Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rice and Baylor College of Medicine to Merge?

They're thinking about it, according to the The Houston Business Journal.
Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are in talks aimed at a possible merger of the two institutions.
“Rice and Baylor have a long history of valuable collaborations and are exploring the possibility of a closer affiliation,” the schools said in a joint statement. “Preliminary talks are under way.”
Spokespersons at both institutions said no officials would talk further about the negotiations at this time.
Rice is one of the top-ranked private universities in the country and Baylor is among the country’s top medical schools. It also is one of fewer than a dozen medical schools not affiliated with a university.
Both institutions are located in The Texas Medical Center in Houston.
Such a merger would bring Rice’s strong financial backing to Baylor, which has struggled financially since it separated from its long-time affiliate, The Methodist Hospital, in 2004.
And universities like Rice are increasingly seeking partnerships with medical schools to expand and enhance their biomedical research capabilities.
Wild, huh? A few years back, I heard Rice President Lebron speaking about plans for the University. Lebron is a controversial figure at Rice--many see him as a careerist type who is using Rice to build up his resume. But he has been aggressive about expanding Rice--increasing the undergraduate population (and building three new collages for them), and increasing the size and scope of many departments (for example, the business school will now be offering an undergraduate business minor). So at this meeting, Lebron was asked about the possibility of Rice adding a medical school or a law school. He was frank about the difficulties of both--in the first case, you needed to have a hospital, which was a big obstacle for starting a medical school from scratch. (For a law school the obstacle was that someone would need to give Rice a check "with eight zeros".)
Baylor seems to solve the main problem. This seems like a win-win, especially as Rice has been moving so heavily into bio-medical research (including a new building devoted to it in the Medical Center, the "Collaborative Research Center."). The only bad thing is that Rice would inherit Baylor's financial problems and (current) bad leadership. The latter can be dealt with easily enough, but the former will put a strain on even a rich institution like Rice. I expect to get a few more begging-ass letters from my dear old alma mater.
Update: It looks like this information was not meant to be leaked, because Lebron immediately sent out the following letter to alumni apologizing for not keeping them in the loop.
Dear Robert,

As you may know, today's Houston Chronicle includes an article on a potentially closer affiliation between Rice and Baylor College of Medicine. (You can read the article here: This possibility has been discussed for many years, and the two institutions already have collaborations that we are always seeking to build upon. I am writing to let you know that such a discussion is in fact under way, but is very preliminary, tentative and exploratory. Yesterday afternoon Rice and BCM issued the following joint statement:

"Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have a long history of valuable collaborations and are exploring the possibility of a closer affiliation. Preliminary talks between the two institutions are under way. No further details are available at this time."

I can assure you that the Rice leadership team and Board of Trustees will not undertake a decision like this without the utmost care and due diligence. I had the opportunity to update the Association of Rice Alumni board of directors at their recent meeting, and will keep you apprised of the situation as conversations between Rice and BCM may continue in the months to come.

Sincerely yours,

David W. Leebron

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Blogger cyfscott said...

They're only doing this for the parking.

5:55 PM  

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