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A Message from the Provost

Address to the Campus Community
September 16, 2003
 

To understand where we are and what we have accomplished, let's take a moment to reflect on the history and traditional mission of this campus. There probably aren't many people here today who remember the old University of Newark, the predecessor of Rutgers-Newark. Much of the University of Newark was housed in recycled buildings, including beer breweries, razor blade factories, and stables. Obviously the current campus has come a long way - but one crucial part of the University of Newark remains. The old university existed to provide students of modest economic means the opportunity to get a first-rate, but affordable education. Many of its students were children or grandchildren of immigrants-- or immigrants themselves -- and most were the first members of their families to go to college. The old University of Newark also incorporated previously independent professional schools in business and law, its students coming from backgrounds similar to those in the liberal arts college. Professional education in law, business, nursing and criminal justice remains central to our mission today.

Since the 1960s, the campus has also had to come to terms with its location in the City of Newark, a once-thriving metropolitan center that suffered terribly from the flight of the middle class to suburbia, racial segregation, and disinvestment in central cities, culminating in the Newark riots of 1967. Our location, at the core of a city that became a national symbol of urban decay, forced the campus to define itself. Some faculty thought that the less said about Newark the better, but others insisted that the campus engage fully with the city, whose social problems, as well as its institutional assets, offered myriad opportunities to pursue and extend the historical missions of the campus.

Thus, in 1967, Rutgers Law School began its Minority Student Program, which over the years has enabled exceptionally large numbers of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds to enter the legal profession. It also developed extensive clinical programs serving Newark residents long before clinical legal education was common in American law schools. In 1969, African-American students occupied Conklin Hall to protest the miniscule number of black students at a campus in a majority-black city. One of many positive results was the establishment of a special admissions and support program for low-income students, the precursor to the model for the statewide Educational Opportunity Fund Program inaugurated not long thereafter. As a result, thousands of low-income students have received a Rutgers education that would not have been admitted otherwise. This spring, we will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Conklin Hall sit-in with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and a series of programs being planned by a committee chaired by Professor Clement Price.

As I think everyone here knows, U.S. News & World Report recently named Rutgers-Newark the most diverse national university campus for the seventh year in a row. Our law school is ranked second in diversity among all selective U.S. law schools. Our Minority Biomedical Research Support program has, since its inception, enabled more than100 students from minority backgrounds to pursue research or clinical careers. And tens of thousands of students, mostly from modest backgrounds, have received a first-rate undergraduate or professional school education here over the years. We should all take great pride in this legacy.

In the years since the Conklin Hall takeover, the Newark campus added to its traditional mission a strong emphasis on advanced research and doctoral education. We now regularly award between 40 and 50 Ph.D.s a year, a 71% increase since 1991. With the addition this year of a new Ph.D. program in American Studies, which I expect will be approved by the Board of Governors in October, we will have 14 doctoral programs spanning the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences and all the professional schools -- double the number we had a decade ago. Our faculty is involved in world-class research, and only top scholars and scientists are appointed and tenured at Rutgers-Newark. The pursuit of knowledge is, in my view, a noble undertaking in its own right, and needs no further justification. However, in the American university system, the best research universities typically attract the most advantaged students, who have the further advantage of studying with scholars and scientists on the cutting edge of their fields. So I think we should all take particular pride in the fact that our students, coming as they do from modest backgrounds, have these same opportunities.

This is probably more history than most of you care to listen to, but I just couldn't pass up an opportunity for a quick history lesson. (I am, after all, an historian, and old habits die hard.) But as we turn to the main business of the afternoon - what is happening to our campus now and what changes we are likely to confront in the near future - I believe it is important to remind ourselves of what we are all about: We must continue to make educational opportunity available to bright students born without privilege. We must provide professional education of the highest caliber. We must pursue distinction in research. And we must continue to engage with the City of Newark, and take full advantage of the opportunities it offers us.

Enrollment Growth

So how is our campus changing? Let's begin with enrollment growth. In 1998, the campus had its lowest overall enrollment in recent memory after a steady decline of more than 1,000 students in the preceding decade. Since then we have experienced steady enrollment growth, and this year we will enroll more than 10,500 students, an increase of 1,500 students over the last four years. The quality of our student body has also improved, both in the undergraduate programs and in the professional schools.

The dramatic increase in campus enrollment is very good news. A continued decline would have put us at risk for disproportionate budget reductions, and negated any claims we could make for increased instructional resources or new buildings. Our increased enrollments are driven by many factors, including a steady increase in the number of high school graduates in New Jersey, which is projected to continue for a decade. But it also stems from the improved image of Newark, and the fact that we have aggressively marketed the opportunities for experiential learning that abound in Newark. The state is now planning a bond issue partly devoted to increasing capacity at New Jersey's state universities, and our enrollment growth has positioned us to claim a substantial share of those funds. The state also needs to increase operating budgets and to provide new faculty and staff positions to accommodate growth. Although the current state fiscal situation makes it unlikely that we will see substantial increases next year, our strong enrollment growth has also positioned us to receive a significant share of new positions for expanded enrollments should they become available.

Increase in Resident Students

We have also seen an unprecedented demand for campus housing. We have tripled every undergraduate suite in our residence halls, placing seven students in apartments designed for six. We are housing 87 undergraduate students at the Robert Treat Hotel. The number of resident students has increased from 686 in 2000 to 848 this fall, without our building any new facilities. And still, we have had to turn away more than 100 students.

We are also moving as quickly as possible to construct more student housing. The first of several projects will add more than 600 new beds in a new residence hall to be located at the corner of University and Central avenues, next to New Jersey Books. This project, named University Square, will also include space for student-related offices and activities, as well as retail space along both frontages. We hope to break ground this spring.

We are also working with several development firms to conceptualize new undergraduate and graduate residence halls along Washington Street, across from the Center for Law and Justice, and along Orange Street, all on property we currently own. There is a growing demand for graduate student apartments, especially in the law shool, where attractive student housing is a key element in getting top students to enroll. The project on Washington Street would also include a new parking garage, new retail space, and loft apartments for faculty.

In the next few years, I will make it one of my top priorities to develop a critical mass of resident students on our campus. I believe that the more students who live on campus, the more that other students will want to live on campus. A large resident student population will spawn a richer cultural and intellectual life here, making the campus even more appealing to students. And it will be a major contributor to the revitalization of University Heights and downtown Newark.

Now, whenever I talk about expanding enrollments and plans to build on parking lots, someone inevitably asks, "Where are we going to park?" So let me assure you that we are exploring several projects that would add parking spaces. In particular, I am hopeful that we will secure funding shortly to expand Deck II with an additional 200 spaces.

Revitalization of the Campus Neighborhood/Downtown

Those of you who have been here longer than me have undoubtedly heard more than once about the impending revitalization of downtown Newark, and have understandably grown skeptical. But there are now a remarkable number of projects being planned, in addition to our own housing projects, that could transform our neighborhood and downtown Newark with market-rate housing, new office buildings, and the opening of retail establishments, coffee shops, bars,and restaurants.

Commercial growth can be seen in the renovation to 744 Broad St. by the Cogswell Group. This historic office tower is more than 85% occupied. In addition, MBNA, one of the country's largest credit card companies, has opened a regional call center in Newark. This call center will include three new office buildings at the corner of University Avenue and Market Street, two of which are completed. Office buildings around Washington Park continue to be renovated and leased out, including 33 Washington St., 520 Broad St. (IDT), 550 and 570 Broad St. Verizon's statewide headquarters on Broad Street has just undergone a major renovation as well.

Closer to campus, and even more exciting for us, the Cogswell Group has announced plans to renovate the Hahne's and Griffith buildings, as well as 1180 Raymond Blvd., into luxury, market-rate loft apartments. Renovations are scheduled to begin this winter on all three properties. There is also a renewed interest in re-capturing the Passaic Riverfront for commercial, residential, and recreational uses, similar to what was done in Baltimore and Pittsburgh over the years. The Army Corps of Engineers is working on a bulkheading project that will stabilize the shoreline, and Congress has begun to appropriate funding for a waterfront park that will extend from Bridge Street to the Jackson Street bridge. These two projects set the stage for a commercial tower and a residential tower planned by Matrix along the Passaic River adjacent to the new FBI building. Edison Corp. also has plans to build two new office towers on the east side of Penn Station, adjacent to the NJ Transit and Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield headquarters.

The Newark Museum has announced plans to expand its campus south along Washington Street to create a new, signature building that would serve as the main entry point. We are discussing with the Museum how we might collaborate with them to encourage the development of new parking in the area. The Newark Public Library is also developing plans for major expansion.

Interdisciplinary Research Foci

The growing popularity of our campus with students, a surge in demand for on-campus housing, and a revitalizing downtown neighborhood are all important indicators of Rutgers-Newark's vibrancy. But these mean little without vigorous intellectual activity on campus. The scholarly and scientific life of this campus, and of any campus, derives from the quality, energy and creativity of its faculty. Our faculty gets stronger every year. By all measures - be it publication of books and articles, receipt of distinguished awards and fellowships, external grant funding, publicity about scholarly work in newspapers, magazines, and on television - this is an excellent faculty.

However, it is essential for any university to develop clusters of faculty and intellectual activities that give the campus a critical mass of scholars and scientists in important cross-disciplinary areas. More and more scholarly work is collaborative. Only with such scholarly clusters can the intellectual whole be greater than the sum of its parts. I also believe that the pursuit of knowledge does not respect the conventional disciplinary categories that the academy has developed. The ideal university structure makes it as easy -- and likely -- as possible for faculty from different colleges and departments to come together around complementary interests.

We have developed in recent years a number of intellectual foci that distinguish Rutgers-Newark. Some, but not all, of these are organized through centers and institutes. We need to build our faculty and academic programs insofar as possible in these and other key cross-disciplinary areas. Let me highlight some of these for you:

  • Cognitive science and neuroscience, represented by the world-class Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, our psychology department with its state-of-the-art neuroimaging facility, and several other faculty in applied linguistics and cognitive philosophy. The Governor's Commission on Jobs, Growth, and Economic Development has called for universities to submit proposals that will build the scientific infrastructure of New Jersey to attract businesses that rely upon advanced research in the biomedical sciences and technology. One of the proposals Rutgers-Newark has submitted is a Center on the Adaptive Brain, which draws on our strengths in cognitive science and neuroscience.
  • Another area of concentration is cellular dynamics and imaging, drawing upon current and future faculty in biology, chemistry, physics and neuroscience. Scientists working in this area will come together in our new 65,000-square-foot life science building adjacent to Olson Hall. We expect to break ground this winter. We have also submitted a bond proposal to the Jobs Commission that builds on our strength in this area.
  • We are also building strength in environmental science, reflected in the work of the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute which uses orbiting space satellite data to monitor urban wetlands; the Department of Earth and Environmental Science; the Department of Biology; and the Environmental Law Clinic in the law school;
  • The study of terrorism, another major campus initiative, is reflected in our new Center for the Study of Public Security, headed by Dean Leslie Kennedy. The Center on Information Management, Integration and Connectivity is doing complementary work on continuous water-quality monitoring, and the new Nursing Center for Bioterrorism and Infectious Disease Preparedness has received its first large grant. We have submitted a bond proposal to the Jobs Commission based on our work in preventing and responding to bioterrorism.
  • Global studies research is led by the Center for Global Change and Governance, whose Ph.D. program in Global Affairs is the first of its kind in the country, and is attracting exceptionally large numbers of first-rate students. The program's faculty is drawn from political science, history, economics, sociology, anthropology, law, business, criminal justice and other fields. This focus on global studies is also reflected in the international programs of the law school and its new Global Legal Studies Center.
  • The Prudential Business Ethics Center conducts seminars, conferences, and courses on issues involving corporate ethics, which are especially timely in the wake of recent corporate scandals.
  • The Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies brings together faculty from disciplines like history, sociology, anthropology, political science, public administration, social work, education, business, law, economics, criminal justice, philosophy, and other fields for seminars and conferences, and it supports research on cities and metropolitan areas. Connected to it is the Institute on Education Law and Policy, which is a major center for research and public discussion on urban schools, drawing upon faculty in law, sociology, public administration and other fields. A new Ph.D. program in urban systems, offered jointly with NJIT and UMDNJ, will be tied closely to these centers. This emphasis on urban programs is also prominent in many of our law clinics, including the Community Law Project, the Child Advocacy Clinic, the Special Education Clinic, and the Urban Legal Clinic, which represents low-income tenants
  • The study of race, ethnicity, historical memory and the social construction of difference is another major campus intellectual theme. It draws on faculty in all the social science and humanities disciplines, in law, in business, in criminal justice, and in other fields. The Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience supports research in this area and also brings together faculty and community leaders. The institute is now collaborating with our dynamic Police Institute in the School of Criminal Justice to provide education to hundreds of state police officers on issues of race and ethnicity. A new Ph.D. program in American studies will draw upon the resources of the institute, and will emphasize the study of race and ethnicity, urban life, and public culture.
  • Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Entrepreneurship: The Rutgers Business School's MBA in pharmaceutical management - the first such program in the country - capitalizes on New Jersey's leading industry by partnering with seven of the nation's leading pharmaceutical companies. This program offers students unparalleled opportunities for high-profile internships, hands-on participation by leading industry executives, and case studies. The list of companies who helped craft the program's curriculum is like a who's who of the industry: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Hoffmann-LaRoche, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Organon, and Pfizer. The Business School has now developed a new broad-ranging proposal for an Institute for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Entrepreneurial Activities -- that would support the state's biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries -- which we submitted to the Jobs Commission for bond funding. It would involve collaborations with biomedical researchers on issues like clinical trials and health-care economics.
  • We also have growing strength in materials science, particularly in the chemistry department, with opportunities for collaboration with faculty at NJIT and UMDNJ. We have submitted a proposal to the Jobs Commission for a Center for Nanomaterials and Ultrafast Spectroscopy.

This does not exhaust the list of cross-disciplinary initiatives and clusters. But it illustrates the strategy we have been pursuing to build intellectual distinction in broad, cross-disciplinary areas even as we also seek to strengthen our academic schools and departments. I believe that it is crucial for us to continue to develop these areas and to add new ones.

Devolution

For years, our campus has operated with the frustrations of having important campus functions performed from a distance under the direction of administrators in New Brunswick who were unaccountable to the campus leadership. When President McCormick was appointed last fall, he announced almost immediately that he would undertake a program of devolution of authority from Old Queens to the Newark and Camden campuses, as well as within the New Brunswick campus. That process has moved very quickly. As of the current fiscal year:

  • The directors of admissions, financial aid, health services, psychological services, the Learning Resources Center and the registrar, all of whom previously reported to New Brunswick officials, are reporting to Newark administrators;
  • Arcane budget rules that required approvals at the highest levels to move funds from one category to another, and made it hard to use our money where it was needed most, have been revised, giving units much greater fiscal flexibility;
  • Student fees collected for specific purposes like health services, resident student activities, and the campus center have in the past been kept centrally, with budgets for these purposes allocated by central administration. Now the fee monies will be allocated directly to the units responsible for the services these fees are intended to support, and these units will have to manage their budgets accordingly;
  • Funds for maintenance and modest capital projects that have previously been kept centrally will be allocated to the three campuses, where decisions about their use will rest.
  • Campus officials will be able to authorize all but the very largest purchases without going to New Brunswick;
  • Shortly, grant applications will be signed off on and submitted from the campus, without the need to go to New Brunswick, as we do currently;
  • Campus authority to manage construction projects will be further enlarged;
  • Policy on indirect cost returns is being reconsidered university-wide. Although the process is just starting, it seems likely that the new policy will provide much greater openness about special overhead returns to particular investigators and projects, above and beyond the overhead return provided to all grant recipients. Each campus provost will likely have a significant role in determining when and for what purposes special overhead allocations should be made.
  • Partial devolution of RUCS is also under study, and most likely this will result in greater campus authority over Newark employees of RUCS who serve campus users.

All of this is very exciting, and we are grateful to President McCormick for his wisdom in initiating changes that will make it easier for all of Rutgers to manage its resources and personnel more effectively.

Restructuring

As everyone here knows, a year ago the commission chaired by Dr. Roy Vagelos recommended that Rutgers, NJIT and UMDNJ be merged and restructured into three largely autonomous universities in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, and Camden/Stratford. The driving force behind the commission's recommendations was the desire to build strength in the biomedical sciences and technology, so as to increase New Jersey's ability to attract and hold science and technology industries that rely so heavily on first-rate research. The commission argued that the institutional separation of the medical schools from the core sciences, and in Newark also from engineering, seriously inhibited the development of first-rate work in these areas.

In Newark, with our long history of inter-institutional collaborations and the physical proximity of the three institutions, the proposal offered the vision of a truly comprehensive research university with schools of liberal arts and sciences, law, business, medicine, dentistry, nursing, health professions, public health, criminal justice, engineering, architecture, and computing. With good leadership and adequate funding, and with our location in the New York metropolitan area, these elements could provide the foundation for a truly world-class urban research university along the lines of the University of Pittsburgh or the University of Illinois at Chicago. I strongly support this vision. If the new university is put together properly, it can do great things for New Jersey higher education and for the City of Newark.

A Review, Planning and Implementation Committee has been working over the last nine months in planning the restructured university system, with numerous committees looking at such matters as finances, human resources, libraries, and computing, as well as the academic programs and foci of each institution. I co-chair the committee that is planning the university in Newark.

Rutgers' entire administration on all three campuses, and our governing boards, are deeply involved in discussions and planning for restructuring. President McCormick has expressed support for the concept if agreement can be reached on key elements of the plan. Specifically, he has argued that the primary operational authority over the institutions should rest with the presidents and with separate governing boards for each institution. He proposes that the chancellor of the system and the state Board of Regents serve as advocates for the research universities and coordinate the system. The three universities would have to enjoy the same kind of independence from political control in Trenton that Rutgers currently enjoys. President McCormick has also argued that adequate funding, from multiple sources, will have to be guaranteed. Indeed, there will be considerable costs at the beginning, throughout the system but especially in Newark, in integrating three separate institutions into one. Restructuring can create the necessary preconditions for world-class research, but only a substantial investment in New Jersey's research universities, well beyond the state's historic under-funding of higher education, will make it possible for us achieve that goal. I concur fully with President McCormick that these conditions must be met in any restructuring plan.

Let me say a bit about the work of the committee looking at the Newark university. The committee, and a subcommittee on academic issues consisting of the academic deans of the three universities, has tried to identify the distinctive features of a single Newark research university. It has concluded that this university will have:

  • unique strength in graduate and professional education;
  • first-rank undergraduate liberal arts;
  • a major emphasis on biomedical sciences and technology;
  • a strong urban mission;
  • extraordinary racial, ethnic and religious diversity, and programs that draw upon this
  • and a strong global focus, reflecting our location in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

And it will be:

  • an engaged, interactive university, closely tied to the external community;
  • and an engine of Newark's revitalization.

The committee is also looking at how to organize programs that currently overlap in the three separate universities, including:

  • business schools at Rutgers & NJIT;
  • nursing schools at Rutgers and UMDNJ;
  • chemistry and physics at Rutgers and NJIT;
  • Basic science at UMDNJ's Medical and Dental Schools and the core science departments at Rutgers and NJIT;
  • mathematics at Rutgers and NJIT;
  • humanities and Social Sciences at Rutgers and NJIT.

It is also looking at programs that are based in Newark but also currently operate on campuses outside Newark, and how they might be organized under restructuring. These include:

  • Rutgers Business School in Newark, which also serves New Brunswick;
  • Rutgers College of Nursing, which offers instruction in New Brunswick and Camden;
  • UMDNJ's School of Health-Related Professions, which operates statewide;
  • and Public Health, whose UMDNJ school is based in New Brunswick, but has considerable academic strength in UMDNJ's Newark faculty.

The committee will also discuss a wide range of academic initiatives and new synergies that could follow from restructuring.

Another subcommittee is examining opportunities that restructuring would offer for physical development of all of University Heights, with special attention to the ways restructuring would facilitate construction of student, faculty and staff housing, retail space, and services in the neighborhood.

Will restructuring really happen? No one can say for sure. But Governor McGreevey continues to tout restructuring as a centerpiece of his plans for strengthening economic development in the state. He has said that he expects to introduce legislation early next year. If the legislature does pass restructuring legislation, then governing boards for each institution, a board of regents for the system, presidents for each university, and a chancellor would have to be appointed before the actual restructuring could begin. I would guess that all of this could take up to two years.

So where does this leave us? I believe the proposed restructuring, if done properly, holds enormous potential for us, and we must plan for this eventuality. But we cannot defer our own academic initiatives in anticipation of impending events. So we must continue to build academic excellence and focus on our historic mission and the things that are really important to us. If restructuring occurs, the new university will be that much better for our efforts. Either way, we must continue to build a great urban university, distinguished by its advanced graduate and professional education, its research, its historic commitment to students born without privilege, its diversity, and its engagement with the city.




 

Steven J. Diner, Provost