One More College Plan

DANIEL BERGER

July 20, 1991|By DANIEL BERGER

Everyone else has a plan for public higher education in Maryland. So here is my own modest proposal:

* The University of Maryland at College Park should be made into one of the nation's top research universities, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as model. It needs 10,000 fewer undergraduates and 1 million more books.

If it is too late and expensive to provide better architecture and land use, College Park should settle for better gardening. It should imitate North Carolina's scholarships, luring the highest-caliber undergraduates from around the country, as the University of Virginia does.

If College Park hived off the bottom 10,000 undergraduates, the remaining 12,000 would have average SATs equal to student bodies at Charlottesville, Ann Arbor or Berkeley. The atmosphere for learning would improve markedly.

The bounced 10,000 would strengthen other state colleges, of which all but Towson are under-studented. Bowie State would prosper. They might even bring about a four-year college for Montgomery County. A lot of Montgomerians think that just because their subdivision is the state's largest with one-sixth of all Marylanders, it deserves a college of its own. Humor them.

One other problem must be addressed. The politically sensitive departments at College Park pretend to be the state university of Washington, D.C. Their love is doomed to go unrequited. No one in Washington will ever put College Park in the same local league with Georgetown, American or George Washington, no matter how much better than them it gets.

There already is a University of the District of Columbia, and College Park would not want to be it. Either D.C. should annex everything out to the Beltway, or College Park should resign itself to becoming the University of Maryland.

* Metropolitan Baltimore needs a public university with everything, as is provided for virtually every other real or wannabe metropolis (see Cleveland State University, University of Cincinnati, Wayne State University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Illinois-Chicago Circle and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis).

Since the abandonment of existing small campuses for construction of a massive Temple would be unimaginably expensive, we settled for something called the University of bTC Maryland System: Merger is declared to have taken place and the problem to have been solved, with the little campuses intact.

OK. These bits and pieces can, indeed, add up to one total university worthy of Baltimore -- providing someone does the adding. None of the campuses should be allowed to write its own mission statement; that is doing it backward. Start with a plan of what Baltimore needs, not with what each bit already has. Put an overlay of the total university required onto the map of existing structures, see what's missing, and assign it out to the campuses.

Where it is argued that the Baltimore bits of the University of Maryland System should not duplicate what College Park has (such as city planning), Morgan State University is the solution. What a blessing that its trustees, for reasons of their own, opted out of the System.

An adequately funded Morgan State University Press, for instance, could do wonders for scholarship in the region. If College Park should object to granting a doctorate in French literature at the University of Baltimore or University of Maryland Baltimore County, give it to Morgan.

If someone objects to having competitive law schools at what is proclaimed to be one university, change the name of UB's to Morgan. Nothing need change save the letterhead.

* Quit denying Towson. Admit that it is the second flagship of the state, the counter-balance to College Park that UMBC was created to become, and has been for years. More students want to go there than to any other public campus in the region, and they must know something. Every UM plan was really a plan to Stop Towson. Instead of fighting market forces, good planning would roll with them.

But Towson, for its part, should come to terms with reality. If it provides the second-best education in the Maryland public system after St. Mary's, that is because its adjuncts are better than College Park's teaching assistants, which should surprise no one.

So Towson should quit calling itself a university. It is good because it is not one. It should follow the lead of William and Mary, a medium-sized state university in Virginia, which fools its inmates into a higher conception of self-worth and achievement by calling itself a College and one of the best.

* Some people want to change the University of Maryland Baltimore County's name to Maryland Institute of Technology, (MIT). That is derivative of Massachusetts to the point of tackiness.

A better name is Maryland Institute of Technology and Information (MITI), which is the acronym of Japan's Ministry for Trade and Industry, which is the model of what Maryland's business-political-academic complex wants from this school.

* Bigtime sports. Forget reform. No one would stand for it. This state is too big not to have its second behemoth, its Michigan State or North Carolina State. Of the candidates, Towson is almost there. Go for it, Tigers, beat them Terps!

If the question is raised what all this would cost, the answer is that UB accounting faculty should be assigned to find out. What else is a business school for?

Actually, we don't need a total university in Baltimore. Forget Agriculture.

Dan Berger writes editorials for The Sun.

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