The longstanding merger talks between Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have been terminated.
Rice President David Leebron and Baylor College of Medicine President Dr. William Butler gave no reason for the talks ending in their statement.
“Since we signed a memorandum of understanding in March of 2009, we have been in extensive discussions in an attempt to meet several conditions that both institutions considered to be essential for a successful merger,” said the statement, which was e-mailed to campus faculty, staffs and students. “We joined in a thorough and deliberate process that explored the many benefits and challenges a merger would entail. With the MOU due to expire this month, the leadership of both institutions decided it is in the best interests of both BCM and Rice University to strengthen the existing relationship without a formal merger.”
The announcement came just four months after Leebron and Butler hinted a deal might by in place by the end of January. In a joint statement in September, they said that the negotiating period had been extended through Jan. 31 and pledged “to work hard to bring our discussions to a successful conclusion over the next four months.”
But Baylor was never able to resolve Rice’s two big concerns — the medical school’s shaky finances and lack of a private adult hospital for its clinical faculty. Butler announced in December that talks had fallen through to make St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital its partner again, some eight months after financial concerns prompted the school to shelve construction of its own hospital.
Given the tough budget situation at Rice this year, I’m sure those financial concerns loomed ever larger. For what it’s worth, most of the Rice students and alums I know were not favorable to the merger idea, and the initial reaction I’ve seen to its collapse is relief. Reaction on the Rice fan forum is a bit more varied. I think it would have been a plus for Rice to be affiliated with a medical school if it could have been made to work, but this is probably for the best. If the two schools do strengthen their existing relationship, perhaps most of the good that would have come out of a merger can still happen with less risk and disruption for all.