Depending on which educator is doing the talking, a proposal to merge four Baltimore area universities into two is either a brilliant idea or a bad mistake.
On Monday, the Maryland Higher Education Commission called for a task force to study merging Coppin State College with Morgan State University and the University of Maryland at Baltimore with UM at Baltimore County.
The mergers would result in stronger educational opportunities for urban students as well as better research and technological programs for graduate students, according to the proposal developed by Higher Education Secretary Shaila Aery.
Reaction is mixed.
There appears to be little community support for combining Coppin and Morgan, two traditionally black schools with long histories and vocal alumni, but the proposal to bring the two UM campuses under one umbrella has some champions.
Coppin State President Calvin W. Burnett said the plan contains errors in assumptions about his campus that have resulted in a misleading analysis of the school's mission.
The report states that Coppin, which enrolls 2,000 full-time students and will receive $13.6 million in state funds this year, "lacks economy of scale and has a limited program portfolio."
"The commission does not know this college," Burnett said. "It says we have been a teachers' college since 1962, but in fact, in 1970, we took on arts and sciences programs. That, to me, was astounding to read. I think they're moving in the wrong direction -- backwards."
Of Morgan State, the report says the school "has a notable history, [but] currently lacks the necessary economy of scale to adequately fulfill its mission, role and scope."
Morgan State President Earl Richardson was unavailable for comment.
Burnett said he would oppose a merger of the two historically black institutions, which are about five miles apart in the city. The opposition will include Coppin's faculty, alumni and students, he predicted.
"We're prepared to resist," he said. "We're not prepared to sit by and let people make mistakes about who we are. Because it appears that we are helpless -- that is just not right."
Merging Coppin State and Morgan State could also pose an administrative problem because Coppin is governed by the UM Board of Regents and is part of the 11-campus UM System, while Morgan is an independent state university with its own trustees.
At UMAB, President Errol L. Reese welcomed a study of the unification of his downtown institution with UMBC, in Catonsville.
Two years ago, the UM Board of Regents became embroiled in a controversy over a proposal to merge UMBC, UMAB and the University of Baltimore.
But the commission's new proposal to merge UMBC and UMAB is being met optimistically by administrators at both campuses. The schools already enjoy a working relationship and share a graduate school, shuttling students between campuses on an 11-minute bus ride, said UMBC Provost Adam Yarmolinsky.
Regents Chairman George McGowan said the board is prepared to review the commission's proposal at its August or September meeting.