By James Osborne and Joelle Farrell, Inquirer Staff Writers.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The two boards that oversee Rutgers said Wednesday that they didn’t want to relinquish control over campuses in Camden and Newark, but appointed a committee to negotiate with legislators over a sweeping proposal to restructure higher education in the state.

The boards met just two days after the state Senate’s Democratic leaders introduced a bill proposing those changes, giving control of the university’s Camden campus to autonomous boards and linking it more closely to Rowan University.

Republican Gov. Christie has guardedly approved of the bill.

In approving a set of “principles,” however, the trustees and governors held off on rejecting the legislation outright, saying they would convene a committee immediately to begin talks with the legislators.

“The door is open,” said Rutgers board of trustees Chairman Ken Schmidt. “We want to move the ball forward.” But he added that legislators would have to take into account the boards’ principles.

The terms include a willingness to expand and give greater autonomy to the New Brunswick-based university’s Newark and Camden campuses, work more closely with Rowan, and take over parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – if the state provides “funding for the anticipated onetime costs of integration.”

But the document also affirms that the university’s governing structure, established in 1956, will not be amended and that the campuses will continue to answer to the university president.

Some opponents of the proposed overhaul called the vote a victory.

“The board members made clear the current legislation is unacceptable,” said Adam Scales, a law professor at Rutgers-Camden who has led faculty opposition to the governor’s plan. “We’ll see what the final plan is, but the goalposts have been moved.”


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