This is pretty great news. Wow.
Rutgers has a board of trustees (as well as a board of governors). On Thursday, the board announced their categorical opposition to Gov. Christie’s plan to split Rutgers-Camden from Rutgers.
To recap: discussions have long been going on about the structure of college education in New Jersey. A panel was set up to investigate how to restructure a medical school in the north of the state (UMDNJ), and when that panel announced that the school should partly merge with Rutgers University, it also (unexpectedly) recommended that Rutgers-Camden, in the south, should leave Rutgers and merge with Rowan, a local teaching college, so that the combined university (also combined with Cooper Medical school) would become a respected research university in South Jersey.
This was a while ago. Since then, neither Christie, Rowan, nor anyone else has produced any details about how this would work, who would pay for it, or specifically why it would be a good idea. One can find grand statements about how the merger would produce vast benefits to South Jersey, but nothing more than these grand statements has appeared. Nor has there been any discussion of the potential risks, and the obvious (and enormous) costs–how, for instance, will the new college build the Rutgers-sized research library that Rutgers-Camden will lose access to?
These unanswered questions may help explain why the merger has been consistently unpopular in Jersey polls.
Inside Rutgers-Camden, no one has objected to some sort of collaboration, shared work, or consortium with Rowan. Everyone agrees that South Jersey needs more educational funding. But the faculty, students, and deans uniformly fear a plan that really is no plan, merely a promised fiat by Christie, a plan more likely to drain quality from the college than strengthen it.
Yet Gov. Christie has said that the merger will happen, and by July 1st. The situation, then, is unusually simple: intelligent local people in the right versus belligerent central power.
On Thursday, the Rutgers Board of Trustees rejected both the merger plan and Christie’s deadline for it. They even said it in CAPS.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Trustees of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, declares
1. we are committed to Rutgers-Camden, its students, its prospective students, its faculty and staff, and its service to higher education, to the Camden community, and to the people of the State of New Jersey.
2. the proposed severance of Rutgers-Camden is inconsistent with the mission of Rutgers University. While we do not support such severance, we remain open to alternative proposals where Rutgers-Camden remains part of Rutgers University.
3. the proposed inclusion of RWJMS and other units of UMDNJ into Rutgers University should be considered on its own merits.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in order to discharge its fiduciary duty to the University and to properly perform its duties under the Rutgers Law, the Board of Trustees can evaluate and vote upon the Proposal only if and when, in the discretion of the Board of Trustees, the Due Diligence process is satisfactorily completed, irrespective of the proposed July 1, 2012 implementation date for the Proposal;
Wow. Now we see what will happen next.