“The devil is always in the details, and I personally think this one’s got a lot of devil in it.”
Those were the sentiments of Texas A&M University System Regent Robert Albritton on the proposed merger between Texas A&M University-Kingsville and its sister campus in Corpus Christi.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents met on Nov. 10 with both universities’ administration in College Station.
To consolidate both campuses would mean sharing facility resources, increasing research funding, advance distance learning and climbing athletic division ranks.
System Chancellor John Sharp, TAMUK President Dr. Steven Tallant, and TAMUCC Interim President Dr. Kelly Quintanilla gave regents a presentation outlining the benefits of a possible merger.
“If we don’t grow folks, we lose funding… the formula of funding works around growth…not only do you have to grow, you have to grow better than everyone else,” Tallant stressed.
The panel discussed issues such as enrollment, transportation, and culture, in addition to how faculty would be impacted. Educators would have to accommodate distance learning students, or possibly split time between the two campuses.
“Two campuses, one mission that will close the loop; strengthen and flourish into the first emerging research university in the A&M system,” Tallant said.
Quintanilla listed areas of concern such as brand identity, technological necessities, effective faculty-to-administration communication, and access to student records, which a merger would bring.
“By sharing initiatives and combining the two universities, we will meet the criteria to qualify for research status. Both universities are growing—becoming one will be the challenge,” Quintanilla said.
Board members weighed in on the amount of time and deliberation needed to carefully consider the merger. Repeatedly, members reminded each other during the meeting that the issue is not yet ready for an up or down vote.
“The idea that we would say ‘wait and let’s not worry about the Legislature’ and delay this process even further is to kill the baby in the cradle,” said Regent Charles Schwartz.
However, according to a Nov. 9 letter to the board of regents submitted by Philip C. Skrobarczyk, a prominent Corpus Christi businessman and president of the TAMUCC Foundation, Tallant and Sharp were meeting with legislators and Corpus Christi business owners as early as Oct. 5 to discuss merger plans.
Skrobarczyk’s letter states that no TAMUCC officials were in attendance.
Sharp, according to the letter, urged attendees–10 prominent banking, construction and transportation executives as well as six local politicians, State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, State Rep. Abel Herrero, State Rep. Todd Hunter, Judge Loyd Neal, State Sen. Eddie Lucio and State Rep. JM Lozano–to support the proposed merger.
Sharp told the group, according to Skrobarczyk’s letter, that merging the schools would reap immediate benefits in the form of research funds approaching $100 million, a bigger student body at 22,000, as well as a Division I football program.
In an interview with Tallant, talk of a potential proposal will quickly be put together as the merger plan unfolds.
If this were to be approved by the Legislature, both institutions would work two years on developing the proposal with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), an accerediting agency that must also sign off on the merger.
“This is just the beginning. There have been discussions bounced around. Nothing has been validated by the Board of Regents…they will tell us what to do. I mean, it took us three years to put all of our hats in together,” Tallant told the South Texan.
Kleberg County Commissioners passed a resolution this week stating its opposition to the merger. The resolution stated the university and county’s best interests are not being taken into consideration.
Corpus Christi’s legislative delegation also released a statement advising regents to vote cautiously. The statement read, “We will not support any legislation or proposal that would adversely affect or be harmful or detrimental to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Corpus Christi community.”
TAMUCC President Dr. Flavius Killebrew sent out a mass email to students and staff listing key points that were vocalized during the regents meeting. Although the voting is left to the board, open forums will be moderated by campus organizations to gather input from students and faculty.
Tallant similarly addressed his role in a campus-wide email. He’s also spoken to the faculty senate, Student Government Association and to local Rotarians.
Though his stance on the topic is not specified. Tallant noted that he is confident regents will give the merger idea careful examinationand make the right decision.
Sharp will speak to members of the community about the merger idea at the Robstown fairgrounds Monday at 1 p.m.