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Tag: Save Rutgers

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.

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: 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….

Save Rutgers: Exclusive Interview with Senator Norcross on Rut-Row Merger

The Norcross name has been synonymous with the Rutgers Rowan Merger since the plan was first announced in January of this year. Senator Donald Norcross represents the 5th Legislative District which includes Camden City and by extension Rutgers Camden’s campus. His involvement has included a drive to find a compromise between the initial takeover plan and a cooperative agreement that preserves Rutgers Camden. George Norcross, Chairman of Cooper Hospital and well known boss of the South Jersey Democrat Machine has also been a key player both publicly and behind the scenes. His involvement has given the pro-merger people, however few there may be, an image that admittedly damaged the plan from the start and helped us arrive where we are today.

Yesterday I sat down with Senator Norcross in his Audubon office to discuss the Rutgers Camden Merger plan. We touched on where the plan began and where it is now. The plan being discussed today is a compromise that began to form after the firestorm that is the Save Rutgers movement began. Senator Norcross goes into detail and answers some pretty specific questions on his proposal, which we should be seeing a draft of relatively soon.

Those truly interested in the details of the merger plans going forward will find some answers and clarification. Those just looking for a screaming match may be disappointed. My goal here was to have a substantial and informative interview, and I think that goal was realized.

The biggest take away for me was one line near the end of the conversation. Senator Norcross said,

It’s not a fight over whether or not Rutgers stays in Camden . . . but it is a fight over getting those resources.

If that doesn’t make every anti-merger person smile I don’t know what will. Those who originally supported a full take over of Rutgers Camden by Rowan University are now in talks to strike a deal where keeping Rutgers in Camden is a foregone conclusion. The devil is always in the details, I would never declare victory before seeing the legislation, but we have effectively reframed the debate and forced the other side to accept our premise that Rutgers Camden must remain Rutgers Camden. Watch the interview for that and much more.

I’d like to thank Senator Norcross for sitting down with me, and I hope that when the legislation is finally drafted, he will sit down with me again to go through it and answer more questions. As always, leave comments below.

WEDNESDAY EXCLUSIVE: Save Jersey Talks with Donald Norcross on Rut-Row Merger

From the beginning of the Rutgers Camden Merger debacle I have dedicated a ton of time to bring you some of the most in-depth coverage and analysis around. This afternoon, that dedication included venturing into a place where I honestly never thought I would be. You will be glad to know that I in fact did make it out alive!

All hyperbole aside, today I sat down with Senator Donald Norcross, a key figure in the Rut-Row debate, to have a frank discussion on the the why, when, and how of the merger plan. I am currently editing the video down now, and the exclusive interview will be posted tomorrow morning. I wanted to give Senator Norcross an opportunity to explain his plan, but also asked some detailed and pointed questions on the things I know merger opponents care about.

Be sure to come back tomorrow and watch to get the latest information on the plan directly from the source himself.

Save Rutgers: Board of Trustees Reject Merger in Key Vote

Yesterday in passing I mentioned a coming vote by the Rutgers Board of Trustees on the merger and their support of a potential compromise plan currently in the works. Well last night that vote took place.

According to NJ.com, the Board of Trustees rejected the merger plan, or any severance of Rutgers-Camden from Rutgers University by a vote of 32 – 4.

We are committed to Rutgers-Camden, its students, its prospective students, its faculty and staff, and its service to higher education, to the Camden community and the people of the state of New Jersey,” the board’s resolution said. “The proposed severance of Rutgers-Camden is inconsistent with the mission of Rutgers University.”

The resolution added the trustees remain “open to alternative proposals where Rutgers-Camden remains part of Rutgers University.”

The Board of Trustees is one of two boards that control Rutgers University. The Trustees derive their power from the original Trustees of Queens College, the original chartered university in the 1770s. They control all of the private assets of the University (the NJ.com article above incorrectly states that they control all physical assets).

Under the 1956 law that created “Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey,” the Trustees have the option to take back the private assets from the public trust if the the state government reneges on its responsibilities to support Rutgers and its mission. There are numerous expressed conditions in the statute for when they can do this, and courts have stated that if this ever happened, the they would likely compel the state to comply rather than allow Rutgers to fall apart.

This “poison pill” power is part of what gives Rutgers’ its hybrid status as a state institution, which makes it impossible for Governor Christie to exercise a unilateral executive reorganization of the school. The time limit for an executive reorganization plan passed this week if the merger were to happen by Governor Christie’s desired July 1 deadline.

Save Rutgers: LIVE at the Lautenberg Press Conference at Rutgers Camden

Rutgers-Camden is ground zero for the contentious Rutgers Rowan Merger debate. George Norcross and Frank Lautenberg have been fighting tooth and nail on this issue for the last few months, and as the time July 1 deadline continues to approach, and the control of the situation moves into the Legislature, both men show no sign of stopping.

Today Senator Lautenberg is taking a rare trip down the Turnpike to Rutgers-Camden to take another shot at the Bossman himself.

The stated reason for the trip is to give a press conference on student loan interest that is slated for a timed increase this July, something that President Obama thought was a good idea back in 2007 but also refused to vote on it.

However, as I said on Monday, Rutgers Camden is an awfully long trip to take just to talk about interest rates. Lautenberg is here to make a statement, and he’s here to bolster his own position on the Rut-Row Merger. So keep refreshing this page for up-to-the-minute updates on this press conference. I will be updating anytime something interesting happens.

11:51AM – Press conference was supposed to begin at 11:30. Still not even close to beginning. For a while the only “media” here was myself and Blue Jersey. Someone from the Inquirer just arrived, but I overheard her say that she was “in the area” covering something else this morning. I find it interesting that the mainstream media is growing increasingly disinterested in this issue . . . and a visit from a sitting United States Senator . . .

CONTINUE READING….

Save Rutgers: Tick-Tock, Time is Running Out

Today is the day, Save Jerseyans. If Governor Christie wishes to hold strong on his self imposed, seemingly random July 1 deadline for the Rut-Row Merger, his executive order must be issued by midnight tonight.

The Executive Reorganization Act of 1969, the statute by which the Governor’s office incorrectly assumes they have the power to force this merger, requires that any executive order initiating a reorganization plan must be presented to both houses of the Legislature and then given 60 days for a legislative veto by a simple majority. If the Legislature does nothing, then the order would become law.

Well if the Governor does not issue his executive order today, then the soonest the plan would be able to become law would be July 2, demonstrably later than his deadline. It is safe to assume that the plan will need the full 60 days to take effect, because this issue is wildly unpopular. The Legislature would not put itself out there to vote on it unless they knew for a fact that they could stop it. Barely anyone should want to be on the record supporting this thing, because they would not find much company.

So we have two potential outcomes today:

  1. Governor Christie issues his executive order today after 5:00PM. This is a favorite move my political people. Beat the news cycle by releasing at the end of the day, let it sink in for the people who care over night and allow the rest of the populous to find out in the morning when its already old news. Its the same tactic that was used with the conditional veto of the gay marriage bill, except that was on a friday, arguably an even better media move.
  2. The Governor does not issue an executive order at all, finally signaling that he is aware that it would never hold up in court. Consider this a small, symbolic victory for the Save Rutgers movement.

If the order is not issued, then the only way the merger happens is by affirmative legislative action. You know what that means, Save Jerseyans. The focus must then change immediately to lobbying legislators and garnering their support against the merger. The Governor should no longer be a target. He becomes insignificant in the process until a bill has passed.

But for now, there are 11 hours and 30 minutes left in this day. When the clock strikes 12:01AM, round 1 goes to the to Team Save Rutgers. Keep one eye on the clock and one on Save Jersey where we will bring you the latest, as usual, on all things merger.

Save Rutgers: Does Lautenberg Know Something We Don’t?

If you have been following my coverage of the Rutgers Rowan Merger from the beginning, you would probably know a lot of hyper technical things about the process that most people do not, or at least do not take the time to, care about. If you are one of those who have been keeping up and know what the Executive Reorganization Act of 1969 is, then you know just how important this week is.

The drop dead date among the media types has been July 1, 2012 since, well, since Governor Christie announced that the merger would be fully underway by that day. But what the rest of the media generally continues to miss is that to meet that deadline, Governor Christie must issue his executive order by Wednesday, May 2nd. The legislature is afforded 60 calendar days to veto any reorganizational plan or else it simply becomes law.

I have been of the opinion for quite some time that Governor Christie is not going to issue the order. I have been of this opinion because I consider Governor Christie to be a smart man who understand the law and how incredibly obvious it is that his executive order would never hold up in court.

But could I be wrong?

No, not about the order getting shot down in court. I can assure you I am not wrong about that. But about whether the order will come at all. Senator Lautenberg has me reconsidering my opinion this week.

As the battle between Lautenberg and Norcross continues to rage on, Lautenberg is making a demonstrative effort to prey on the anger surrounding the takeover in order to garner support among South Jersey’s youth. I can tell you that based on conversations I have had with people down here, its working.

On Thursday, May 3rd, Lautenberg is coming down to Rutgers-Camden to hold a town hall meeting on higher education. He is specifically there, at least according to this Facebook event page, to talk about student loan interest rates going up. However, I think something else may be going on here.

Lautenberg has made himself very involved in this Rut-Row fiasco, and has decidedly taken the side of the students. There have been back room meetings held by powerful people in this state to try and slap lipstick on this merging pig, and I have no doubt that information is getting around, far more than we know.

Lautenberg could have held his student loan interest rate town hall meeting anywhere in the state. Hell, he could have not held it at all and no one would have really cared or noticed. I believe that he may be setting up to use this event to look like a hero by opposing and attacking Governor Christie’s executive order less than 12 hours after it could potentially come out.What better way to make a splash than to rally the troops at ground zero just hours after months of hard work fighting this merger begins to look like a waste?

This could be a big week in Rut-Row land, Save Jerseyans. Stay tuned.

Save Rutgers: “Secret” Meetings Between Board of Governors and Key Democrats

The word “secret” just keeps popping up when it comes to Rut-Row, Save Jerseyans. I just got done doing a radio interview this morning talking for a good half-hour on Rut-Row issue. On the show, the host was concerned about the back-room-dealing aspect of this plan and how it may affect the Governor and others involved with the public. People pushing this merger are worried about that too, that is why they hire PR firms to push their message and why they commission reports months in advance to anticipate the backlash that this idiotic move would create. So why, for all the secrets going on, are they so bad at keeping them?

According to the Courier Post , high power Democrats, including Steve Sweeney and George Norcross have been involved in meetings with other legislators, outgoing Rutgers President McCormick, and at least four members of the Rutgers Board of Governors, a body that will likely need to be included in any merger for it to take place quickly. Once I find out who the four Board of Governors members are, you can bet I will publish their names and contact information so you can let them know your thoughts for their next secret meeting.

Reportedly, the meetings have been focused on repackaging the plan to make it more palatable to the Rutgers Camden students, faculty, and supporters. President McCormick has even been quoted saying that legislators have approached him searching for a solution to put this plan through without sacrificing the Rutgers name in Camden. I find any attempt to do this to be an unlikely compromise, and Governor Christie has continuously asserted the same.

Here is the thing. This whole process has been as opaque as can be. No one knows what the costs are going to be. No one knows just how badly it will affect enrollment at Rutgers Camden and its many schools, including the law and business schools. No one knows just what deals were made or what could possibly make this plan worthwhile to the Governor. Very few people understand what George Norcross wants with Rutgers Camden anyway. However, what almost everyone seems to know is that they do not like it.

Having secret meetings to find a better way to slap a brighter shade of lipstick on this pig is not going to fool anyone, but it is nice to know that the anti-merger movement has made enough of a difference to have our concerns considered serious. Even with that faint silver lining considered, this is not they way that this should be done.

The smug group of Democrats pushing this deal down here have seriously botched their goals from the beginning by being secretive, so why in the world would they think that more secret meetings are the answer?

You want support? Open the process. Share your information. Answer our questions. And for Heaven’s sake, meet in public.