Valhalla, NY - Student Group Fights Possible Touro Merger
Valhalla, NY - A vocal group of New York Medical College students are saying “no” to a possible merger with Touro College.
Citing concerns about the value of their medical degrees, potential faculty changes and a scandal involving Touro officials selling grades, the students sent dozens of e-mails to the campus community and local media opposing negotiations between the two colleges.
“The most important of concerns revolves around Touro’s current reputation and circulating rumors,” said Angela Fusaro, 29, a fourth-year student and president of the medical school’s Student Senate.
Two years ago, a former admissions director and a computer center director at Touro College were indicted in a well-publicized “cash for grades scheme.”
People paid $3,000 to $25,000 for the false or altered transcripts, the Manhattan district attorney said.
The state Education Department conducted a review of professional licenses issued based on fraudulently obtained credentials from Touro College to make sure the public was protected from unqualified individuals.
No fraudulent professional licenses were found, Department of Education spokesman Jonathan Burman said.
Officials at New York Medical College, sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York, had been looking to join a larger university for about two years.
In February, the medical school’s officials signed a letter of intent with Touro College, a Jewish university with sites on Long Island and in New York City.
Some medical students said they were angry that the administration had not shared information about the possible merger until this month.
“Some students felt a little blindsided,” said Fusaro, who represents more than 750 medical students. “They felt that the administration should’ve been more forthcoming.”
Fusaro said she has heard some students talk about transferring to other medical schools should Touro buy the college.
New York Medical College President Dr. Karl Adler sent an e-mail letter to students and faculty on March 24 addressing individual questions and saying officials were bound by “a strict confidentiality agreement, most of which still remains in place.”
The medical school set up a committee consisting of 15 members from the Student Senate, department chairs, Faculty Senate, alumni, and staff who were allowed to disseminate limited information.
“From the beginning, even with the limitations of a confidentiality agreement, my desire for transparency in this process has been sincere,” Adler said in the e-mail.
Adler was not available for an interview for this article, medical college spokeswoman Donna Moriarty said.
The 150-year-old New York Medical College is among the largest private medical schools in the country but one of the last that is not part of a university.
In their search for a buyer, the medical school’s officials engaged in serious discussions with Fordham University, Pace University, St. John’s University and Westchester Medical Center. None of them resulted in a financial partnership.
Other students, however, like Anil Kulangara, are in favor of the merger with Touro if it means the medical college will be more fiscally sound.
“There is a silent contingent that accepts the partnership as a financial necessity ... not all NYMC students are against the merger,” Kulangara said.
Pam Walsh, 24, a first-year medical student from Brooklyn, said she had faith that the college’s leadership would act in the best interests of the students and faculty.
“My father went to this school when it was taken over by the Archdiocese, so I’m not too worried,” said Walsh, citing the last time the college had financial problems about 30 years ago.
And Steven Kong, 24, a second-year student from Pomona, Calif., said he can see both sides of the argument.
On one side, he isn’t impressed with Touro’s reputation, but on the other, he doesn’t want the school to go bankrupt, he said.
“Right now, though, I’m more worried about studying for my boards,” he said.
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