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BU, BCM remain separate

Jan. 28, 2010

College of Medicine maintains independence

By Laura Remson
Staff Writer

The Baylor College of Medicine released a statement on Wednesday, that it would remain as an "independent, autonomous institution." This is after weeks of debate regarding a possible change in relationships between BCM and either Baylor or Rice.

Talks with Rice ended Jan. 12, when the two organizations agreed to strengthen their relationship without a formal merger.

In a news release late Wednesday, Dr. William T. Butler, interim president of the BCM, indicated that part of this decision was influenced by the reactions and opinions of the university community.

"These months of discussions with others and thousands of hours spent looking at our organization have left us with one obvious path to take," Butler said. "We are particularly grateful for the advice and counsel from our faculty, students, staff and alumni. Baylor College of Medicine must take charge of its own destiny."

Butler stated that the future of the BCM lies within the school itself.

"In both cases, all parties involved decided it was best to support each other without any change in our affiliation status," Butler said. "All are agreed that we have identified many areas where we can develop joint programs."

Dr. Dary Stone, chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents released, a statement shortly after announcing that Baylor would cease its talks of the affiliation. At the same time, he confirmed Butler's statement of a mutual withdrawal of talks.

"We agree with the conclusions of BCM's Interim President, Dr. William T. Butler, that our conversations have helped us to identify many areas where our institutions can, in the future, develop joint programs to benefit the research of our faculty, our educational programs and our students," Stone said.

In addition, Stone pointed out that the relationship between Baylor and the BCM would return to what it was previously.

"Baylor University will continue to appoint members to the Baylor College of Medicine board and retain rights to the 'Baylor' name," Stone said. "Our history shows that we have always exercised our rights and responsibilities to BCM in a generous and appropriate manner. We remain immensely proud of our affiliation with the Baylor College of Medicine and stand ready to assist the College as it moves forward with its plans."

This news comes on the heels of an online petition by BCM that was signed by 539 members, as of Wednesday. The petition outlines BCM students, faculty, staff and alumni concerns for the BCM/Baylor affiliation.

"As BU is a religion-affiliated institution that promotes values and teachings from religious beliefs throughout its ranks, we cannot overlook the restrictive influence that this potential merger would have on BCM, a leading biomedical research-oriented college," the petition states. "The religious ideologies that permeate throughout BU's academic policies may adversely affect both scientific progress and the culture at BCM, particularly in relation to issues such as evolution, embryonic stem cells, and sexual orientation. While we respect everyone's right to religion in his or her own life, we believe that science and medicine must be separate from religion, and urge you to reject any such merger."

Following this petition, the BCM reiterated this was not a merger, but an affiliation.

In interim president Dr. David Garland's Jan. 21 statement to the students, faculty and staff, he noted that Baylor was in talks for a stronger affiliation with the BCM and Texas Children's Hospital, but this would not constitute a merger between the groups.

"Baylor University is a scholarly community that has always exercised its rights and responsibilities in a generous and appropriate manner in order to best serve the university and the College of Medicine," Garland said.

Butler noted that there were feelings of deep respect for both Rice and Baylor universities.

"Rice University and Baylor University are both respected institutions and we have high regard for their leaders, faculty, staff and students. We move forward in a spirit of mutual respect."

In a statement late Wednesday, Garland noted that the promise of partnership between the groups still remained strong.

"Our conversations with BCM have helped us to identify areas of potential research collaboration between our institutions, as well as joint educational programs to benefit our students," Garland said. "We look forward to further exploration of these possibilities in the future."

The initial talks of affiliations between Baylor, the BCM and TCH stemmed from recent financial troubles with the BCM. These concerns were addressed by Butler's statement.

"Over recent months, we have had a significant improvement in our financial performance," Butler said. "We have a positive cash flow and our cash and investments now exceed $1 billion. Both clinical services and research revenue are up and the margins in both of those activities have increased."