload on support and mentorship and this and that and all these bells and whistles proposed in political theatre by black pols wish to perpetuate point #2? Why not enforce rigor in admissions and course content; the struggling single mothers who do show potential and current aptitude, but might need an extra hand, sure. But this shouldn't extend to everyone. College by it's nature must be competitive to enter and competitive to remain. That's the thing wingnut never got about affirmative action. You're giving a leg up to folk who can shine once they're in the game, and go on and change the game entirely once out. Training cadres of medium-skilled clerical folk and lower level managers, or legions of IT de-buggers, is not the mission of a university. If folk start out there, the university should give them the world view and study skills--note I didn't say job training--to leap frog ahead. That's the game. And you make the scholarship money and grants available for the people who can go out there and juice the game. Not for EVERYBODY. That ultra-egalitarian, throwback to the 1960s Black Arts/Panther time is not applicable any more. Not for college, not for secondary and even elementary education.
Note this ain't something endemic only to these places. I've been to our shining flagship, Terrapin World, U of Maryland-College Park and have scratched my head at the students' ignorance and lack of preparation, pop culture expectations. Likewise the bubbleheadedness of many Hoya students makes me swoon. But the effect on places like UDC or Coppin is catastrophic.
Therefore: Close Coppin, fold as much into Morgan. Beef up Morgan's facilities, faculty, curriculum rigor. Raise admission standards BUT truly examine each applicants circumstances wholistically. As for UDC. Either you bathe it in capital, pirate faculty, programs, students, etc from Georgetown, GW, AU, Catholic and Howard, or chop it up, make it a vo-tech college and call it a day. De-politicize the place's existence.
So before I am lynched by my own people, I am being somewhat Swiftian here (no, he really didn't want to eat Irish babies, indeed this was his way of attacking the British Parliament and society for oppression of Ireland). These are institutions which have potential, in theory, and, as I said I have friends who teach there. But come on. We have to be real, and stop pandering, stop elements of pure fantasy. Think about what i said about Soweto-ization and competition if anything. White folks are laughing at us...