By Seán McGlone & Leanne Signoriello – Editor-in-Chief & Features Editor
Lasell and Mount Ida Colleges recently decided that after a month discussion the institutions would remain separate. Photos by Seán McGlone
Almost one month since a potential merger of Lasell and Mount Ida Colleges was announced, discussions ceased. On March 23, members of the Lasell community were informed both schools would stay separate.
In an email sent to the Lasell community on February 24, President Michael Alexander announced Lasell’s intentions to explore a merger with Mount Ida College. The initial announcement came as a surprise to both students and faculty, leading to mixed reactions.
The next day, classes were cancelled in order to hold meetings for both faculty and staff to ask questions about how the idea of a potential merger developed, how it might affect the Lasell community, and whether or not the plan was set in stone. Throughout the meetings, the president clarified the merger was being looked at as a way to benefit the institution in the long run.
Two days later, another town meeting was held to answer some of the more common questions about the potential merger. President Alexander was joined by Vice President of Student Affairs Diane Austin, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Ostrow, Vice President of Administration and Finance Michael Hoyle, Vice President of Enrollment Management Kate O’Connor, and Vice President of Graduate & Professional Studies Eric Turner.
Conversations about a possible merger first began in Fall 2017. When the potential merger was announced, a Consolidation Steering Committee was created to examine the logistics of the collaboration.
The committee was co-chaired by Eric Turner, Vice President for Graduate & Professional Studies at Lasell, and Ron Akie, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Mount Ida College, and consisted of four members representing each campus.
However, on Thursday, March 22, a decision was reached that the schools would no longer look into a merger, according to Alexander. That Friday, another meeting was held where the President answered more questions from students, faculty, and staff about why the potential merger was called off.
While the president discussed his own disappointment that the merger would not happen, he also highlighted some of the strengths of Lasell.
“I can tell you that Lasell College is at its strongest condition it has ever been in it its history. We are constantly trying to find ways to make it stronger and we will continue to do that,” said President Alexander. “We will continue to try to find innovative ways to make the college academically more rigorous, to support the students in meeting their academic and personal goals, as well as make the Lasell College education affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.”
Associate Professor of Writing and Chair of the Faculty Assembly Michelle Niestepski shared the President’s disappointment. “I really shared in President Alexander’s vision of how two institutions could come together to create something stronger than either one on its own,” she said. Niestepski served as a member of the Consolidation Steering Committee and said she would join another committee alike this one if given the chance again.
At first, many students were unsure or opposed to the merger. For other members of the Lasell community, the idea of a merger started to seem like a good opportunity for Lasell. “I actually warmed up to the idea. I started looking at it on a bright side of view, like ‘I see what he’s saying, I can see how this is going to work,’” said freshman Vanessa Rose.
“To be honest, I think I was speechless. When I initially found out that it wasn’t happening, I think I had really prepared myself that it was more likely that unlikely to happen,” said Jennifer Granger, Director of Student Activities and Orientation. “I was already starting to…start to think about more of the pros versus the cons and if there were cons to roll up my sleeves, kind of a thing.”
While some members of the community may see this a relief and as an opportunity for things to go back to way things were before a potential merger was announced, Dwayne Thomas, Program Director of Sports Management, sees this as an opportunity for Lasell to grow in the same ways that it would’ve with a merger despite still being independent.
“In colloquial terms we say ‘take care of our own house.’ Well, we take care of our own house and make our own house really strong, then the other people are going to want to probably join forces with us as well,” Thomas said.
“Or, we’ll be positioned better as more competitive to give our students and faculty, and everybody else involved, a more competitive advantage as they go forward. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” Thomas added.