promoted by Rosi
As I reflect on yesterday’s joint hearings of the Senate Higher Education Committee and the Assembly Higher Education Committee regarding the “merger” of Rowan and Rutgers-Camden, I think of the warning to not put the cart before the horse. This phrase is often used to explain how things must be done in the right order, especially when attempting to avoid failure. In my mind, the cart is the Barer report (a big cart filled with ideas, but lacking details). This cart was thrust onto the road, well in front of any means to carry it, in fact it doesn’t even seem to have a hitch. Even more distressing is the fact that there is no horse in sight, much less in front of it! After yesterday’s hearings, Governor Christie still insists this merger will happen, despite the fact that no one has seen a plan for implementation, or even solid facts, thus no horse to pull the cart.
It was noted by a Committee member that it appears that the plan has come before the facts. Those facts have yet to be disclosed by the Governor’s office with no evidence that the details exist. With the absence of communication and information from the Governor, many of yesterday’s speakers shared their knowledge and detailed research with the Committee.
There are several detailed articles regarding yesterday’s hearings written by journalists. I am not a journalist. I did attempt to tweet the proceedings, which can be read here
and here I will provide a brief summary and overall impression.
The tone was set with instructions to the audience that there was to be no clapping, cheering, booing or laughing. Clearly, this was a group of educators, expecting good classroom behavior 🙂
Many of the points made on both sides have been heard and written before. I urge anyone interested in more detailed information to visit this site, especially the page intended for NJ Legislators. The text of some of the testimony from the hearings is available here.
Of the 50 speakers, the majority were speaking against the merger, most representing Rutgers-Camden. I had hoped to hear more from Rowan staff, students and faculty, especially since the hearings were held at Rowan. I was actually quite surprised at how few spoke, but glad to hear some of their thoughts.
My overall impression from the Rowan speakers is that they have a long history of change, are used to change and are preparing for change should it come. I did not get an overwhelming sense of strong feelings either way, simply an acceptance. The committee did learn that Rowan has been working internally on implementation of the merger “for several months” and have prepared a report. That report did not appear to be readily available, and the committee did request a copy. A member of Rowan’s board of trustees did provide one copy of this report to the chair.
The Committee did seem surprised to find out that at this time neither parties, Rowan or Rutgers-Camden are involved in any discussions/team/committee taking place within the Governor’s office. Obviously, this has been one of the major issues with this merger, major parties are not being included in discussions or being given details, if they exist.
Union representatives from all parties, including UMDNJ were there asking very important questions regarding the human element and the details involved in HR and labor relations.
Some of the points brought up during the hearings address the idea that the new entity would suddenly become a research university. This idea does not take into consideration elements such as a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, or access to expensive databases and electronic resources provided by a research library.
Rutgers has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the prestigious national honor society. This is a University chapter. Loss of affiliation with Rutgers would eliminate access to this, as Rowan does not currently have a chapter, and it takes several years and stringent guidelines in order to establish a chapter.
Loss of affiliation with Rutgers would also eliminate access to a research library. Students on the Camden campus have access to all of the Rutgers library resources, severing that tie would eliminate access to many expensive databases. A more detailed analysis is available here.
It is difficult to establish a research university without access to a research library and creation of a research library is quite an expensive and lengthy process.
A major theme in the presentations is the fact that Rowan and Rutgers-Camden are very different schools, each providing unique opportunities and experiences for the students who chose to attend. Eliminating this choice does not seem to be a way to keep students from leaving the state as pro-merger individuals would argue. One speaker even presented an overview of student outmigration that does not support the pro-merger stance – here.
I find it very interesting that a pro-merger argument is that South Jersey does not have a research university, when in fact it does and it is Rutgers-Camden. In listening to the presentations and reading the well researched reports and analysis, it is clear that the Rutgers-Camden community is conducting the research that should have been done by the members of the Barer report before it was presented.
The Higher Education Committee expressed the need for due diligence and for obtaining more details on the plan. There are many unanswered questions and hopefully the Committee will continue to try to seek answers to these important concerns by citizens, taxpayers and voters.