Selected Speeches

SB 1052: University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act

March 1, 2016
Miller Senate Office Building, Annapolis

 

Dear Chairman Kasemeyer and Members of the Senate Budget Taxation Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to testify on Senate Bill 1052: The University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act.

As you know, I am a fierce advocate for close partnership. And I believe the tight alliance between the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park—created by the Board of Regents four years ago—is one of the best things ever to happen to these two universities. MPower has opened up hundreds of avenues for collaboration, and it’s already had an extraordinary impact on the state.

Wallace Loh and I are very proud of all that’s been accomplished to date. Each of us leads a top-tier research institution—each of our universities attracts a half-billion dollars a year in grants and contracts. However, our joint research enterprise was meager before MPower.

Now we’ve grown our joint research dollars from practically zero to 70 million. We’ve grown joint faculty appointments from one to 60. Our unified tech-transfer office is aggressively developing and marketing our discoveries. In just a few years, we’ve disclosed 1400 inventions, licensed 200 technologies, and launched 40 startups.

And, of course, my colleagues and I at UMB welcome the opportunities afforded by this bill to further enhance this partnership.

That said, I’m reminded always of the oath I took as a physician, which might offer a lesson for us all: First, do no harm. And so I ask that this bill be amended to avoid any unintended consequences that could, in fact, cause harm. Both UMB and our sister university in College Park need retained autonomy to carry out our missions with fidelity and authority.

As two partners, working together, we need to decide the wisdom of combining operational functions, such as a common personnel system and the distribution of enhancement monies. I believe these actions should not be mandated in the law.

Furthermore, no harm must be done to UMB’s ability to attract and retain its outstanding corps of academic leaders, senior faculty, and staff, who come to UMB specifically because they can work in a specially focused institution in close association with its leadership.

In fact, many of UMB’s nationally and internationally renowned faculty are lured to Baltimore by their ready access to the upper reaches of leadership, where their work and the work of their schools find powerful champions and priority in resourcing.

Additionally, because UMB has a unique collection of expertise and abilities as Maryland’s health, law, and human services university, we must have the autonomy to continue building on our relationships with our sister USM institutions.

For instance, we enjoy a very close partnership with UMBC, which has recently seen tremendous growth in its research program. UMB has been able to enhance that research growth, particularly in the biomedical fields.

And, finally—perhaps most importantly—as one of Baltimore City’s most powerful anchor institutions, UMB is obligated to use its influence and assets to benefit the city.

I know that everyone in this room is concerned about Baltimore and that everyone wants to see it thrive. But I also know that there’s no substitute for proximity when you’re trying to make a difference in communities that have been isolated and marginalized for years—communities that are, therefore, slow to trust and slow to heal.

UMB has to be able to act in the best interests of Baltimore City, and our autonomy in this regard can’t be compromised. 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.

Many of these potentially harmful, unintended consequences could be obviated by amending the bill and by ensuring the perpetuation of a university president on both the Baltimore and College Park campuses.

And while I understand that the Regents could opt for only one university leader—with or without language in the law—I tend to agree with the Baltimore Sun editorial on Sunday that its presence in the bill “puts a finger on the scale” when balancing power and partnership between College Park and Baltimore. 

And so I strongly support the intention of this bill—to materially strengthen UMB’s partnership with our sister university in College Park—and I welcome the opportunity to collaborate on amendments that would accomplish this end without diluting the influence and impact of UMB. Thank you.


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