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Statement About Proposed Higher Education Restructuring

June 8, 2012

Much has been happening in the news and behind closed doors to Rutgers University over the past six months.   I have been monitoring these happenings closely with the goal of protecting and enhancing the interests of our campus through both private and public statements on our collective behalf.  Much of the discussion has been about the Camden campus and a joining of the Robert Wood Johnson medical school to Rutgers.  While those issues are complex and contain some elements that are problematic to Rutgers University, until this week, nothing concrete was in public that directly impacted our campus.  Herein I report to you the most recent events that now do involve our campus.

On Wednesday June 6, the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees held a rare joint meeting.  The main agenda item was the affirmation of a statement of Principles in the face of the extant reorganization plans for higher education in New Jersey. I attended both the public and private sessions of the meeting, and at the public session I made a statement on your behalf, a copy of which is attached.  I am pleased to say that these principles represent a very positive development for our campus.

The Principles affirm that the University will enhance “the autonomy and independence of each campus, and assure effective representation of each of the three campuses within the administration and the existing governing boards of the University” and facilitate “the equitable allocation of University resources and the strategic development of an investment in each of our University campuses in support of their needs.” 

Guided by these principles, the Boards are also affirming several specific changes in the governance structure of the University.  First, each campus will be led by a Chancellor who will report “directly to the President of the University, with equal authority with respect to the relevant campus.”  This is a significant and helpful improvement to create structural equity among the three campuses.   In the current leadership structure, the chief academic officer of the New Brunswick campus is also the executive vice president of all of Rutgers and thus not at the same level as the chief academic officers of our campus and Camden.  This has led over the years to a widespread concern on our campus whether we were treated fairly.  The new structure will support an appropriate level of prominence for our campus and its needs within Rutgers consistent with our excellence and importance.

Second, the Principles affirm that the university will establish  “new committees of the Board of Governors and/or subcommittees of the existing BOG committees to address the specific needs of each campus.”  This also is a significant change, securing greater recognition of our specific needs as a campus.  This change will enhance the opportunity for our voice to be heard clearly by the Board, and for our campus and its needs to get the attention they deserve. I am attaching a copy of the Principles.

These changes in governance in the Principles will facilitate the responsible, planned growth and development that has long been a goal of our campus.  Therefore I strongly affirmed support for the Principles at the joint meeting of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors on June 6.

This week, a bill was introduced into the State Senate to reorganize higher education in the state of New Jersey.   Unfortunately, one of the provisions of this bill would be highly damaging to our campus and would take us in the opposite direction from the Principles affirmed by the Boards.  The provision calls for the establishment of a new governing board for our campus, composed of a majority of political appointees, that would be interposed between our true Rutgers University boards and us.

I must make clear that we have not been consulted in any way on this proposal.

At the joint meeting of the Boards, I said: “Under the guise of creating more ‘autonomy’ this legislation would create a separate structure for our campus under a new board that offers no benefits to the campus but instead isolates us from our Rutgers University Boards.  These proposals threaten the integrity of the tenure and promotion process, loss of control over academic programming, inhibit direct engagement in discussions on budget and capital projects, or force us to assume debt service as an additional burden on our already slim campus budget, any one of which would doom our vision for our campus.  Isolation from the rest of Rutgers University places at risk our status as an integral part of Rutgers, preventing us from fulfilling our vision for our students, our faculty and our communities, and sun-setting New Jersey’s vision of Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey.”

The proposal of an additional governing board would significantly decrease our autonomy, insert another layer of bureaucracy in Rutgers governance, inhibit growth and development of our campus, and damage our campus irreparably in a myriad of ways, including our ability to provide an excellent education to our students and to attract and keep the best of new faculty members.  The result would decrease our value to the communities with which we are deeply engaged.  We therefore strongly oppose this provision and so should the citizens of New Jersey.

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