Two independent visions for Rutgers-Rowan — both developed in secret — are sure to keep the conflict and controversy going
By Tara Nurin
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) are working to introduce legislation next week that would retain Rutgers-Camden within Rutgers University, while establishing a joint governing board to share funds and fiduciary responsibilities between Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University.
Rutgers Governing Boards may oppose legislation
The bill will be the culmination of a series of closed-door meetings between Sweeney, South Jersey political power broker George Norcross, representatives from Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, and others who met to work out a compromise between the status quo and a full merger of the two South Jersey schools – an idea that was initiated by a Christie-appointed task force in January.
The bill will surely meet with fierce opposition from Rutgers’ faculty, who’ve come out against this type of plan in the past, and the boards of Trustees and Governors, who are expected to release their own joint vision for restructuring the state’s higher education system next week. According to sources with inside knowledge, the executive boards of both organizations met last Thursday to devise a set of so-called principles, for possible reorganization of New Jersey’s colleges, universities, and medical schools.
Although the executive boards are keeping the contents secret for now, sources suspect trustees won’t allow an outside entity like the proposed governing board to make major decisions about Rutgers assets.
“There is no way the Board of Trustees is going to let anybody have control over any component of Rutgers,” insisted one Rutgers source.
“There is a sizable majority of Board of Trustees members who will not go along with a compromise that cedes financial control over Rutgers-Camden or Newark,” agreed another source.
Sources predict the Board of Trustees will be ready to challenge the bill in court if it passes. Earlier this month, the board released a manifesto asserting that Rutgers-Camden must remain fully within Rutgers’ domain and that only the two Rutgers governing boards have legal jurisdiction to approve the relinquishment of any of its campuses.