UM flagship, other schools pin futures on key detailsThe...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

December 12, 1998

UM flagship, other schools pin futures on key details

The task force to study the governance, coordination and funding of the University System of Maryland is going to have a major impact on higher education in the state, regardless of whether it recommends major structural changes in the system.

The Sun's article "Dismantling unlikely for university system" (Dec. 4) suggested that the outcome of the task force's hard work will be nothing but "administrative details that will do little to alter substantially the face of higher education in the state." The article reports that observers say that such details "are much less important than the amount of money the state commits to higher education in the next session of the General Assembly."

As a member of the task force and as president of the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland, I disagree.

Having sat through three months of task force meetings and contributed substantively to the discussions in those meetings, I am convinced that the Larson Report will be the blueprint for higher education in Maryland for at least the next decade. The recommendations of the task force will establish the direction for the universities of this state at least as effectively as did the 1988 legislation that created the University System of Maryland. It is not necessary to destroy the system to make it work the way it was originally envisioned.

The problems within the system are in the implementation, not in the values the 1988 legislation represented. The 1988 legislation designated University of Maryland, College Park as the state's flagship institution, a vital concept for the economic growth and quality of life of the state and the region. But until this year, the state has not implemented that concept.

Contrary to the assertion in the article, details of the administrative structure are not less important than the amount of money the state commits to higher education. Indeed, the amount expended on higher education is strongly influenced by these administrative details.

For example, in the exiting process, the budget request of the flagship institution is folded into the requests of all the disparate institutions of the system. I and others have argued consistently that the president of the University of Maryland, College Park must be able to present directly to the governor the funding needs of the flagship institution, which has a mission and scope unlike any other university in the state.

Whether the task force recommends such a change in administrative details will have a great effect on how quickly this university can achieve its goals as well as on defining clearly the roles of the institutions in the system.

Likewise, will the task force reaffirm and will the General Assembly enact the practice of budgeting by benchmarking against our peers? What will be said about the role of the regents? Are they to be a governing board or an administrative body? What role will the system play in the private fund-raising efforts that play an increasingly large role in determining whether we can afford our aspirations?

These may seem to be "administrative details," but the answers to these questions will determine whether we have an institution of higher learning as vital to the interests of Maryland as Chapel Hill is to North Carolina and Berkeley and UCLA are to California.

Those are the models we offer the state of Maryland. In many ways, the future of the state depends on our willingness and our commitment to achieve those goals. They may not seem as interesting as "blowing up the system." It is often said that the devil is in the details, but in this case, I believe it appropriate to conclude that the future is in the details.

C. D. Mote Jr.

College Park

The writer is president of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Mike Lane's 'cartoon world' does not reflect Baltimore

At a recent meeting of the Downtown Partnership, First Maryland Bancorp President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Bramble noted the numerous comments he receives from visitors about the cleanliness of our city. He also stated that there is no doubt in his mind that this is true.

Unfortunately a cartoon that appeared on your editorial page on Dec. 4 gives the opposite impression. This particular attempt at humor certainly failed to raise a chuckle among workers at the Department of Public Works. We found it absolutely insulting.

In this exercise in poor taste, you show what is supposed to be a city worker sitting idly on a park bench with an empty cart nearby. Strewn around the worker are mounds of trash.

It is obvious that your cartoonist has chosen not to be informed about what has occurred in the areas of solid waste collection and maintenance during the Schmoke administration. Let me list some of the ways sanitation has been improved in Baltimore during the past decade:

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