USM representatives concerned with UMCP, UMB merger
If the University of Maryland, College Park and University of Maryland, Baltimore merge, it could present problems for Towson University, according to several University System of Maryland Towson student representatives.
The merger could completely take away attention from Towson and other smaller schools in the USM, according to Emmanuel Welsh, chair of the USM Student Council.
If the merger is approved, the two schools would combine all of their resources, including funding for research, and would become 10th in the nation for the total amount of money invested in research, with an estimated $1.1 billion per year, putting them above some ivy league schools such as Yale, according to Welsh.
“With this new university, with all of this professional research, the people who have power over the higher education system would look at this school and wonder why they should care about Towson University,” he said. “It could negatively impact Towson’s funding. “We have to make sure this whole merger isn’t about marketing [and] not just about being in the top 10 in terms of research funding.”
In an article in the Baltimore Business Journal, President of the Maryland Senate Thomas Miller said the merger is about common sense and that combining the two schools would improve Maryland’s ability to compete for business.
“This is not a hostile takeover at all,” Miller said in the article. “Tell the little people that are concerned in the [University System of Maryland] somehow that they’ve got to have a mission for big things that can happen in Baltimore.”
The state Senate required the USM to carry out a study of the potential effects of the merger of the two schools, or else threatened to take away one million dollars from the USM’s budget, according to Welsh.
“There is no solid foundation as to what the purpose of this merger is, but some speculation about the purpose includes attracting more attention to the state of Maryland as a whole or to bring more jobs and businesses into Maryland,” Welsh said.
Welsh also said that he is concerned about the Senate’s motives because Miller, Gov. Martin O’Malley, and USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan all have ties to College Park.
Mike Lurie, USM media relations and Web manager, said he disagreed with Welsh’s comments and that it is too early to determine what the impact of the merger would be, especially because the study only started in June.
“It is not responsible to speculate the future impact,” he said. “We understand the importance of this issue very much, and I know the University System values what each institution brings to the system. Beyond that, it is not something that any of us could say.”
The merger will not be voted on until sometime after Dec. 15, when the USM will release the findings of the study on how the merger could impact all of the colleges in Maryland.
During the study’s research process, Director of Legislative Affairs for Towson Student Government Association Ryan Fredricksson said that USM is looking into multiple issues that could arise from the merger.
“They are looking at a lot of factors, how it will affect the Baltimore area, other institutions, and in the small amount of time the study is being conducted, they are looking at many complications,” he said.
SGA Senator Schuyler Millham said there are mixed feelings about the merger and that it could either be good or bad for Towson.
“We have encouraged student leaders to go to their groups and try to gauge opinion,” he said. “Many students are saying it would be terrible for Towson because it would take the spotlight off of Towson, but some believe that it would be a great thing for Towson because it would put a larger spotlight on Maryland as a whole.”
There will be a USM Board of Regents meeting at Towson on Friday at 8:30 a.m., and a public hearing will be held at 3 p.m.