UA could grow with CSU

“Imagine attending the University of Akron with more than 40,000 other students. If the plans pan out, this could be the next transformation for UA. President Luis Proenza told the Akron Beacon Journal that the idea for such a merger had been discussed years ago.”

Imagine attending the University of Akron with more than 40,000 other students.

If the plans pan out, this could be the next transformation for UA.

President Luis Proenza told the Akron Beacon Journal that the idea for such a merger had been discussed years ago. It had been voiced by Richard Shatton, the former leader of the Regional Economic Institute in Northeast Ohio, nearly 10 years ago.

Did anything happen? Proenza asked. No.

Since then, Gov. Ted Strickland has begun an initiative move toward innovation and improvement of higher education. Strickland’s goals have shifted to a more intense level.

Strickland appointed Eric Fingerhut as the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents on March 14th, signifying the beginning of a new era in government involvement in higher education.

At Thursday’s Bernard I. Rosen Memorial Lecture on The Future and Promise of Higher Education, Fingerhut was the keynote speaker.

Proenza, Bernett Williams, the president and CEO of the Akron Urban League and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber, Daniel Colantone were all present during the lecture. Fingerhut’s speech included several key statements that gave a better understanding to the merger.

Higher education is central to their (the government’s) plans and it was time to step up, Fingerhut said.

He also vaguely outlined plans for the creation of the University System of Ohio, which would mold all public universities in Ohio into a single system.

Public education is the key to economy … We must complement each other and together, provide everything that Ohio needs to create talent to compete worldwide …. change can be exhilarating, and should continue.

Fingerhut gave no details on what the exact changes would be.

We are not there yet, he said. The status quo will not do. We are calling for major changes.

Fingerhut did not want to compare his vision of higher education to any particular state system of schools, but mentioned that he would love to hear about kids who write their grandparents’ addresses, rather than their own, to attend Ohio schools, referencing the renowned California state system of schools.

Proenza’s reply to Fingerhut’s proposed transformation also promised change. He referred to the system of higher education as an industry that is in transition.

He reasoned that the university system in Northeast Ohio has to face the realities of regionalism. No specifics were stated regarding an actual merger, only the need for change.

No status quo; no status in the quo, Proenza said jokingly.

Proenza also said UA would remain a seperate institution if the new plan would hinder the university in any way.

Our university is strongly positioned to provide leadership as Ohio’s public colleges and universities seek to align themselves with the vision for a state university system that powers Ohio’s economic growth. I am committed to helping in any way possible, so long as nothing is done to dilute the quality of education we offer or to otherwise affect our students or our community negatively, Proenza said in an e-mail to the Buchtelite.

The University of Akron will continue to work more and more closely and collaboratively with CSU and NEOUCOM, but it will not lose its identity or its strong ties with its community.

Proenza said in an e-mail sent to faculty and staff that it is his goal to help all students in general.

We seek to make the whole of higher education in Northeast Ohio greater than the sum of its parts, he said in the e-mail. We have been discussing greater academic collaboration, administrative efficiencies and institutional cooperation.

Clearly there will be changes, but if we together are successful, we will serve more students, conduct more research and lift our communities to a much greater extent than we do today.

It remains to be seen if this merger of schools will help the universities involved.

We’re glad that people are talking about it, John Szatkowski of NEOUCOM’s public relations board said. We feel that we are centrally located to the region, to Akron, Canton, Youngstown and Kent, and we provide a central location and outstanding academics.

Interactions and collaborations between campuses could benefit students, he said.

I think the students value their experiences on the mixture of campuses, whether it be Akron, Kent or Cleveland State, Szatkowski said. Again, because of the nature of the way we do things, you really get a flavor for what it means to be a doctor or pharmacist in Northeastern Ohio.

CSU president Michael Schwartz said in an e-mail to CSU faculty and staff on Sept. 21 that the idea of a merger has never been brought to any disscusion by CSU administration. While it is not an unheard of idea, no one has officialy brought it forward for disscusion.

In addition, there is no statement about what benefit such a merger would have for either institution, and more directly to the point, there has been no statement that I have either seen or heard about what benefit would accrue to the students at both institutions in the event of such a merge, he said. What the Plain Dealer printed was a recitation of the current rumor.