Weddings can be joyful affairs that herald happy marriages, but not when performed at the point of a shotgun.
The proposed merger of the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina had been looking more and more like a forced affair for both parties since the plan was unveiled in February. Wisely, its advocates decided to take another tack.
On Wednesday a special committee of House members endorsed a plan to put the University of Charleston, an existing component of the C of C that offers graduate studies, on track to becoming a comprehensive research university on its own, without involving MUSC. It had become increasingly evident that sentiment was against the merger, particularly at the medical university.
The new bill won't quickly accomplish what political and business supporters originally hoped for in the merger plan. The development of the University of Charleston as a research institution will advance more slowly than initially envisioned. And the advantage of having the involvement of MUSC - already one of three research universities in the state - will be lost.
But the current plan has the benefit of advancing broader programs of study and new graduate degrees at a more deliberate pace. That should allow growth to occur at the recommendation of university officials and the Board of Trustees, with the oversight of the state Commission on Higher Education.
Meanwhile, the traditional character of the liberal arts college won't be lost in the process. In fact, Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, included a provision in the latest proposal assuring the C of C of its liberal arts status.
Even so, providing a framework for a research university would mean graduate programs in scientific and technical fields that would provide important economic benefits to the Lowcountry, including broader opportunities for employment in those areas of study.
"We are looking primarily to get the job done," Rep. Stavrinakis said, describing the current proposal as more politically feasible.
The proposal that goes to the House Ways and Means Committee has no funding attached. The growth of a doctoral granting research university would be made incrementally.
Similarly, budget increases effecting that growth would have to be taken up individually by the Legislature.
Consequently, the development of the University of Charleston would not be on a parallel track to the industrial growth and general economic expansion of the Lowcountry.
But the careful allocation of assets should ensure that there would be nothing overly speculative about the growth of the research university, as it relates to local economic development.
Meanwhile, there would be other issues for an expansion plan to consider, including the university's location in the historic district, and the possibility of collaborations with other universities, including MUSC.
All of that assumes that the proposal meets with the approval of the House and Senate. That might be difficult to achieve this year, considering that the session is well under way.
But supporters of the research university have increased the chances of timely legislative action by downsizing the plan to accommodate the solo development of the University of Charleston.
It's a more logical plan for a comprehensive research university.
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