President George Benson sent an email out Tuesday April 16 about local media reports on discussions of a possible merger for the College and the Medical University of South Carolina. While these preliminary discussions have been getting a lot of media attention, this is not the first time that a possible merger has been discussed between both schools.
According to Benson’s Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor Brian McGee, the previous discussions from the early 1980s and late 1990s “weren’t recorded in any way,” so we are unable to say for certain what the past reasons against merging were.
McGee said, “Some people appeared to believe that more collaboration between MUSC and the College was a better option than a merger. Others were concerned about the loss of separate identities for two old, beloved and highly regarded universities.”
In a recent article from the Post and Courier, Mayor Joe Riley stated that a new urgency for the College to remain a cutting edge research institution is driving this third round of discussions. Riley is cited as saying, “It moved from a nice thing to have to an imperative.”
At the College’s Spring 2013 Town Hall meeting, Benson agreed with this sentiment. He spoke of the College’s need to stay relevant in Charleston. As a small city that 29 other universities currently have stakes in, Benson said, “If we’re not careful, they’ll end up with many of our donors.”
The College’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, George Hynd, said these changes were for the good of the College. “The College is moving away from an insular academic program to an academic program that is engaged in the community,” he said.
Keeping with this idea, the College has made strides in the last few years to capitalize on the school’s existing relationships around Charleston, as well as strengthen new ones. In addition to the work that the College has done with MUSC, Boeing and the College have teamed up to provide scholarship money to students in the School of Business. The College is part of Boeing’s University Relations program.
Merger would be beneficial for undergraduate researchers.
CofC junior Darius Becker-Krail is looking forward to more discussion about the merger. Becker-Krail is a Biology major, Chemistry and Neuroscience minor who has done research with MUSC Dr. Antonieta Lavin in the Neuroscience department for the last year and a half.
When asked about the possibility of merging with MUSC, Becker-Krail said, “I think that it’s a great idea! While a good portion of the science graduates from [the College] probably end up matriculating into a graduate program at MUSC already (whether medical, graduate, pharmacy, dental, etc.), I think merging the institutions would just increase the opportunity of this transition for an even greater portion of the student body. As an undergraduate researcher, the opportunities and experiences that MUSC is able to provide me are just invaluable.”
In Benson’s email, he states that both CofC and MUSC benefit from the collaborative relationship, and that he meets with MUSC President Ray Greenberg regularly “for the purpose of continuing to grow and strengthen the collaboration,” between the two schools.
He also stated that a merger was only one possibility at this point to create a more intimate relationship between the universities. The same Post and Courier article mentioned previously says that Greenberg “cited a collaboration between Indiana University and Purdue University.” Both are well know institutions in their own right, and they have come to share a campus in Indianapolis that grants graduate and undergraduate degrees to students under both University’s names.
Whatever the outcome of these discussions, Benson said, “MUSC is certainly a friend, and we are going to stay as close to them as we can.”
Additional reporting by Olivia Cohen.