Heading into a legislative session isn't the best time to be replacing the leader of a major academic institution.But the board of regents of the University of North Texas System on Friday terminated Scott Ransom as president of the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, even as the school continues its plan to pursue lawmakers' approval of an M.D. degree program.Ransom had been president since 2006, and regents had extended his $904,562 contract on Sept. 1 to run until 2015.But regents sent him a scathing letter Dec. 18 saying he had undercut efforts to study the possibility of merging the administration of the health science center and the UNT flagship campus in Denton and had sought to undermine a long-term project to have system components share some administrative and business services. (bit.ly/Zp5976)The letter said Ransom had ignored and disregarded directives from regents and Chancellor Lee Jackson, which "has caused considerable disruption and undermined your leadership."After regents voted 7-0 to fire Ransom, he left without responding to reporters, Star-Telegram higher education writer Diane Smith reported Friday online. (bit.ly/Vb84MB)The merger idea had come to the board in August, but regents didn't take a vote. Instead, Ransom and UNT Denton President Lane Rawlins were asked to answer questions about the potential impacts on their campuses.The presidents concluded that there weren't significant short-term benefits to merging and that long-term benefits were hard to measure, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported in November. (bit.ly/VgW9Zg)A number of considerations were involved. For instance, combining the calculation of research funding for the Denton and Fort Worth entities could help move UNT closer to the threshold for receiving state money set aside for universities that are progressing toward designation as Tier I research institutions.However, the Legislature funds health-related schools separately from general universities, so a merger could result in fewer state dollars.There were concerns about accreditation and also how the national ranking of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine would be affected by being subsumed. TCOM is one of five colleges at the 1,700-student health science center near Fort Worth's Cultural District.The newest component is the UNT System College of Pharmacy, a four-year doctoral program that's expected to start classes in fall 2013.Merging administrative functions could mean bringing campuses 41 miles apart under a single president, which would be a significant change.The regents' letter said Ransom not only conducted "a personal campaign to stop any serious internal consideration" of the issue but kept talking about his interest in being appointed president after a merger even though he was told that discussion wouldn't come until later. The letter said he also solicited community opposition to the merger notion.Regents named Michael Williams, a former board member and a graduate of TCOM and Texas Wesleyan University, as interim president.He has been CEO of Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg and is board certified in anesthesiology and critical care medicine, according to the UNT System website. (untsystem.edu/regents/profiles.htm)Jackson said in a phone interview with the Editorial Board that Williams has gained the trust of other regents.UNTHSC supporters are no doubt asking what the upheaval means for Fort Worth's role in a network whose main academic campus is in Denton and its system headquarters in Dallas.Jackson said the system's commitment to Fort Worth wouldn't be diminished. Those affiliated with the health science center and members of the larger community should hold him to his word.