Poor Leon Stavrinakis. It appears that nobody likes his plan to merge the College of Charleston and MUSC — well, beyond outgoing CofC prez George Benson, his fellow legislators, and, well, a few unidentified local business interests. Beyond real estate developers, exactly which businesses in town would benefit from this new research university? Maverick Southern Kitchens? The Holliday Company? Bulldog Tours?
Even more embarrassing, Leon helped get his brother Michael onto the MUSC board last year, but even with a man on the inside, the Brothers Stavrinakis couldn't convince the medical school board to give Leon's bill a thumbs up
. In fact, every single board member who voted, voted against the measure. (Michael recused himself from the matter. Make of that what you will.)
So what does any of this mean to Leon's quest to merge CofC and MUSC
? Nothing really. It's going to happen. He and the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Jim Merrill, the Daniel Island Realtors Party candidate, are going to get exactly what they want.
I hate to sound defeatist, but if there's one thing that following politics all of these years has taught me is that the assholes always win. In part, it's because they're assholes. That's just what they do. But it's also because folks like Leon and Jim fix the game before the game even starts. They've already got their eyes on new properties to develop. They've already decided who's building what. And they've already figured out which family members will get cushy new jobs — immediate family first, yo, so quit asking, Uncle Frank.
Yes, there may be bumps here and there. Dana Beach and the Coastal Conservation League may file a suit, and a few downtown property owners may raise a little hell, but if they're black, well, they'll be easy to ignore because the powers that be in Charleston have never really listened to them any way. And if they're white, well, they'll promise them a park with a community garden and a food truck rodeo every once and a while, and everything will be just fine.
In this case though, I think I've finally figured out how our Legislative Overlords did it.
For starters, let's begin with the seemingly urgent need to get Michael on the MUSC board, a move that only Leon's fellow legislators could approve. That Michael took the job over a better-qualified female candidate with public support, well, that was the first sign that something was afoot.
And then there's the strange timing of Leon and Jim's bill to merge the schools, a bill that was introduced while the CofC was fielding candidates for a new president. To most folks, this makes little to no sense. After all, what candidate is going to want to accept a job at a college knowing that the post is going to be a short-term one because, well, in just a few years, there won't be a CofC to be president of? Nobody. I mean, fucking nobody wants that job. Except for probably Glenn McConnell. (Update: According to today's P&C
, some top candidates for the MUSC prez post have already dropped out because of this merger mess.)
Which is convenient. One, because that's the candidate the Lege wants. Two, that's the candidate CofC leaders want. And three, that's how McConnell, a CofC grad, wants to cap off his career. And if his old buddies in the General Assembly think he should be the first prez of the newly created Charleston University, then so be it. Glenn may not have time to don his Confederate grays and pose with black folks dressed like slaves anymore, but he's always been a loyal servant to the people. And by the people, I mean the men and women of the state legislator. Duty calls.
On second thought, I've changed my mind about Leon. He'll be just fine. The merger of CofC-MUSC might not be enough to distinguish his otherwise undistinguished career as a state legislature and give him a sure shot as Charleston's next mayor, but he's going to get what he wants with his bill. And that in and of itself will surely cause many glasses beer to be raised in his hobbit hole.
The same won't be said for the staff at the two schools who suddenly find themselves out of a job when the new university prez starts cutting out redundant positions.
Or the current CofC faculty members who will surely see the funding for their departments get cut even further as money is diverted to the new research end of the school.
Or the high school students who are looking for a small college experience.
Or the downtown residents who suddenly find their neighborhoods filled with even more student housing.
Or the tourists who will have to mix with even larger and even rowdier college crowds — and it's even worse for the police who will have to keep everybody in line, especially on college game day.
Yeah, that's right, six Saturdays every fall the streets of Charleston will be filled with college football fans, fans who will converge on downtown like a plague of drunken locusts. If you're tired of stepping over pools of vomit and smelling alleyway piss now, just you wait. There's more to come.
But Leon Stavrinakis, Jim Merrill, Glenn McConnell, and their buddies in the real estate development biz — I mean, business community — will be happy. Enjoy.