To Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, the proposal to merge two University of Maryland campuses in the Baltimore area is unacceptable. "Not this year, not next year, not ever," is how he put it to the state's secretary of higher education. This could have unforeseen repercussions, much to Mr. Miller's dismay.
The notion of consolidating UM's downtown professional schools campus (UMAB) and its Catonsville campus (UMBC) into a unitary University of Maryland -- Baltimore has won unusually broad support. Unlike earlier proposals, this one has been endorsed by faculty and administrators at UMAB and UMBC. Others in the UM system are also backing the plan, as are business and civic leaders.
In fact, Mr. Miller and some worried educators at College Park seem to be the only ones resisting this practical alliance.
Combining the two campuses makes sense. UMAB is the state's leading public health sciences institution; UMBC is the state's leading biotechnology college. Put the two together and you create a research university of the first rank. That's just what the Baltimore region needs if it is to succeed in becoming a center for life sciences. UMB could be the linchpin for the region's economic growth.
Is Mr. Miller willing to stand in the way of progress? Is he willing to enflame parochial passions that could result in a bitter feud between Baltimore-area colleges and College Park?
The Senate president is a die-hard College Park alumnus. Until UM's flagship campus is lavished with new buildings and its empire is expanded, Mr. Miller won't budge. But that strategy could backfire, with College Park being denied its priority items for blocking the UMB merger.
That's a sad commentary on Mr. Miller as a statewide leader. Curiously, another top political leader from the College Park area, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, is an outspoken advocate of the UMB merger. He sees the benefits for all of Maryland in creating an academic magnet for high-tech economic development. The beauty of the plan is that it can be done for practically nothing. It might even save the state money.
Is Mr. Miller opposed to having two first-rate UM campuses? Is he against academic superiority for the entire UM system? Is he opposed to letting UMB take the lead in life sciences while College Park continues its role as the state's premier campus? Or does he want to block the Baltimore area from ever having a prestigious public university?
The last thing the university needs right now is a pitched battle over turf. And the last thing Annapolis needs is another parochial temper tantrum from one of its ostensible leaders. A consolidated UMB would be good for the entire state and a solid advance for the University of Maryland system.