Save Rutgers: George Norcross Publishes Platitudes About Rowan/Rutgers Merger

It appears that this is happening more and more, Save Jerseyans. George Norcross III, the infamous party boss of South Jersey Democrats, the notorious puppet master of the anti-residency party, the breathing bank account of the political machine, has emerged from the shadows yet again.

This time, instead of trumpeting the importance of education reform and his support for charter school in Camden City, which is something I can totally get behind, he is making his voice heard on an issue that many believe he is in total control of. I am of course talking about the consolidation of Rutgers-Camden in to Rowan University.

Reading his op-ed, which was printed in the Courier Post today, does more damage to his cause than anything I think I could say (but that won’t stop me).

The article is literally full of conjecture, platitudes, fantasy, and assertions that are simply made up.

It screams of nothing more than an attempt to use buzz words to appeal to the local community in order to achieve the goal of expanding his power base, a discussion I will leave for another day.

For example, Mr. Norcross beings by setting an incredibly lofty expectation…

This exciting, inspired plan can be the catalyst for the kind of renaissance that could make South Jersey an epicenter of intellectual and economic success for decades. It’s up to us to seize this chance.”

Exciting? Renaissance? In Camden? I don’t think so and neither do you, sir. The article goes on and on like that, proclaiming that this merger that we know very little about so far, would bring life to Camden like no one could ever imagine, except for George Norcross.

He talks of “tens of thousands of jobs” for the people of Camden. Saying that within ten years the Rutgers-Camden campus, which would be Rowan by then I suppose, would triple in size. What? Where did that come from? How much would that cost? Where would the money come from?

We have all seen the report from the UMDNJ commission by now, there is no mention of cost aside from a supposed plan being “budget neutral,” which we all know is code for “its going to cost a ton of money” in legal fees, consultant costs, and administrative reorganization and retention.

We then enter Mr. Norcross’s fantasy again,

New businesses will open. Existing businesses will flourish. And the streets will be alive, which typically leads to a thriving economy and a safer environment.”

I am not so sure he has taken a walk around Camden lately. I go to school here every day, and I can tell you that the only businesses flourishing from student activity are the food carts (which are awesome here by the way). No one is venturing off into one of the most dangerous cities in the country to patronize its local economy, and that seems unlikely to change by simply changing the letters after the ‘R’ in its name.

The problems in Camden go far deeper than a lack of economic activity. There are structural and governmental issues, there is a total lack of a tax base because businesses will not come here without a deal being struck and property values are incredibly low to the point where it almost is not worth it to collect some taxes at all, and that is unlikely to change with a name. The idea that more state and federal funding flowing to a newly named university (if we even accept that premise at all) can transform this city is beyond humorous.

The idea that Rowan University would be some sort of conduit for transformative change is not only silly, but its wrongheaded. The main concern in this merger should be the students and the career opportunities we are creating for the future of our region. The fact is that merging schools like Rutgers Law into Rowan would do nothing to further that goal.

Instead, it would hinder it. In professional schools, names matter. Rutgers is a nationally recognized and ranked law school. No matter where you take a Rutgers Law degree, it means something. Slap the name Rowan on that piece of paper, and everything changes. You can have the same professors, the same classes, the same resources, and instantly have less opportunity. If Mr. Norcross does not think that this would affect the quality and quantity of applications to the law school, then he is simply not paying attention. If the prospect of jobs and prestige fades, so do the applicants (also known as ‘customers’).

A school, like any business, cannot flourish and grow without customers. Students come here for the education, of course, but they also come for the name, the great alumni network, and the pool of judges and firms who constantly pull from Rutgers ever year. When that is gone, when those numbers drop, when the students stop applying, what happens to the funding? Tuition at Rutgers Law funds a tremendous amount of investment in human capital and resources. The only option will be to lower standards to attract more applicants, and in turn lowering the school’s ranking and digging a deeper hole. It seems that the current uncertainty of the situation is enough to have the administration scared of this danger already.

Instead of concentrating on running the law school in an efficient manner, they are working on a communications strategy to portray this announcement, which came just weeks before final decision time for the fall semester students, in the most positive light possible.

For many of the students of the undergraduate university, Rutgers-Camden is the only option they have to attend a nationally recognized state school in New Jersey. Surely a man who so ardently argues the merits of school choice and opportunity must recognize the importance of that fact, and what taking it away will mean for so many students in Camden and Gloucester Counties.

It seems clear that this plan would increase the clout of Cooper Hospital and its new Rowan affiliated medical school. No one begrudges George Norcross for attempting to use his influence to make that a success, but potentially sacrificing the futures of hundreds of college and professional school students does not seem worth it, and if the turnout and mood at the first town hall meeting on the merger on Monday was any indication, the students do not believe so, either. Unfortunately for Mr. Norcross, no amount of gushing personal predictions and puffy platitudes are going to change that.

If you have not already signed the petition to stop the plan, you can do so through R2Rmerge.

 

Brian McGovern

Brian McGovern

Brian McGovern wears many hats these days including Voorhees Township GOP Municipal Chairman, South Jersey attorney, and co-owner of the Republican campaign consulting firm Exit 3 Strategies, Inc.

182 Comments

  1. Easy two word comeback to any George Norcross plan being sold on promises of riches to come that involves tearing down an existing structure to accomplish it: Pennsauken Mart.

  2. IT S ALL ABOUT PUTTING IN A LIGHT RAIL LINE FROM CAMDEN-GLASSBORO THAT NO ONE WANTS.

    • I saw the article on that yesterday as well.. interesting timing.

      I need to move out of south jersey, the corruption just keeps getting worse.

    • Yeah, public transportation is such an awful idea in New Jersey. It's just too spread out with ample highways and easy, short commutes.

      • Have you ever even been to Gloucester County or Camden County? The two are connected by a pretty extensive highway system in Rt 42, Rt 55, I-295 and the turnpike.

        Building a light rail system is nothing more than an attempt to dole out public funds to private companies who support the proper candidates in the area. It has nothing to do with a specific need for a train from Glassboro (an area that few people need to go unless they are Rowan students) and Camden.

        • Yep, 295 works really great in rush hour these days. 45 minutes to go 20 miles!

          The thing about a lot of college students? They don't have cars. Or they can't afford them. So a rail system to a college, and one that would have (and already has) tech parks and clustered and not sprawled jobs and things, would make a rail system necessary. And to link that to Camden and therefore Philly? It's a pretty good idea.

          You're probably part of the same lot who were against the River Line, and look at it now. It's generating business and has a way more than projected ridership.

          You're making this too easy.

          • Yeah the River Line has really increased economic activity in Camden since opening up…Please.

            Im not saying that the light rail system would not benefit students looking to go party in Philadelphia. That is a given. But these projects are not cheap, and with the way the DRPA and the South Jersey Dems run things, they will not be going to the lowest bidder but to the highest donor.

            I wonder if we did a poll and asked how many CamCo residents want to see their tax dollars and ever increasing tolls and PATCO fares be spent on a rail system primarily used for college kids to travel from Glassboro to Camden (who are we kidding, they are not going to Camden, but to Philly) 8 months out of the year and then goes largely unused during the winter and summer months?

            Would it be the worst thing in the world to expand the PATCO track southward? No, of course not. But if the timing of all of this does not raise your eyebrows a bit, then you sir are either incredibly naive or are simply living the same fantasy as Mr. Norcross.

  3. Brian — Keep thinking South Jersey don't need those nasty expensive mass transit projects, let alone an R1 university. You say people want to "party" in Philly. There are also lots of these things called "jobs" there as well. Ridership on the River line is at capacity, so I guess it's just a failure.

    College kids have money, they spend money, they go to bars. I suppose you don't like people taking trains and spending money and getting to jobs?

    And regarding timing: Yes, when things are proposed other things are proposed. It's called momentum, and if you think you cant' stop powerful people with money to stop doing that, then maybe you should move to…South Jersey! Yes, that's about right. Just stay where you are in your backwater. You'll be just fine. Enjoy the traffic and no jobs to go to, buddy.

    • Spending that kind of money on a rail project for a super-select class of individuals (college students) is simply poor policy and poor planning. The amount of bonded debt that will be required for this and the "expansion" of the camden campus is well beyond any perceived benefit at this time. No one in Glassboro is waking up in the morning and hoping they can take a train to Camden to patronize its economy or work a job there. It is not a destination city, it makes no sense. Why spend billions on the means to travel to Camden when there is nothing to travel there for? When there is something in the city that draws people, there will be a real demand for more ways of transport. For now, the only people demanding it would be contractors and trade unions looking for jobs.

      Like I said, it would not be the worst thing in the world, it would be convenient for anyone needing to go that route (although I am not sure it would really do anything to cut down on 295 traffic during rush hour).

      There is nothing wrong with having big plans, but just because they are big does not make them smart.

      Also, in response to the end of your comment, I am not sure what you mean. I currently travel to camden everyday to attend the law school (I am in my last semester) and I've lived in the traffic of south jersey my entire life.

    • HOW CAN THE RIVERLINE BE MAKING MONEY WHEN YOU CHARGE 1.10 TO RIDE FROM CAMDEN TO TRENTON??? A RAIL LINE THAT MOST PEOPLE IN GLOUCESTER COUNTY DO NOT WANT RUNNING THROUGH THERE NEIGHBOHOODS WOULD COST OVER A BILLION DOLLARS AND NO ONE IS SAYING WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR IT. I GOT A BETTER IDEA LOWER THE BRIDGE TOLLS OR SPEND THAT MONEY ON THE POLICE IN CAMDEN THAT WERE CUT.

  4. Brian: You are simply ignorant. You do not understand higher education and out of touch with reality. You keep on stating that "Rutgers" is a nationally recognized name. That name belongs to New Brunswick campus not Camden. People in academia and business clearly know the difference. Rutgers Camden is not a national university. It is a low caliber regional university and way behind both Rowan and Rider(US News & World Report 2012). Rutgers itself uses this campus as a community college and feeder for its New Brunswick campus.

    Rutgers Camden is not a research university. It miserably failed to develop a decent undergraduate program and then tried to develop some bogus graduate programs. Mow they are D-grade in both.

    Merger is the only solution that will bring complete renovation of Rutgers Camden including removal of faculty members who should have retired years ago and recruitment of young faculty members in every department particularly in the sciences.

    We need a radical change and exactly what is proposed by the committee. I hope Governor and Norcross can carry it through.

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