College of Charleston faculty protest proposed merger with MUSC

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 10, 2014 

About 100 College of Charleston faculty members met Monday to share their opposition to an S.C. House bill that would merge the state’s third-largest school and the Medical University of South Carolina.

The professors want both colleges in the Holy City to complete their searches for new presidents and move more deliberately on collaborating before lawmakers combine the schools, said Simon Lewis, a College of Charleston English professor who helped organize the gathering.

The universities have talked about collaborating for months. College of Charleston president George Benson, who has announced his plans to retire, spoke at the faculty meeting and explained his support for the merger that would create the state’s third large research university. Benson has said in the past that the school wants to become more of an economic driver in the region.

Lawmakers want to call the new school Charleston University and start the merger as early as July. That idea makes many College of Charleston professors wary. They were not swayed by Benson’s arguments, Lewis said.

“We have to look this carefully and thoroughly,” the professor said. “We don’t want to be forced into a merger against the will of faculty. ... I don’t think a full-blown merger is a good idea. The two missions of the schools are so different.”

College of Charleston is known as a liberal arts college. MUSC is a medical school.

Lewis said he is worried College of Charleston professors will lose contact with their students and the school will lose money by having to compete with the state’s other large research schools – the University of South Carolina and Clemson University – for government and grant funding.

No cost estimates of the merger have been announced.

“The merger would be a money pit,” Lewis said.

College of Charleston professors in attendance Monday said they would take their concerns to the faculty Senate.

Meanwhile, MUSC’s faculty and administration have expressed their own concerns about the merger. The school’s interim president told state budget makers last week that he did not want the medical school to lose its identity.

MUSC’s faculty Senate plans to meet Tuesday and its trustees gather Thursday, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported. The school merger bill – sponsored by 11 Lowcountry lawmakers, including powerful House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston – is expected to be the top issue at both meetings.

If the bill is approved by the Legislature, the universities would complete their merger by the fall of 2016.

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