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Regents Decline UMCP/UMB Merger, Back Strategic Alliance

It's an "innovative organizational approach to 21st century opportunities and challenges," chancellor says.

By Gina Cairney
Capital News Service

The potential benefits from a were not enough for the University System of Maryland Board of Regents to support merging the two campuses.

USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan said in a special meeting Friday that the State of Maryland and its higher education system would benefit more from a strategic alliance between the College Park and Baltimore institutions.

The regents will recommend that approach to the Maryland General Assembly when they submit their report to the legislature next week. The General Assembly asked the regents to study the idea of a merger and set a deadline of Dec. 15 for the regents' report.

"This is a decision about an innovative organizational approach to 21st century opportunities and challenges," Kirwan said.

UMCP President Wallace D. Loh thanked the regents and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, for their work, and said, "It's an important step forward for the two institutions and the state. It's a step long overdue."

Saying he's been opposed to the merger since the study began, Loh said Friday he was satisfied with the regents' choice of a strategic alliance. He said the concept is similar to what he advocated for with one distinct difference.

Loh said he argued for marketing the campuses under the single University of Maryland name, but keeping the campuses as they are now with each president responsible for his institution. Then the two could come together on occasion for discussion and collaboration.

The proposed alliance would leave UMCP and UMB as two separate entities, taking the best of each institution and creating a highly collaborative academic environment.

"We already branded ourselves," as the University of Maryland, Loh said, "so it's not a revolutionary idea."

UMB President Jay A. Perman, who chose not to take a position on the merger during the study, said he supports the strategic alliance.

"It's about taking the best of each campus," he said, and the alliance would create "enhanced opportunities for undergraduates" to connect with the professional school, and "enhance opportunities for faculty" to collaborate on research projects.

According to the regents' report, the strategic alliance may include activities like "articulated degree pathways" for students who enter UMCP and have an interest in a professional degree from the Baltimore campus.

Joint programs could also be developed between the campuses in public health, law and public policy, sociology and social services.

"We do what's in the best interest of Maryland citizens," Chairman Orlan M. Johnson said, "and an alliance will allow us to push forward to make the system and the state great."

The USM Chancellor and two campus presidents have until March 2012 to develop specific initiatives of the alliance for the regents to review and approve.

During the meeting, the regents also proposed a policy on reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, emphasizing Maryland's family law that mandates reporting of all suspected abuse.

The policy comes amid the public outcry over the indictment of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of abusing children and the firing of head coach and college football icon Joe Paterno for not doing enough to prevent the alleged abuse.

The Maryland regents' proposal outlined the requirements and process USM employees and others should take, including reporting hierarchy, instances requiring reporting, types of communication to be used in reporting and training for employees and students who regularly work with children.

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