Co-op-eration. Not coup d’etat.

The Chris Christie movement, championed by South Jersey’s very own George Norcross, hit a snag this week when Norcross’ younger brother, Donald, appears to have partly come out against the merger.  For anybody who isn’t already privy to the information, Donald Norcross is the current chairman of the Camden County Democratic party and a state Senator who represents the 5th Legislative District.Image

And in Donald’s op-ed piece that ran in the Courier-Post on February 28, 2012, he didn’t appear to mince words either.  Most likely because of the strong support Rutgers Camden has been receiving by current students and alumni.  It looks like Norcross felt the pressure to respond to the throngs of voters who are vehemently against the proposed Rowan takeover.  He wasted no time in his op-ed piece highlighting the point that:

I believe that the Southern New Jersey region, the state and, most importantly, our students, would be best served by creating a partnership that allows both Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University to thrive.

He continues defending Rutgers Camden by saying that it has been a major factor in the city of Camden for fifty years and that the Camden is underfunded by the main campus in New Brunswick.

He then makes, what could be, the most important statement in the entire op-ed piece:

In that effort, Rutgers-Camden must be liberated from northern interests and allowed to flourish along with Rowan through a joint governance structure that truly respects and preserves both distinct communities.

The idea of a partnership would probably flesh out similar to the working partnership between that of Duke and the University of North Carolina.  Both schools maintain their identities but share resources to benefit students.  There is no reason why Rowan and Rutgers couldn’t do the same.  Rutgers Camden would get to keep everything that makes it part of Rutgers University, including the fully stocked research library, and Rowan gets to use the Rutgers name to help launch the new medical school that is being supported by a five million dollar donation from George Norcross and his lovely wife.

Regardless of how you shake out on the takeover (Christie is calling it a merger), the politicians have neglected one major point: the cost of it all.  Currently, there hasn’t been one report dedicated to outlining how much this proposed takeover is going to cost taxpayers of New Jersey in the long haul.  In fact, from an article on NJ.com:

It is unclear if any of the legal or financial issues could derail the merger plan. Previous attempts to merge UMDNJ and Rutgers failed in 2003 and 2006 when legislators didn’t warm to the idea and the costs were considered too high.

Given a six year period, instead of working on determining a potential dollar amount and giving people all the information on what a merger would do to New Jersey, Christie decided to ignore that and submit the plan for a merger again.  It’s interesting that he would be supporting this takeover, and the allocation of funds to rebuild a newly created college, after he slashed the education and teacher budgets to save state money:

Though no one has done an estimate on what a merger would cost, Rutgers and the state will need to find some money to fund the process at a time when most of the state’s higher education institutions are struggling with budget cuts, the task force said.

Three examples of unnecessary costs that would result from a takeover:

  • The litany of lawsuits that will, no doubt, arise.  These lawsuits will include professor driven ones, all support workers, and the ones that will call into question the states right to combine university under the Constitution.
  • This link outlines the information and costs that would arise to recreate the research library that will be lost.  My favorite points are: the Rutgers’ library has 3.6 million books that every student has access too, regardless of the branch. Rowan’s library only has 420,000.  Rutgers also spends $6.2 million dollars for access to 91,000 electronic databases that every student has access too, regardless of the branch.  Rowan spends $650,000 for access to 41,000.
  • The loss of alumni money.  Alumni donations account for a fair amount of Rutgers money.  To alienate a group of alumni means losing out on their various monetary contributions.  Which means more money Rutgers would rely on from the state.  And that money comes out of the taxpayers pockets.

None of these costs have to be incurred though, and taxpayers won’t have to waste their hard earned money, if a partnership can be brokered.

If the schools worked together they would gain access to each others resources and it would benefit the entire student body.  More professors would mean that a bigger variety of classes could be taught.  As a part of the partnership, one of the proposed stipulations could be the ability for Rutgers students to take “x” number of credits from classes taught by Rowan professors, and the likewise for Rowan students.

While the talk of this takeover is scary, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  The Rutgers Camden community is doing a good job and making its voice heard and, now that George Norcross’ brother is wavering on support of the merger, it’s time for Rutgers to start proposing a more suitable alternative.

Resources for further reading or getting involved:

Rutgers Board of Trustees c/o Kenneth M. Schmidt, Chair
Office of the Secretary, Rutgers University
7 College Avenue, Winants Hall, Room 112
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1260

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