By Gil Medina, contributor
By Gil Medina, contributor

This week, a group of state lawmakers and university officials have been discussing a possible compromise that could salvage the proposal to merge the Rutgers Camden campus with Rowan University. The framework of the compromise involves the creation of a combined institution in South Jersey that would be controlled by an independent board but retain some form of the Rutgers name.

In May 2011, Governor Chris Christie appointed a five-member advisory committee to make recommendations for restructuring the assets of The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (“UMDNJ”). The committee’s mandate was to recommend ways that the state could “maximize the impact of the State’s investment in public medical, dental and nursing education and training, and associated efforts in biomedical research and medical sciences education.” The panel was even referred to as the “UMDNJ Advisory Committee.” The advisory committee seemed to stray from its mandate by making a recommendation to give control of Rutgers University’s Camden campus, including its law and business schools, to Rowan University.
The panel’s final report did address medical education, recommending the division of UMDNJ into several parts to create a “New Jersey Health Science University” and to turn over control of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to the Rutgers main campus in New Brunswick. The recommendations regarding the Camden campus, however, met with immediate opposition. The Rutgers University Senate, representing faculty members at all three of the university’s campuses, passed a resolution opposing the merger with Rowan. Opposition to the merger of the Camden campus led to student and faculty rallies and lawn signs throughout Southern New Jersey.Then on May 3, 2012, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution stating that: “1. We are committed to Rutgers-Camden, its students, its prospective students, its faculty and staff, and its service to higher education, to the Camden community, and to the people of the State of New Jersey; 2. The proposed severance of Rutgers-Camden is inconsistent with the mission of Rutgers University. While we do not support such severance, we remain open to alternative proposals where Rutgers-Camden remains part of Rutgers University; 3. the proposed inclusion of RWJMS and other units of UMDNJ into Rutgers University should be considered on its own merits.”

Based on my conversations with parties with knowledge of the circumstances leading up to the proposal to merge Rutgers Camden and Rowan, the idea surfaced largely as a response to the perceived lack of commitment to the Newark and Camden campuses by outgoing Rutgers University President, Richard L. McCormick and his former Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Philip Furmanski.


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