Board of Regents to lead investigation regarding potential merger
The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents will consider merging the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) and the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), as proposed in a bill introduced by State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-27) on March 21. The bill is currently in the Conference Committee and has been approved by both the House and Senate, according to USM Chancellor William Kirwan.
According to Kirwan, the merger would nullify the current titles of both UMCP and UMB, legally combining them into one university, called the "University of Maryland," under one administration. "If there was a merger, there would legally be a single institution...You take two separate entities, each with its own structure, and combine them into a single entity with a single president," he said.
Kirwan stressed that a merger would benefit the status of the universities, but pose technical and social difficulties. He identified increased amounts of research and improved rankings as positives of a potential merger. However, Kirwan also said that it may be difficult for faculty members to commute between the two campuses for meetings and that UMCP and UMB do not educate the same populations.
Although the Board of Regents has not yet specified the exact nature of the potential union, seniors at Blair who will attend UMCP in the fall expressed largely positive feelings regarding the proposal. They identified improved reputation as the main benefit, but also questioned the motivation behind the bill.
Seniors Josh Kickenson and Sree Sinha, who plan to go to UMCP this fall, are both carefully optimistic about the possible union. "Merging would make it harder to get in, but that much more prestigious. That would definitely be good. It might be harder, but people who already go and who graduated would have more prestige," said Sinha. Kickenson also saw improved status as a reason to merge the schools, but noted his concern that the proposal was a political move. "If [the system] is just trying to gain more power, I don't know if it's a good idea. It would sound like more of a power play," he said.
Similar to Kickenson and Sinha, Career Center Coordinator Phalia West also expressed mixed feelings about joining the two campuses, specifying her concern that the union may benefit USM more than the students. "What it might do is try to bring a balance. They're going to try to play up the numbers, but the kids who would have applied to one school may not get accepted," she said.
According to Kirwan, the Board of Regents will submit an official report to the Maryland General Assembly by Dec. 15. If the Board of Regents is in favor of a merger, the report will contain logistics as well as a recommendation, he said. In compiling the report, the Board of Regents will consult educational experts and hold open hearings. A specific timeline has yet not been set.
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