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Published: Wednesday, 11/23/2005

University of Toledo faculty wants merger data

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

But members of the Faculty Senate put off a decision, saying they have more questions than answers and haven't yet been provided with details of the concept.

"What I'm against is it's being thrown at us at the last minute," said Kathleen Thompson-Casado, an assistant professor of Spanish, who said she's not opposed to the idea but wants more information so she can issue an informed vote at a later date.

"I haven't seen any of the specifics," added Professor Debra Stoudt before faculty members voted 20-13 to table a resolution supporting the merger until their next meeting on Dec. 6.

"Perhaps it's in this report none of us have seen," she said.

The faculty's show-of-hands vote yesterday, which was taken after Mr. Johnson left the meeting, came on the same day The Blade reported details about the proposed merger - details Mr. Johnson and MUO President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said didn't exist when questioned last week.

They also initially declined to release documents pertaining to the proposed merger as part of a public records request filed by The Blade under the Ohio Public Records Act.

The draft documents received by The Blade called for a possible merger as early as July 1, 2006, and they outlined several scenarios for future leadership of a combined institution.

One suggestion was for Mr. Johnson to step down as president, with Dr. Jacobs assuming the role.

The meeting yesterday marked the first time Mr. Johnson has spoken publicly on campus about the merger discussions, which have spanned the last four years between Mr. Johnson and past and present MUO presidents.

Those talks took a more concrete form in the spring, Mr. Johnson said, with MUO later deciding to move ahead with an outside study on the issue by Ryan Beck & Co. of New York City.

That $40,000 report described a merger as a way to bring prestige and more research dollars and improve recruitment efforts for both schools.

Mr. Johnson told faculty members that he's been involved with mergers in past jobs at other universities and believes it can work for UT and MUO.

"This is a move that I believe will truly position the University of Toledo for great things," said Mr. Johnson, who spoke to faculty leaders for 30 minutes.

Mr. Johnson fielded a few questions from the faculty, including one about whether UT would assume any financial liability connected with a hospital. Mr. Johnson said provisions would be made to ensure that would not be the case.

Although he wasn't asked, Mr. Johnson said he would recommend that UT's name not be changed - should a merger take place.

According to documents obtained by The Blade outlining possible names, one called for a merged institution to be known as the University of Ohio at Toledo.

Mr. Johnson was clear on another major point with the faculty - time was of the essence in moving forward with a merger.

Mr. Johnson also said that not all questions can possibly be answered as a potential merger unfolds, and he noted that a final decision rests in the hands of the state legislature.

"Our approach to this, I think, is very simple," Mr. Johnson said. "We need to make the decision now and resolve the problems as they come."

Mr. Johnson said a "decision needs to be made quickly" and the two institutions' boards should decide whether they support a merger in the next few weeks.

Mr. Johnson offered no explanation why the merger should proceed at an accelerated pace.

George Chapman, chairman of the MUO trustees, could not be reached for comment last night on whether his board plans to meet soon to discuss its support for a possible merger.

Dan Brennan, UT's board chairman, said no decisions have been made but that the board could take up the matter at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 21.

He said they also could call a special meeting to discuss the proposal. "It's conceivable we could take it up in December," Mr. Brennan said. "It's on that type of track.

"There's still a lot of work to be done. Dragging this thing on and on serves no purpose."

If approved by both boards, the matter would be forwarded to the Ohio Board of Regents and ultimately state legislators for approval.

Mr. Brennan said there's no leading scenario about the merger at this point as it relates to the leadership of a new institution.

He added that trustees would like to see Mr. Johnson fulfill his contract through June, 2007, as president. He said any agreements worked out between Dr. Jacobs and Mr. Johnson ultimately would need to be considered by the board.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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