BY JASON NARK, Philadelphia Daily News

AN ENORMOUS book sits on a shelf near my Rutgers-Camden diploma, just a few steps from the closet where my old black-and-red Rutgers wrestling singlet lies stuffed inside a duffel bag.

One of my semesters there was spent studying Milton’s Paradise Lost, lugging that book around like a slab of granite. I never really gave Milton a chance and never won a wrestling match there, but eventually I forged a love for words and language in those Camden classrooms.

Yesterday hundreds of students, faculty and alums gathered inside the Walter K. Gordon Theater, most dressed in Rutgers scarlet, all concerned that their small campus, their paradise near the Ben Franklin Bridge, was being threatened by Gov. Christie and by South Jersey power broker George E. Norcross III.

Last week, Christie put his stamp of approval on an advisory committee’s proposal to merge the Camden campus of New Brunswick-based Rutgers University into Glassboro-based Rowan University. Rutgers would become Rowan, the committee said, to create an “expanded research university in Southern New Jersey.” There was little detail and plenty of controversy.

Norcross is board chairman of Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, home to Rowan’s new medical school. Many observers think that he’s trying to get the research-university status from Rutgers and increased funding for the medical school. Christie denied that Norcross was “behind the curtain” in the plan. Norcross didn’t call me back, but in a recent gushing op-ed about the “merger” in the Courier-Post, Norcross came across like a modern-day Harold Hill from “The Music Man,” promising renaissances, new eras and rivers of money flowing down from Trenton.

Rutgers scarlet would become Rowan brown and gold – and the Rutgers name would be gone, which baffles me along with at least a couple of hundred other people. Norcross is a Rutgers-Camden dropout, but one would think that he’s savvy enough to know the cachet that the Rutgers name has across the country.


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