Too often a "merger" in higher education is a euphemism for a thinly veiled takeover of a weak partner (such as Baltimore's Mount St. Agnes College) by a strong one (Loyola College), and too often the "merger" promises what it will never deliver -- such as great economies. Moreover, the extreme difficulties of combining institutions of different -- sometimes strikingly different -- traditions and outlooks are almost always overlooked.
In 1989, the last time a merger of the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Maryland at Baltimore was proposed as part of a three-way deal also involving the University of Baltimore, we thought it would never fly. It was a one-ring circus, with UM Regents Chairman Peter O'Malley as ringmaster. It cost O'Malley his post, and it cost UMAB the services of Harvard surgeon and professor Augustus White, who withdrew after his appointment as president had been announced.
But now many things have changed. Most of the higher education bigwigs have signed on to a two-way joining of UMAB and UMBC. Michael Hooker, the UMBC president whose perceived ambition to head the combined unit might have thrown up a roadblock, is actively seeking a presidency elsewhere and says he would not be a candidate to head the new "University of Maryland Baltimore." And promoters of merger wisely are not claiming it will save the state millions of dollars.