In New Jersey, oversight of higher education is up in the air

Matt Katz, Inquirer Trenton Bureau

Unions representing employees at colleges and universities say Christie has ignored the law that empowered the commission.

“What we considered to be the practice of democracy seems to be breaking down,” Susanna Tardi, a professor at William Paterson University and executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Jersey, which represents faculty and other staff.

Christie has assembled a panel of advisers to replace the commission – the Governor’s Higher Education Council.

Unlike the more diverse commission, which required a faculty representative and OKs from the Senate and Assembly on most appointments, the council’s members are chosen by the governor alone.

Christie has selected four business executives and a law professor. The most recent commission, by contrast, included not just representatives from businesses and law firms but also a member of the state’s financial-aid authority and leaders of universities and colleges.

“You cannot use a strict corporate mentality to solve university issues,” Tardi warned.

She said the commission was needed for oversight – to monitor whether tuition money is used for real estate purchases instead of academic programs, for example.

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