Because the amended bill has not yet been released on the New Jersey Legislature’s website (at least at the time of this writing), I was in the middle of writing a scathing article about how the Rutgers Board of Governors threw the Rutgers Camden campus under the bus at the last minute. However, I then saw this article posted on Facebook.
The headline reads: Under Revised Plan, Rutgers-Rowan will Only Share Health Sciences.
Hey wait a second, where have I heard that idea before? Oh right!
“There is nothing wrong with a collaborative board that oversees joint programs between Rowan and Rutgers Camden (whether they pertain to the new medical school or other areas of higher education). Let a combined board handle all of those programs and set the standards and practices for their successful operation. That being said, there is absolutely zero reason for a joint board to have control over both universities which are fully capable of running themselves autonomously.”
I’d like to thank the Senators and Assembly members for taking my advice.
This is positive news, and honestly is the best deal we could have hoped would occur under the circumstances. It appeared as though every group involved other than the Board of Trustees stood ready to just cut their losses in Camden and move forward with the takeover of UMDNJ, which Rutgers has wanted for a very long time.
Once the final, passed legislation (assuming it does pass this afternoon) I will have a final analysis of what is to happen.
Under a resolution that passed the Board of Governors this morning 9 to 1, they are reserving the right to reject the plan later because it does not technically take effect until July 1, 2013. That is a bunch of garbage and has absolutely no teeth to it. Consider the resolution, which you can read here, to be nothing more than a public relations statement to distract you while the Board members pick themselves up off of the floor. If this thing passes today, it goes through in its entirety. End of story.
But one thing is for sure, this bill and these final amendments are far better than anything we first learned about in January, and far better than anything we have seen this far.
The thing about fighting a political machine, like the South Jersey Democrat Machine, is that you rarely ever win. This situation was no exception. Up against money, power, corruption, and deeply intrenched politicians in legislative districts drawn to ensure incumbent protection, there just is not much you can do. However, the way that the anti-merger movement was able to beat back those forces was quite frankly amazing and inspiring. And no matter what happens today, the fight is not over.
Even with my suggestion for true autonomy in Camden taken, and with the Joint Rut-Row board only holding power over the joint programs, is this bill good for Rutgers Camden? That will remain to be seen. Assuming passage today there is still likely to be some sort of court challenge, and it will be really interesting to watch as it unfolds.
That means now is not the time to let up, instead the focus should shift from blocking the plan to making sure the other side does what they agreed to do. If you give them an inch they will surely take a mile. For example they are already claiming that the Board of Trustees will be cut out of the approval process, which is unacceptable. We saved a lot of Rutgers Camden, so do not let it slip by now.
UPDATE: Lautenberg weighs in and I clarify a point.
Senator Lautenberg’s office released this statement regarding todays vote on the Rut-Row bill,
“Today, New Jersey legislators have a choice to make that will impact New Jersey for generations to come: They can choose to stand with students, tax payers, and our higher education system or they can choose to stand with politically connected special interests,” said Senator Lautenberg. “This is a half-baked bill that has no price tag, and raises more questions than solutions. Higher education reform is important, but there is no reason to rush it, and I urge my friends in the legislature to vote this bill down.”
The Senator makes an important point and I would like to clarify my own. Just because I feel that the new bill is substantially better than the old one and incredibly better than all the half-baked ideas that came before it, does not mean that I think the bill should pass.
The bill still has no stated price tag, and legislators, as a matter of principle, should know what things cost before they vote on them. My commentary prior to this update was not an endorsement of the bill, but instead was a recognition of how far this process has come from where it began. All of the bugs have not been ironed out of this plan, and until they are, legislators should vote no (even though most of them will not).