Letter from the Interim President: Current merger legislation would harm MUSCTweet
I write to you today for two reasons: First, I want to introduce you to a new video segment titled “The Corner,” that will be emailed to you periodically, discussing timely issues facing the Medical University of South Carolina. The topic of the inaugural video is the current discussion about legislation that would merge MUSC and the College of Charleston. To watch the video, please visit http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/esl/the_corner.htm.
My second reason for writing is to reaffirm what I’m sure many of you have gathered from the news media, that the MUSC Board of Trustees’ recent vote in opposition to a forced merger of CofC and MUSC was unanimous (with one abstention).
Board members were in agreement that the submitted legislation defining a merger would harm MUSC and that a formal collaboration was an alternative in addressing the needs of the Lowcountry business community. The Board’s decision was based in large part on the findings of a study committee comprised of MUSC and CofC board members, administrators and faculty who spent nearly a year studying mergers and collaborations nationally. To read the committee’s report, and issues raised, please visit: http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/pr/news_you_can_use/pdf/whitepaper.pdf.
As part of its report, the committee also highlighted the need for a delegation to visit national sites where university mergers and collaborations have occurred before legislatively finalizing a structure to meet the economic development needs of the Charleston region. To my knowledge, no such arrangements have been made.
In ongoing meetings with MUSC constituencies, I am repeatedly asked for further clarification regarding MUSC’s perspective that led to the opposing vote. I feel compelled to respond given the consistency with which this question is asked. I hope you appreciate that these issues are complex and cannot be fully captured in a short update. However, in addition to the committee report previously indicated, to partially address this issue, I have attached a link to a FAQ defining key considerations to date. They include the lack of synergies to build a comprehensive research university, the currently undocumented cost that would likely amount to hundreds of millions of dollars to implement the necessary advanced degree programs, and the potential damage to the institutions’ well-deserved brand names, among many others. To review the FAQ document, please visit: http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/pr/news_you_can_use/pdf/faq.htm
To date of this letter, the merger talks in the legislature and the community remain highly fluid and we must continue to advocate for ongoing dialogue among the principals. It is my opinion that the essential role of MUSC as a research university in the Lowcountry’s advancement of economic development is a given. The delicate balance has to do with the optimal organizational structure to continue advancing MUSC’s national stature in the highly competitive health care and biomedical arenas while supporting the business interests of the Charleston region. With respect to the latter, it is important to remember that MUSC, with over 12,000 employees, is the region’s largest employer and has a fiscal impact of billions contributed to the economy. Any decisions made regarding merger or collaboration is a delicate matter for the entire Lowcountry, as they may impact MUSC’s future.
I also have been asked by dozens of MUSC constituent organizations what they can do to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. We are a representative government, so I encourage all parties to be contemplative and exercise your rights as a citizen regarding your position, whether for or against the merger legislation as it continues to emerge. If you are an employee, please indicate in your communications that you represent yourself, and do not use MUSC computers, email, or stationary.
As always, I am grateful for the dedicated spirit and hard work you all demonstrate each day to better the lives of those we serve, and I will continue to update you as this process develops.
March 6, 2014
Mark S. Sothmann, Ph.D.,
Vice President for Academici Affairs & Provost