Faculty feels merger is not a matter of if, but when

President Benson addresses the pending bill to merge CofC and MUSC. Photo by Leah Sutherland.

President Benson addresses the pending bill to merge CofC and MUSC. Photo by Leah Sutherland.

During yesterday’s faculty senate meeting faculty members from The College and MUSC voiced their opinions on the bill filed Thursday Feb. 6, that proposes the merge of the two institutions.

If the bill, backed by Republican Rep. Jim Merrill and Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, passed, MUSC and CofC would begin merging as early as July, forming Charleston University.

Many faculty members feel that this is a great chance for politicians to leave their mark on Charleston, at the expense of the two schools. “[Politicians] look out for their own political legacies instead of our institution…. [they are] forcing this bill [on the College].”

While President Benson made it clear that “Nothing. Absolutely nothing is set in stone,” many CofC faculty feel the bill is moving much faster than anticipated.

A survey hurriedly sent out to faculty last week showed few were in support of the merger, and representatives from both institutions favored increased discussions and collaboration before a merger.

Reasons cited by faculty against the merger echoed an air of loss. Lost would be ample funding through grants and alumni donations. Lost would be the beloved “College of Charleston” identity, valuing small class sizes, student focused directives and undergraduate research. Lost would be the integrity of liberal arts programs that embody The College’s mission. According to sophomore and Student Body Secretary Ryan Spraker, merger would overshadow reasons why many students chose the College over large research institutions. “We came here to find a new planet, investigate a cure for cancer… [as undergraduates].”

Richard Bodek, history professor, was one of the most vocal attendees of the senate meeting. “I can’t think of anything more irresponsible than putting this bill out right now,” Bodek said, speaking to the fact that both the College and MUSC are searching for new presidents. “What candidate in their right mind is going to take a job that may disappear in a few months?”

Benson stated that he personally favored a move towards becoming a “targeted research university”, offering Ph.D programs depending on what was needed in the greater Charleston community. Benson also offered up Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., Miami of Ohio and William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. as examples of universities that offer specific Ph.D programs without sacrificing their commitment to undergraduate education.

The MUSC board of trustees is set to meet Thursday and Friday, and MUSC faculty member Tom Smith said the merger would be at the center of those discussions.

Additional reporting by Erin Dempsey.

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Leah is a managing editor of CisternYard News. She is a senior, majoring in Communication.

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