University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay A. Perman is worried about a legislative plan to unite — but not fully merge —his institution with the University of Maryland, College Park.
The plan would build on an existing collaborative effort known as “MPower,” and contains a provision that could allow for one president to oversee both campuses in the future. Each campus would keep its own president at the outset, according to the bill.
Perman testified on the bill before a Senate committee Tuesday, saying that while he supported the overall goal of the legislation — that is, greater collaboration between the two institutions — it was essential for his campus to maintain its autonomy to continue its work in Baltimore.
Perman elaborated on his concerns in a message to the UMB community Tuesday. While bill supporters argue that uniting the campuses would allow joint reporting of grant and contract funding, which in turn would raise the university’s national research rankings, that may require a single president lead both institutions, Perman wrote.
“I don’t consider raising our rankings sufficient reason to threaten the autonomy and influence of UMB,” he wrote, adding that if College Park became the de facto headquarters of the joint university, as would likely happen under a single president, “the city of Baltimore would undoubtedly suffer.”
As an anchor institution, the school needs to use its “influence and assets” to benefit the city, he wrote. “Our neighbors need to know that they can rely on us, and that we have the power and clout to do what we say we’re going to do.”
The decade-old University of Maryland BioPark has been an effort to bring both research facilities and economic development to a troubled area of West Baltimore, and last year the university launched the UMB CURE Scholars Program, a partnership with three public schools in the city to guide city youth into careers in the biomedical sector, according to the university.
Perman said he is eager to collaborate on amendments to the proposed bill that would both strengthen the alliance between the two campuses while protecting UMB’s independence.