A few dozen College of Charleston students came ready with questions to a meeting organized Thursday night to discuss proposed state legislation that would merge the College with the Medical University of South Carolina by 2016.
Faculty at both schools, students at MUSC and the MUSC Board of Trustees have come out strongly opposed to the "Charleston University Act" since it was introduced in the General Assembly earlier this month.
But College of Charleston students have not officially made their position known. Early results from an online student poll at the College have not been released either.
On Thursday, a few College of Charleston students spoke out passionately against the bill, but most had only questions: Who would pay for a merger? What would happen to financial aid? How could they contact their state legislators? What happens to the liberal arts curriculum? Why does the College's name have to change?
The version of the bill introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives has proposed changing the College of Charleston's name to the Charleston University George Street Campus. MUSC would become the Charleston University Medical Campus and the Hospital Authority.
"The name thing - like right out of the gate - that was like 'Boom!,' a wrench in the machine. Everyone hated that," said Kevin Phillips, a senior communications major at the College. "You could fix the name. That's such a little thing. We could fix that, it's no big deal."
Mainly, Phillips said, students are just confused about the proposal and aren't very proactive about finding out what a merger of the schools would entail.
"It's a lot of just not understanding, a lot of questions," he said. "That's why I think tonight was so good."
Jeff Schilz, a College of Charleston Board of Trustees member who attended the meeting, apologized to the students. He said the administration and the board have not done a great job communicating with them about the proposal.
"I don't think y'all have a broad perspective about why this is an idea worth pursuing," Schilz said. "What do we want the College of Charleston to be? Not just now, not just five years from now, but 50 years from now? And how do we get there?"
President George Benson, who did not attend the meeting Thursday, publicly supports a merger. The College of Charleston Board of Trustees has not met to discuss the issue since the bill was filed on Feb. 6.
Jordan Hensley, student body president at the College, said she would report her classmates' feedback to the legislators.
"I urge everyone to call, to write, to speak to us," she said.
Schilz also encouraged students at the meeting to channel their position in a productive way.
"I understand the passion. I understand the angst," he said. "It's better to be part of the process, to have a seat at the table, than to just stonewall, which is what has happened a few blocks away."
The MUSC Faculty Senate, Board of Trustees and Student Government Association have each passed resolutions in the past two weeks opposing the legislation.
"Charleston is growing, that's where I'm coming from," Phillips said after the meeting. "Everything else is growing. They're expanding the airport, they're expanding the ports, they're expanding everything. And this school - I think, the bedrock of any good community is education - and we just kind of have to grow with that."
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.
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