S.C. Senate introduces Charleston University bill

By Ashley Barker
Published Feb. 19, 2014

Republican Sen. Larry Grooms of Charleston introduced a bill Tuesday that closely mimics a S.C. House of Representatives bill to merge the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.

Both bills call for the merger to occur and Charleston University to be created before July 1, 2016.

Senate bill 1021 calls for CofC to be renamed the Charleston University Campus, and House bill 4632 says it should be known as the Charleston University George Street Campus. MUSC would be renamed the Charleston University Medical Campus in both bills.

The Senate’s bill was referred to the Committee on Education, and the House bill is now being looked at in the Committee on Ways and Means.

The new bill was introduced the same day three representatives asked for their names to be removed as co-sponsors of the House bill.

On Tuesday, Rep. Robert L. Brown, D-Hollywood, Rep. David Mack III, D-North Charleston, and Rep. Mike Sottile, R-Isle of Palms, requested they no longer be listed as sponsors.

Brown said that when he first signed on as a co-sponsor, he was under the impression that the merger had already been worked out between CofC and MUSC leaders.

“Now that I’m learning there’s still some differences, I thought it would be good for me not to be a co-sponsor,” Brown said. “I’m undecided. I want to listen to the debates over it, and I’m just not sure if I’m going to support it or not.”

Mack and Sottile did not return messages asking for comments about the bill.

College faculty against merger

CofC’s Faculty Senate met Tuesday to discuss the proposed merger. The group wrote in a resolution that it opposes the Charleston University bill because it does not carefully consider critical issues. Those issues include:

  • The type of university being proposed, its mission and its structure.
  • The cost to expand existing programs and create new research capacities and administrative structures and the source of funds.
  • Impacts of the change in mission and identity on student recruitment, alumni engagement and faculty retention.
  • Impacts of the change in mission on student learning and educational opportunities.
  • Impacts on resource reallocation and student enrollment for existing research universities in the state.
  • Impacts on funding and productivity from losing designation as a primarily undergraduate institution among granting sources.
  • Constraints on space for further expansion on the Charleston peninsula.
  • Implications of an altered mission for faculty whose training and expertise are in undergraduate and targeted graduate instruction.

The resolution also noted that the bill filing has disrupted the college’s presidential search.

Last week, MUSC’s board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution against the merger. Board member Michael Stavrinakis abstained from voting because his brother is Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, who introduced the merger bill. The university’s leaders said other options for collaboration would be less costly, more effective and would preserve the missions, cultures and reputations of both schools.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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