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Merger negotiations continue long into the night

The New Jersey legislature has finally recognized the obvious: their proposed merger bill is plain unconstitutional without the approval of Rutgers University governing boards, which up to this point have largely been a bystander in the process, as the Newark and Camden delegations demanded unfair concession after unfair concession. Not only were those self-serving changes largely unacceptable to Rutgers, but the backroom politicians making those deals did not have authority to negotiate for Rutgers! Now the question becomes who blinks with Christie's July 30th deadline fast approaching. There's the old car salesman trick, where terms of a deal change at the last minute, and you go along with it anyway because you are already far too invested in negotiations. That's the pratfall that has to be avoided. Rutgers needs to be ready to walk away, because they only get one thing they want in this deal, at too high a cost. (While the original, simple Camden for UMDNJ-NB trade was unfair, it still would have been a net boon for the university.) It's time to tell Norcross off. The only part of this merger that makes any sense at all is the New Brunswick part, and that should be the only change that happens.

New Jersey politicians are no friends of Rutgers

New Jersey politicians are no friends of Rutgers

BoG/BoT go public on merger proposal

The gist of the statement is essentially that the current proposal is insane and a horrible deal for Rutgers, but let's talk. Obviously, you have lots of different factions at play here. Ralph Izzo on the BoG is very close to Chris Christie, but he also has to recognize how bad this deal is; but on the other hand, his loyalty is to Rutgers, not Rutgers Camden, and Izzo won't hesitate to negotiate for a better deal. On the other hand, you have Camden professors and students who are opposed to a deal under any circumstances. To them, all I can say is that if the Rutgers BoT/BoG releases a statement that does not outright dismiss the proposal, like it or not, it's time to make preparations that your campus is going to be traded for a medical school. If the deal is right, that always has been and always will be a very easy choice for Rutgers. Of course, this deal is not right, not even close. Rutgers needs to torpedo all of the Newark proposals, refuse to take on UMDNJ's debt, stop George Norcross from using the Rutgers name, extract additional financial concessions, and maybe even consolidate the law schools in New Brunswick. The Sweeney proposal could not possibly be a worse piece of legislation, which is why Loretta Weinberg's statement of praise, and support from other Senate Democrats like Paul Sarlo and Joe Vitale (a traitor to Middlesex County if there ever was one) are enough to induce vomit. As for Farmer's article, the points are correct with respect to Sweeney's awful proposal. However, as to the broader idea of separating Rutgers-Camden, I don't really agree. It's clear that Norcross U would be a clown college with no academic prestige, and it would be completely devoid of funding as all resources are shifted into debt-ridden Cooper Medical School. Therefore, there is no chance that it would pose a genuine threat to Rutgers. The thing is though that this so-called university cannot be allowed to use the Rutgers name, and that Sweeney's idea to designate Rowan as the research university for South Jersey, and Rutgers as the research university for North Jersey must be eviscerated, never to return. Now and forever, Rutgers must retain its status and sole designation the state university for all of New Jersey - regardless of whether it keeps its satellite campuses in Newark and Camden or not.

UMDNJ/Rowan merger proposal introduced in legislature

As expected, the proposal includes provisions for new governing boards in Newark and Camden, which is anathema and unacceptable to the Rutgers boards. George Norcross is still free to loot the Camden campus. Other changes include: 1. As an apparent end-run around Newark's excessive desire for political bribes, Sweeney proposes that Rutgers absorb EVERY UMDNJ asset except for University Hospital. Actually, Rutgers would not want to do this, because UMDNJ is a political patronage mill more than a medical school. It does create the super-patronage mill that Essex County politicians want though, and NJIT has to feel nervous tonight that they will be next in the crosshairs to be gobbled up. 2. In an effort to further curb RU's political independence, Stephen Sweeney's proposal would increase the size of the university's board of governors from 11 to 15 members. Sweeney does concede that the proposal will change, and Newark is definitely gearing for a fight. Now it's up to Rutgers to pit these two groups of fools against each other, and somehow get out of this mess by regaining its stolen medical school.

"If the board of governors doesn't support this, it's in trouble. I don't know how you supersede...

"If the board of governors doesn't support this, it's in trouble. I don't know how you supersede the board of governors," said State Sen. Robert Singer (R., Ocean), who sits on the Senate Higher Education Committee and supports the governor's proposal. "It's one week away. We have to see." ... "If we don't get the whole thing, maybe do the Rutgers-UMDNJ thing now and we have to wait on Rowan and Rutgers," he said. "It's important to get this moving the right way. Half a pie is better than no pie."

The Rutgers boards are set to vote on a statement of principles opposing any union between Rutgers-Camden and Rowan. All eyes ultimately fall on the Board of Governors, as the Board of Trustees are certain to oppose the so-called compromise. It's doubtful the BoG would support it though, as they have a fiduciary to do what is in the best interest of the university, and the proposals to have Newark and Camden politicians gut Rutgers of assets while still having rights to the university's name are too much of a price to pay. Now the question becomes as to whether the original proposal will be revived, which probably was worth the trade. Obviously you'd prefer for UMDNJ-NB to just be returned to Rutgers, but we cannot get out of this situation without a medical school. It is absolutely vital for the future of Rutgers. Sen. Singer does deserve a lot of credit for being responsible and respecting the rule of law, as opposed to Sen. Sweeney, who has a callous disregard for the Rutgers Act of 1956. The second bit of comments from Singer are pretty good, a best of all worlds scenario. As the merger in New Brunswick is absolutely vital to the future of New Jersey's economy, New Jersey legislators ultimately can't be dumb enough to cut off their noses to spite their faces, could they? Not approving the main merger would cost the state millions in research funds. At the end of the day, they have to approve that no matter what, as failing to do that would represent a dereliction of duty and responsibility to the taxpayers of New Jersey.

"Thanks to the Rutgers Act of 1956, our two governing boards are free from the influence peddling...

"Thanks to the Rutgers Act of 1956, our two governing boards are free from the influence peddling and secret back-room deal-making that politicians in both the north and south are rushing to bring to both Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden," said Shankman. "When I have to consider who I have more confidence in: independent Rutgers boards who uphold a 246-year tradition of nonpartisan excellence or politicians seeking to control as much as they can whenever and wherever they can, to me the choice of who to trust is very clear."

Quotes don't really get much better than that. The fact that corrupt Newark politicians are railing about "wasteful" spending in a plot to give them a giant patronage slush fund to reward cronies with really takes the cake. Investment in Rutgers-New Brunswick has been cut to the bone because of budget cuts that these politicians largely voted for, and they still have to gall to spout these blatant lies. The fiction about only 55% of tuition being spend on satellite campuses owes a great deal to the central administration fees that would largely increase if the campuses were governed centrally. The rest, of course, owes to the fact that no one would value an education from the Newark or Camden campuses if they were not associated with Rutgers-New Brunswick, so they fairly must pay what is essentially a licensing fee for the privilege of association. The independence of the Rutgers Governing Board is not a bug, it's a feature.

The trustees said many of their colleagues wanted to emphasize their opposition to the...

The trustees said many of their colleagues wanted to emphasize their opposition to the Christie/Norcross plan after The Star-Ledger published details of a so-called "compromise" worked out behind closed doors. The details "infuriated" the trustees, said one member of the board, because they played no part in what appeared to be a done deal. In a confidential email, one trustee wrote of the plan, ``Not just ‘no,’ but ‘HELL NO!’"

This is from Bob Braun in the Ledger. Rutgers is prepared to offer increased autonomy to the Newark and Camden campuses, but is not willing to let political hacks in Newark and Camden take over those campuses and raid their treasuries. Simply put, it is not acceptable for a campus to bear the Rutgers name but not be under the direct and sole authority of the Rutgers Board of Governors. Update: as you would expect, Rutgers sources insist they have no interest in having George Norcross run the Camden campus by fiat.

Time to go nuclear against Stephen Sweeney

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who holds nothing resembling a college or university degree, now has it in mind that the state of New Jersey should circumvent and gut the Rutgers Act of 1956. This is no less than an open declaration of warfare by Sweeney and his puppet master George Norcross against Rutgers, and therefore, Rutgers should respond in kind. The most disgusting part? Middlesex County legislator Joe Vitale, who should be screaming at the top of his lungs defending Rutgers, is supposedly abetting Sweeney and Norcross in their dirty dealings. As that Ledger article points out, patronage-minded politicians in Newark and Camden are treating this merger proposal as an opportunity to loot the state university of its prestige and treasure, and this cannot be allowed. Both are still stuck in the moronic, simplistic view of this issue as a zero sum game of local politics, rather than the correct view of an opportunity to strengthen the state university of New Jersey while enhancing the state's life sciences industry. Rutgers should not stand for it, New Jersey voters should not stand for it, and New Jersey economic heavyweights such as Johnson & Johnson and Merck should not stand for it either. We stand at the precipice of an opportunity to do an enormous, practically unbound level of good for the state economy by returning the illegally, immorally stolen Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine to its rightful owner in Rutgers University. Yet, all these clowns care about is greasing their palms and looking out for number one. It's downright pathetic. There is little wonder why New Jersey's higher education is suffering. With politicians like these, how could it not? That's why New Jerseyans need to stand against this horrific attempt to broach the sacred Rutgers Act of 1956, and demand that Governor Christie stand up to George Norcross, do what's right, and only move forward with the New Brunswick portions of the merger while tabling every other proposal. Update: let's be clear on this - Newark's politicians are just as craven, reprehensible, and opportunistic as Camden's. I guess it's a point of pride that we don't stand for that kind of garbage in Central Jersey, but this is just absurd. This isn't about regional parochialism. It's about the general welfare of the entire state. Someone has to step up and be an advocate for all of New Jersey against these thieves and criminals. Frankly, Gov. Christie is abdicating his role and responsibility if he does not take a stand against these demands. Update2: some more on Newark's excessive, outrageous demands.

The latest on UMDNJ, Rowan, et al

Bob Braun has a column today where he notes that, given the choice, Richard McCormick would choose the UMDNJ campus in New Brunswick/Piscataway over Rutgers-Camden. Of course he would, because even with the downsides and problems with the Rowan deal, Rutgers still ends up far ahead in any trade. The odd thing about Braun's column though is his concern over UMDNJ's debt. Isn't most of the debt with UMDNJ's Newark campus, especially with University Hospital? There is always the possibility that UMDNJ would try to sandbag Rutgers in trying to force it to take on debt as a condition of the merger, but otherwise, I am not sure about the premises of Braun's larger article. It might take a while to unravel UMDNJ's finances, but Rutgers should stand firm on the point that it should not have to absorb any Newark-related debt. In other news, Rowan University has released its plan for a hypothetical merger with Rutgers-Camden, and it is predictably bad. (Down to the opening graphic on the front page of the report. Ocean County isn't South Jersey!) The plan demands "equal" funding at the same level as Rutgers and NJIT, which makes no sense given that Rutgers is a world-class research university. Given the legislature's lack of inclination to higher ed, that means money coming out of RU's pocket. The report also assumes that there won't be a mass exodus out of the Camden campus after a merger, which is certainly being threatened by existing faculty and students. This all seems awfully ambitious given that the Rutgers board is threatening to block any merger, though that is basic negotiating 101. Even the likes of Greg Brown, the Rutgers alumnus and Motorola CEO who is very close to Christie, are objecting. Maybe Brown can be a useful counterbalance to the influence of George Norcross with Christie. Update: the Philadelphia Inquirer today has a lengthy feature on Norcross.

Cory Booker fighting UMDNJ merger

If you were waiting for the other shoe to drop, it just did. Unfortunately, this may be why Rutgers has to give up the Camden campus. With Republicans and South Jersey Democrats voting as a bloc with Central Jersey Democrats already on board, then there's no way to gum up the UMDNJ merger in Ne Brunswick. It simply has to happen, and it's sad to see Cory Booker descending into regional parochialism over the state's collective welfare. In that respect, he's just as bad as all of the worst Essex County politicians throughout history.

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