Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has made it perfectly clear: he violently objects to consolidating the downtown University of Maryland at Baltimore with the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus in Catonsville. He doesn't want to see any public university in the Baltimore area that can challenge his very own College Park.
How else can you explain his preposterous allegations for opposing such a sensible step? He says, for instance, "This merger will require a great deal of additional funds." Wrong! The merger is expected to save money by combining administrative functions and eliminating duplication of services.
Mr. Miller claims this merger "would take away from community colleges, historically black colleges and other components of the University of Maryland System." Using that zero-sum illogic, any progress in any public higher education institution comes at the expense of another. Wrong again.
This planned merger isn't a threat to other colleges; it complements existing strengths in the UM system. The idea is to meld UMBC's focus on undergraduate biotechnology and research with UMAB's superb medical research and graduate programs. The result could be a high-powered academic engine centered around the life sciences that could lead the Baltimore region into the next century as a magnet for new high-tech companies.
No other campus in the state's higher education network comes close to matching the UMBC-UMAB emphasis on this area. It is a natural fit. It does not undermine community colleges, or black colleges or even Mr. Miller's alma matter at College Park, which would remain the unchallenged leader of the state's university system. What a new University of Maryland-Baltimore would do is give the Baltimore region, for the first time, a superior public institution that combines quality undergraduate programs with first-rate graduate schools and world-class research activities. Now that would be something every Marylander could take pride in -- even Mr. Miller.
The House of Delegates last week approved the UMB merger by a whopping 94-17 margin. Apparently few delegates share Mr. Miller's paranoia. We think the Senate president is way off-base in his opposition to this merger. It has exceptionally broad support in academic circles, business circles and government circles. His concerns that somehow College Park would be hurt by this consolidation are unfounded. This state is big enough for more than one first-class public university. The goal should be top-quality education, not parochial political strong-arming to stem progress.