In recent days I have scanned the editorial pages of this paper, hoping to see letters from people brave enough to oppose the outrageously misguided calls for a merger of two of our most prestigious institutions, the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.
As a career-long faculty member and administrator in higher education in this state and two others, I can assure you that forcing these two very complex and different institutions to merge will seriously damage both.
The question we should be asking is why has this idea emerged now? Both institutions are thriving, enrollments are at an all-time high, and both are nationally-ranked in the top tier of institutions of their type. For those who have even a passing familiarity with higher education, an unlikelier marriage can hardly be imagined. Who stands to benefit? Certainly not the students.
Beginning in 1970 the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education began developing a method of classifying colleges and universities to provide a framework for comparisons among institutions for research and analysis purposes.
Revised several times since, this framework is widely used across the nation.
According to the Carnegie Classifications, the College of Charleston’s enrollment profile is described as “very high undergraduate” and the setting is described as “large four-year, primarily residential.” MUSC, on the other hand, is described as a “special focus institution” with an enrollment profile that is “majority graduate/professional.” If opposites attract, you could hardly find two more opposite institutions.
The missions of the two institutions tell it all.
For space purposes, I am unable to include the lengthy mission statements but the full text of both can be found on their websites. They make for interesting reading and paint a portrait of two very dissimilar institutions with widely divergent aims and purposes.
South Carolina is already near the bottom in rankings of primary and secondary education. How proud we have been of these two outstanding institutions that represent the best our state has to offer educationally. Our state cannot stand to damage or destroy two of its premier educational institutions. But the all-knowing Legislature and yes, even our highly regarded mayor, seem hell-bent on doing so.
In addition to dissimilar missions, purposes, and aims, an important issue to consider is ongoing funding. Will alumni continue to donate to an institution they no longer recognize or identify with? Private donations have long since surpassed the small state-assisted portions of the budgets of both of these two institutions. And as witnessed in recent years, so-called “state assistance” accounts for less and less of the overall operating budgets of all state colleges and universities across the state.
If private donations dry up, will the state step up its funding stream to offset the decline?
The public has a voice, but where is it?
Are we so apathetic that we will stand by and allow these fine institutions to be guinea pigs in an experiment designed by people with no expertise whatever in higher education?
Name one legislator, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell included, who has any experience that would qualify him or her to plan and implement a merger that stands even a remote chance of ensuring the continued excellence of our two great schools. Instead, what will result is chaos, muddled missions, unhappy faculties, distracted students, additional layers of administration and expense, and faculty flight to more enlightened states.
Let’s don’t let the Legislature roll over us again.
If you agree with the thoughts I have set forth, let your voice be heard.
KAY K. CHITTY
W. Shipyard Road