Black Student Enrollment is "Lagging" at Maryland, Loh Disagrees

On Monday, Jan. 29, the Baltimore Sun released a piece entitled “Black student enrollment lags at University of Maryland.” Four days later, President Wallace D. Loh responded to the article in an op-ed piece also published by the Baltimore Sun. In light of recent events on the University of Maryland College Park campus, what does the data reveal and what does it mean to the university’s president?

Baltimore Sun contact reporter Talia Richman wrote her piece based on recent data from The Hechinger Report, a non-profit journalism organization focused on researching educational inequality, and interviews of black students attending UMD. The report revealed that while 36 percent of Maryland high school graduates in 2015 were black, only 12 percent of UMD’s freshman class was black that fall, creating a 24 percent gap.

President Loh responded to Richman’s article in a video and written interview posted on the Baltimore Sun.

  On Feb. 5, 2018, President Loh sent an email to the University of Maryland that shared a link to his response to the Baltimore Sun piece entitled “Black student enrollment lags at University of Maryland” by Talia Richman.

On Feb. 5, 2018, President Loh sent an email to the University of Maryland that shared a link to his response to the Baltimore Sun piece entitled “Black student enrollment lags at University of Maryland” by Talia Richman.

Loh disagreed with the 24 percent gap between black high school graduates and first-time black student enrollment percentage found in The Hechinger Report’s data and Richman’s piece. Some high school graduates decided to enter the workforce or military or not to attend UMD. The Hechinger Report also only included data on black public high school graduates, indicating the report was not representative of all Maryland’s black high school graduates. 

Loh continues to cite the shortcomings of the data sample when mentioning that a more accurate sample would have been of the Maryland black high school graduates who actually applied to UMD, making the percentage exclusive to first time in-state black students.

Taking those factors into account, a more representative statewide percentage of black high school graduates sits within the range of 17 to 20 percent, and the percentage of black first time in-state black students would be 15 percent for 2015. With the data analysis Loh suggested, the gap would be approximately 2 to 5 percent, instead of 24 percent.

The UMD Admissions page lists 26 “rigorous and holistic” factors admissions officers take into consideration when reviewing applications. These factors beg officers to consider the student as a whole, not just academic achievement. Loh remarked that the admissions process is a “holistic, individualized, and careful evaluation to determine whether an applicant will succeed at — and contribute to — UMD.” 

Given the recent murder of 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III, a black student from Bowie State whose stabbing is being prosecuted as a hate crime, and the many racially charged incidents occurring across the campus, UMD doesn’t always feel like a home for its black students.

Sean Urbanski, who is charged with first and second degree murder, was also indicted on a hate-crime charge by a Prince George’s County grand jury in October 2017, according to an article by the Washington Post. Federal and local law enforcement agencies found “lots of digital evidence” pointing toward a possible racial motive behind Urbanski’s killing of Collins. 

Loh didn’t comment negatively on UMD’s current black student enrollment rates. After citing the numerous awards UMD has received for black student success, he closes the article by saying that UMD is working hard to do better.

Did the data released by The Hechinger Report and reported by Richman fully encapsulate the story of how UMD’s black students feel? Was President Loh’s response to the report valid or just a cop out? Let Black Explosion Newspaper know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter @BENEWSUMD.