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Category: Rutgers Camden Merger

Christie, Sweeney Lock Arms at Rowan

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Governor Chris Christie joined Senate President Steve Sweeney on Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the Rowan University College of Engineering, Save Jerseyans

The Governor took the opportunity to double-down on last summer’s partial merger of Rutgers, Rowan and UMDNJ as well as his appreciate for Sweeney’s partnership in getting it done:

Sweeney faces a spirited challenge this fall from candidate Niki Trunk.

Need a refresher on the Rutgers/Rowan merger debacle? We were on record against it. Click here to visit our second-to-none archives particularly if you’re new to the issue. It’ll be back…

When We Stood with the Laut

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Here’s another memory on the day of Frank Lautenberg’s passing: Save Jersey found itself in extraordinarily odd ideological company back in early 2012, Save Jerseyans, when we took a stand against the Rutgers-Rowan merger proposal spearheaded by Governor Christie and South Jersey Democrats and vociferously opposed by liberal North Jersey Democrats weary of the latter camp’s non-ideological alliance.

Who would’ve thunk it? Not this conservative!

So Brian McGovern was there in May 2012 when Sen. Lautenberg came to the Rutgers-Camden campus and, in his recognizably halting but passionate tone, made the case for keeping RU in South Jersey (h/t Blue Jersey):

He Is Who He Is

Chris Christie is his own man, Save Jerseyans.

Usually he’s “right” (figuratively and literally). Less often he’s wrong.

But I’ve never doubted for one moment that this Governor does what he thinks is best for the people of New Jersey, and his good friends at Save Jersey will continue to try and nudge the Guv and his caucus in the “right” direction on some key issues affecting Garden State taxpayers! If not us, then who? We were there long before next Tuesday’s much-anticipated keynote seemed a realistic achievement for a New Jersey Republican, and we damn well intend to be here long after he’s moved on (possibly to Washington for his own turn as the nominee? Stay tuned.).

Governor Christie wore his hallmark independence as a badge of honor at yesterday’s signing of the watered down RU Camden-Rowan merger collaboration bill, a spring 2012 storyline for which I believe our own Brian McGovern deserves a Pulitzer (I’m a little biased):

Save Rutgers: Christie to Sign Rut-Row ‘Collaboration’ Bill Today

Today is the day. After months of battling back and forth with students, faculty, and concerned citizens in South Jersey, Governor Christie will be signing a new Rutgers bill that is immensely watered down from the vision he outlined in January of this year.

Throughout the spring, Governor Christie and certain South Jersey Democrats connected to George Norcross were adamant that Rutgers and Rowan merge into one school for a number of reasons outlined in our extensive coverage of the issue, which you can read in its entirety here.

Proponents of this plan said that it was imperative that the law be passed before July 1, 2012. The bill itself did pass the legislature just in time, but after polling indicated that this was Governor Christie’s least popular initiative to date, with only 19 percent of New Jerseyans on board, he backed off and delayed his signing off on the bill. It was almost as if he had forgotten that the issue even existed.

The final version of the bill to be signed today does not contain a merger provision at all. Instead it contains a plan for collaboration between Rutgers Camden and Rowan that will benefit the new Cooper Medical School in Camden, and hopefully benefit the two parent campuses as well. A previous version of the bill created a joint Rut-Row Committee that would have total control over both schools. This was a thinly veiled attempt at a merger and did not fly with certain members of the legislature, or the students fighting the deal.

By the time the bill had passed it was changed to allow the joint committee to merely oversee the joint programs between Rutgers Camden and Rowan, an idea first floated in the media here at Save Jersey.

The signing of the bill today will set into motion months of planning for a transition to a new Rutgers system, which will lose some control over its Camden campus, but will bring UMDNJ into the fold.

Governor Christie will be signing the bill in New Brunswick, but will be making scheduled stops in Newark and Camden today as well.

Syria: the Time is Yesterday!

Damascus, Syria

The Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad is on its last legs. Despite support from Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia the Alawi dictatorship has been battling insurgents in its capital, Damascus, and leaders in its government have been assassinated.

Much has been said about the Syrian opposition being fragmented, without a central leadership, and increasingly dominated by radical Sunni fundamentalists with ties to Al Qaeda.

There can be little doubt that Al Qaida is in the thick of anti-Assad revolution, Save Jerseyans.

Whenever there is a power vacuum in the Middle East Sunni, fundamentalists seek to co-opt revolutionary movements and, in violent uprisings, they are often part and parcel of the vanguard. This much we have all born witness to in the Arab Spring – whether it was the Muslims Brotherhoods sweep of the recent Egyptian elections or fundamentalist elements gaining ground in the anti-Qaddafi Libyan forces. They had different modus operandi and different results, as Egypt’s future vacillates between the military and the Brotherhood and Libya looks to be on the right track, but the same goals: Sunni Islamic theocracy.
CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: Rut-Row Bill Passes Both Assembly and Senate

This afternoon the Rut-Row Bill passed the New Jersey Senate and Assembly by wide margins.

In the Senate the vote was 29 – 10. Most of the Nays were Northern Democrats at war with the Norcross Machine. Senator Diane Allen (R-7) also voted no, for which I congratulate her on her courage to go against the Governor’s wishes.

In the Assembly the vote was 60 – 18 in favor of passage. Assemblyman Cryan and his crew of Democrats were bulk of the Nays here.

As I stated in my earlier post today, the bill that passed both houses in Trenton is substantially different from the one we got to look at a few weeks back.

The new bill, which was most recently amended this afternoon before the vote, took a suggestion I had previously made and ran with it. That suggestion was the scrapping of the Joint Rutgers Camden – Rowan Board that would have total control over both campuses, and instead replacing it with a joint board that oversees only the joint programs and is ultimately subject to the control of each individual school. That amendment was made in full, making the merger much less of one at all and the final plan far easier to swallow.

With what this final bill turned out to be, we may very well have saved Rutgers Camden for now, which is something everyone, from the faculty and students to citizens in South Jersey, should all be proud of. However, our work is not done, and now we must fight on to make sure Rutgers Camden remains free from the clutches of political machines.

As this chapter in the Rut-Row saga ends, I want to thank everyone who read and shared my articles on what was an issue that hit close to home for me. Together we directly shaped how this legislation turned out and beat back what was set to be a unilateral takeover of Rutgers Camden. That was no small feat for anyone involved.

The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. A court challenge is likely if any loose ends remain, since one has essentially been in the planning stages since January when this was first announced. Of course when that happens you can come right here to Save Jersey for the latest.

Save Rutgers: They Took My Advice and Amended the Rut-Row Bill (UPDATE)

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.”

-Brian McGovern

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).

Save Rutgers: Bill Hits Budget Committee, Amendments Being Added, Lautenberg Reemerges

Today is June 25th, we are officially 6 days away from the supposed deadline for the Rutgers Camden Rowan Merger deal to be signed into law.

Over the last six months this plan has faced tremendous hurdles, and to be honest, the proponents of the plan, while the continue to press on, have stumbled over every single one. I have said it before, and I will say it again, the likelihood of this deal going through before July 1 is slim to none.

The Assembly Budget Committee meets today, which is not unlike any other Monday or Thursday in June. However, today they will be hearing testimony and discussion on the Rut-Row bill. Keep in mind, this is the budget committee. The committee that deals with how much money the state is going to spend on things in the coming year. Also keep in mind that this bill, unlike most that come before the budget committee, does not have the slightest estimate attached for how much it will cost.

In other words: The Rut-Row bill should be a non-starter for the Assembly Budget Committee.

CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: North Jersey Dems Will Derail Rut-Row Plan (For Now)

If one thing has always amazed me about politics in New Jersey, it is that you can always count on the respective parties to exert more energy on intra-party guerrilla warfare than they do on actual campaigns against each other.

We see this on the GOP side for sure all of the time, exhibit A ending just last night up in Bergen County. Well now the Democrats are at it, and it seems that people like me and the rest of the anti-merger crowd are standing to benefit from their internal squabbling . . .

CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: How I Would Change the Rut-Row Bill, Part I

Last week we saw the introduction of the first merger proposal in writing since the initial plan hit a brick wall made up of angry, protesting students. While the backlash on the bill has not been nearly as loud as the initial proposal (to be fair, school is out for the summer and a lot of people have gone home), the skeptics remain.

The fact is that the compromise bill was hardly a compromise at all. Other than maintaining the Rutgers Camden name on all the buildings in of the Camden campus, the takeover is still happening. The only difference is that now, Rowan is being taken over too.

As I explained at length in my bill analysis, both Rowan and Rutgers Camden would, under this bill, fall to the control of a “Joint Rowan-Rutgers Board” that currently does not exist. This board would have the ability to veto any decisions made by the individual boards that would theoretically run the two “separate” schools and would of course make decisions on their behalf when necessary. The idea is fishy, seems redundant, and has no logical relationship with the stated goal, which is purportedly to strengthen higher education in southern New Jersey.

There need to be changes to this bill, because as it stands, it is unacceptable.

CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: An Honest Analysis of the Rut-Row Bill

No need for introductions on this post, Save Jerseyans.

If you have been following the wild ride that has been the Rut-Row merger, you know what is going on.

The first official draft of the Senate bill to “restructure” higher education in New Jersey dropped yesterday morning. Below is my analysis of the most important and interesting parts of the bill.

Warning, you might want to go and grab a snack before proceeding . . . CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: The Devil is in the Details…Analysis Coming Soon

Today during my bar exam review class my phone started going crazy. After weeks of relative silence on the Rut-Row merger, news had finally broke. I kind of wish I had asked Senator Norcross to drop the bill on a Friday when I met with him a few weeks back, because this 87 page bill is really going to cut down on my studying time!

Press releases from former governors, state senators, state assembly members, trade unions, Rutgers officials, and media types have been flowing like a river all afternoon. The only politico I have yet to hear from is Governor Christie, who I think will want to steer clear of this topic until absolutely necessary. Just as a matter of observation, if you look at all of the press releases, you’ll notice that Senator Sweeney is largely being credited with the formation of this compromise plan. Governor Christie’s name is no where to be found in black and white.

So I’ve been getting texts and emails all day asking when I am going to go through the bill. So this post is to let everyone know at once, I am working on it. In fact, I am taking a study break to read through the bill right now!  As is always the case with these things, the devil is in the details. Some are saying that the bill in its current form is unconstitutional. Some are saying it is a merger by another name. So check back soon for a full analysis of the bill, which you can read yourself right here

Save Rutgers: Not Meeting the July 1 Deadline… Unless Lightning Strikes Sweeney Again?

A bit of good news for the anti-merger crowd coming off of what I hope was a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend. We here at Save Jersey have been saying it for literally months, but now the rest of the media has finally caught on and is reporting that the July 1st deadline for some sort of merger deal will not likely be met.

The problem now seems to be that Speaker Sheila Oliver is dragging her feet, possibly on purpose.

NJ.com is reporting that Oliver has stated privately that she has no intention of meeting the deadline, and referred to it as a “fiction.”

Senator Sweeney, on the other hand, is standing firm on his commitment to do the South Jersey Democrat Machine’s bidding and get this unresearched, unscored, and unintelligent idea rammed through before anyone has a chance to know what is in it.

The final plan will, of course, need to pass through both houses of the state legislature in order to make it to Govenor Christie’s desk by July 1.

CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: Could Rob Andrews Be the Next Rowan President?

As we wait for the written draft of the bill that will eventually reorganize higher education in New Jersey yet again, I thought some fun speculation might be in order.

Over the last few months I have been seeing more and more admittedly circumstantial evidence that 1st District Congressman Rob Andrews may be among the likely candidates to take over the “New Rowan” from its current interim President once the University begins to take over certain aspects of the Rutgers Camden campus.

As with all things in the Rut-Row narrative, my reasoning is rooted in political history, political machines, and powerful interests.

So let’s go through each point… CONTINUE READING….

Rutgers-Rowan “Compromise” Still Likely a Raw Deal for Camden Campus

Just weeks before the July 1st deadline demanded by Governor Chris Christie, The Star-Ledger is reporting a tentative Rutgers-Camden/Rowan merger deal crafted state power brokers meeting behind closed doors.

The general parameters:

Under the plan, negotiated behind the scenes by a group of state lawmakers and university officials, Rutgers would still oversee how degrees are awarded and other academic issues but would have no authority over day-to-day operations of its Camden campus, those involved in the talks say.”

Of course this is only a proposal just like the original half-baked plan, Save Jerseyans.

We still have no specifics, no financial plan, no cost estimate, and no rationale for this merger other than the highly-speculative promise of a university in the mold of “State College” in Gloucester County down the road… in 25 years? 50? 100? No one has an answer; no one is even pretending to have an answer.

What do we know about this proposed compromise? Or at least what can we surmise based off of the early reports? “Day-to-day” operations likely translates to “control of the money;” and if Rowan is permitted to use the Rutgers-Camden law school like an ATM terminal, Cooper’s new medical school will be the only likely beneficiary. And we all know who the top dog is over at Cooper!

We’ll keep you apprised as details emerge…

For more background on the Rutgers-Camden/Rowan merger, visit our exclusive Save Jersey archives.