Yesterday, I testified in Trenton at the legislative hearings on the bill to restructure higher education in New Jersey. Below is an edited, amalgamated version combining my written and oral testimony. I was testifying on just one of the many potential consequences of the bill – its impact on research and teaching at Rutgers-Camden.

Earlier today [Thursday, June 14], you heard at least one person claim during testimony that southern New Jersey lacked a research university. But Rutgers-Camden is indeed a research university, one of three campuses of what is currently the state’s only comprehensive research university.  In addition, for the past decade Rutgers-Camden has also been on a rapid pathway to achieving Carnegie Doctoral/Research University status in its own right, defined by Ph.D.-level education and significant research activity.  We’ve seen graduate enrollment grow by more than 70%. New doctoral programs have flourished, gaining national and international recognition. More and more outstanding scholars have joined the faculty, and the campus saw an 84% increase in federal funding. Endowments grew substantially. 

Then, last January, Governor Christie endorsed a proposal to merge Rutgers-Camden into Rowan University.  Immediately, Rutgers-Camden alumni, students, faculty and staff rose up against the proposal, and most New Jerseyans agreed with us. Why deny students in southern New Jersey a chance to earn a Rutgers degree —  a degree from one of only 61 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the most prestigious university association in  all of North America? Why put in jeopardy the successes of the past decade? Why limit college choice for New Jersey students and force them out of state? [One of the main reasons that students leave the state for higher education, studies show, is not enough choices within the state.]

Now, five months later you have legislation before you that would achieve a de facto merger. [My colleague Andy Lees called it, it in his testimony, “merger on the installment plan.”] The bill now under consideration calls for retaining the Rutgers name in Camden but creates a new governing board that would, in the language of the bill, “have full authority over all matters concerning the supervision and operations of Rowan University and Rutgers-University-Camden.” This does not improve matters. A joint board won’t help with federal grant funding. It won’t open any new seats for students in southern New Jersey. Its only impacts are negative ones, taking authority away from both Rutgers-Camden and Rowan, adding more costs, and forcing the two schools to compete for resources from a new governance structure with no history of ties to either institution.

I ask you to amend this legislation to remove the provision for a joint governance board that would have fiscal and operational authority over both Rutgers-Camden and Rowan, and to affirm the overarching authority of Rutgers University to set academic and faculty standards, including tenure and promotion. Rutgers-Camden must remain Rutgers in fact as well as in name.

We can bring about dramatic improvements in higher education in South Jersey by building upon, not distorting, the missions of both Rutgers and Rowan. Both institutions have the incentives as well as the means to form partnerships in the region. If a joint board must exist, narrow its focus to joint partnerships. Don’t sacrifice the strengths of each institution to external control. New Jersey deserves no less.