The Rice Stuff

Should the small but elite private college that I attended merge with the top-notch but troubled Baylor College of Medicine? Can it afford to? Can it afford not to?

For the February issue, the subject of my column was the ongoing discussion between Rice University and Baylor Medical School, concerning a merger of the two institutions. The issue went to press last week, before discussions came to an end today, January 12, with a joint announcement from the two presidents, David Leebron of Rice and William Butler of Baylor. As I wrote in this column, Baylor’s ongoing financial problems made the merger a dicey problem for Rice. Nonetheless, the proposed merger revealed a great deal about how Rice has changed since I was a student there in the 1960s—and how it hasn’t.PB

Rice University, my alma mater, e-mails a monthly newsletter to alumni. The December version contained what you would expect: the inevitable fund-raising appeals, good-news items (early-decision applications are up, Rice continues to rank fourth on Kiplinger’s list of the best values in private universities), reports of honors won by faculty members who hadn’t been born when I was a student, and vignettes destined to go unread by most recipients (“Rice Architecture alum’s Ice House project will raise awareness of urban woes”; “Rice, Texas Heart Institute to use nanoparticles to track stem cells”). In short, the newsletter typically offers as much or as little about Rice as an alum might care to digest. I tend to fall on the “as little” end of the spectrum. Rice today

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