Save Rutgers: LIVE at the Board of Governors Meeting in Camden

Save Rutgers: LIVE at the Board of Governors Meeting in Camden

Welcome back Rutgers and Rowan people. Last time I covered a live meeting on the Rutgers/Rowan merger, our traffic from Camden, Glassboro, New Brunswick, and Newark went through the roof with students and faculty looking for the latest information on this unfortunate assault on our university. Save Jersey is proud to be your source and we hope you’ll keep coming back.

Anyway, I just arrived and took my seat at the Board of Governors meeting in Camden. This meeting was regularly scheduled, but the format has been adapted to accommodate the incredible number of students here to show their opposition. According to the latest polling, though most New Jersey residents are not here, they are also against the plan by a strong margin.

In keeping with my usual format for these live posts, I will post a time stamp, followed by the updated information and/or images whenever something interesting happens (or whenever I want to make a snarky comment). Keep your finger on the “refresh” button and enjoy.

12:36 – On my way into the Board of Governors meeting I snapped some pictures of the “lynch mob” (as Senator Sweeney calls them), and some of the violence inducing signs they wield…like this one that says “Keep Rutgers in South Jersey” (sorry its a bit blurry, I was walking).









There are actually signs like this all over campus. Also ones that say “We R Camden,” which reminds me too much of Penn State to be effective. But whatever, at least they are trying. Doors are now open and the meeting is set to start in less than an hour.

1:17 – I am now inside the theatre charging my laptop up before the meeting starts. Not allowed to use the outlets during the meeting because it is a fire hazard. Can’t have people tripping over cords as they amble out of the room in a panic. Sitting next to a guy from, who is also covering this event. We were both just discussing how great it is that both sides of the aisle are coming together against this merger. The two of us included.

1:22 – Administrators are attempting to get everyone in and settled. Telling everyone to fill every possible seat. (Full disclosure: I’m using two seats so I can bring you the best coverage around.

1:30 –  Seeing a lot of signs that say “Rutgers Newark – You’re Next.” Could not be more true. Students are also handing out lists of state legislators and their contact information. This is far more organized than I expected it to be.

1:31 – Meeting has just begun. Also have been told that Senate President Steve Sweeney is here. He is in for a treat. Hopefully the “lynch mob” doesn’t get him.

Chancellor Pritchett is currently honoring a Rutgers Camden professor, the only professor in South Jersey to receive the “genius award.” He teaches history.

1:34 – The room is packed. President McCormick is making his report. He just called Camden an essential component of Rutgers University. The audience erupted. Standing ovation for way too long.

1:38 – Just announced the commencement speaker for this year. They pay speakers $30,000 to speak at graduation. Note to self: be a commencement speaker.

Now they are finally talking about the report. Basically just going over the plan again. Everyone in this room is rather informed at this point. If you want to know more, see our previous coverage by searching “Save Rutgers” in the search box near the top of our site.

1:40 – Senator Sweeney did not stand nor clap during the aforementioned standing ovation. He also did not clap as the comment on Rutgers Camden was just repeated.

The official University position seems to be a cooperative agreement between Rowan and Rutgers and a shared building.

While the UMDNJ thought cooperation was good for Newark, they think a takeover is good for Camden. I would suggest that is because George Norcross is not a force to be reckoned with in Newark…

1:43 – McCormick is talking about certainties and uncertainties (known knowns and unknown knowns and unknown unknowns?)

He says that they will continue to push for cooperation, and that the plan is supposed to be submitted by July 1. This means that any Executive Reorganization Plan must be submitted by May 2nd. If you want to know all about the legal process behind the merger, please see my former post on that issue.

Uncertainties include the following:

  1. The nature of the legal vehicle for the plan (again, see my previous post where I flesh this out in full)
  2. Content of the integration plan (we know basically nothing about how this will work)
  3. The costs of the plan, McCormick says the costs will be considerable
1:48 – Board has announced that they will skip all the long and boring committee reports because of the nature of this meeting. Let me speak for the entire room when I say “Thank you.”

1:50 –  Breaking: STUDENTS ENROLLED AT RUTGERS CAMDEN FOR THE 2012-2013 SCHOOL YEAR WILL RECEIVE RUTGERS DEGREES NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. Resolution just passed unanimously. Wanted to clear up any uncertainty on that issue

1:56 – People in audience are starting to clap for anything passing, even if it has nothing to do with the merger. The Board thinks this is very funny.

They even just clapped for a resolution that was over-budget. The Board noted how rare that was. Pay attention to what you are clapping for people..

2:00 – 30 minutes in. Board is going through procedural stuff. Going into “closed session” for 1 second and then public portion is supposed to begin.

The board seems to be against the merger plan for Camden. Not sure if the crowd has fully caught on and will be friendly. This will be fun.

First, Chancellor Pritchett is going to give his report for the budget in Camden. Then there will be the public portion.

Correction: Pritchett is not speaking. It is some woman named Nancy. She is showing a powerpoint about the $2 billion budget. That is a sizable amount of money. 24% of the budget is non-discretionary, and 14% are restricted to auxiliary spending. Roughly $890 million is untouchable. The rest is discretionary.

2:06 – Just received an article from @stopthemerger regarding the polling we reported this morning. Article suggest that the merger plan may be Governor Christie’s most unpopular proposal ever. I have not looked at the numbers, but since only 22% of NJ residents support the plan, it sounds like a safe bet.

2:13 – Ok, the budget talk is done. It was riveting. Now we should be at the public portion. Speakers have been pre-selected and had to sign up via email or phone.

2:16 – Erin Kelly is up first. She just got a big applause for this statement,

Without Camden, we cannot call ourselves THE state university of New Jersey

Robin Brownfield is now speaking on behalf of part time lecturers. She feels that the lecturers are being left behind in the discussion and are seen as second class compared to other faculty. She claims that lecturers are living “in or close to poverty.” That got applause. I am not sure how true it is.

Someone stood up and tried to talk and was told to sit down because he did not register. Board said they would be happy to speak with him after. The guy who stood up got a bit nasty with them. Next…

2:24 – Now Chancellor Pritchett is speaking. He has asked everyone to hold their applause until he is done in the interest of time. I’m glad, because I am getting hungry.

Rutgers Camden added 26 new tenure/tenure track faculty this year. More than any other year. These people are nationally recognized scholars.

2:32 – One of the Board members is making strong comments on the advisory committee. Called their report “ill advised.”

If I were playing a drinking game where I took a shot every time someone called the Camden Campus “essential” I would be incredibly inebriated right now.

2:40 – Public portion is officially beginning. Board is making it clear that they will take no action today. THERE ARE 42 SPEAKERS.

The first two are Steve Sweeney and Donald Norcross.

Sweeney was just booed by the entire room. He then said “its fine don’t vote for me.” Sweeney claims that Governor Christie also agrees on the 2012-2013 students receiving Rutgers degrees. Sorry the picture is sideways, no time to fix it.

Sweeney is telling everyone to take a deep breath and not shoot down the idea yet. Everyone is restricted to 2 minutes, and the crowd is yelling out “2 minutes” to remind the Senator.

Senator Norcross walked up to booing, but said that he feels that the Rutgers brand should remain in Camden City. He received applause.

2:43 – Senator Norcross is pushing for the light rail project between Camden and Glassboro. He is now talking about the funding that goes to New Brunswick compared to what flows to Camden. He has a point. Only 10% of the funding flows to Camden.

Norcross left with applause. There was some serious “good cop-bad cop” going on there with him and Sweeney.

2:46 – Miss the current speakers name, but she is citing the Eagleton poll from this morning. Everyone is citing the 57.2% of people against the merger, but I think that the meager 22% that are for it is a far more telling number. 21% of people don’t even know enough about the plan to have an opinion at all.

2:49 –  Sweeney was incredibly rude to the students here. I do not think he will be back tracking on the lynch mod comment any time soon.

39 speakers left to go. At 2 minutes each that means this meeting with last just a hair over “too freaking long.” I am hoping the speakers do not intend to echo each other.

2:52 – Marketing professor is speaking about her research (to be published later this month) on how mergers affect brands. She is saying that public opinion of brands decrease when they merger with other brands. People adopt an image of betrayal and breaking trust. Rutgers will earn a poor reputation and a drop in credibility, especially among alumni (you know, people who donate money).

So far it has been professors speaking. Students have no come up yet. Whoever this philosophy professor is, he has a great accent.

Says that Rutgers should change its name to “A State University of New Jersey” instead of “THE.” Got applause, also says that Rutgers would then have to compete for funding with a new, bigger Rowan. Finally, “no great university in American history has ever given away an entire campus.”

2:59 – Room erupted in applause when Rutgers was called out for possibly caving to back room political dealmaking, which is almost certainly what happened to get this plan going.

Law professor speaking now. Asserting that the law school would lose national recognition over night, and would lose support of the law alumni even faster.

Restating the fact that faculties in Newark and Camden have been working on combing the two Rutgers Law Schools to form an even better and more elite law school.

3:04 – School of Nursing professor is now up. This is a brand new school in Camden. They are clearly opposed to the takeover from Rowan.

Called Rowan a “start-up public research university” that would set the school of nursing back decades in its plans.

3:06 – Undergrad student body President is now speaking. Touting the atmosphere of Camden Campus and how this whole plan has been a distraction.

3:12 – Business School student speaking. Talking up the program and how the small, close-knit community in Rutgers Camden give advantages over a larger school. Says she would “personally be extremely upset” if this goes through. I am not sure that would be incredibly persuasive, but the point is duly noted.

Talk has now turned to the capital improvements that have taken shape on the Camden campus over the last decade. It should be noted that these improvements have costs hundreds of millions of dollars and would just be handed over to Rowan.

Rutgers Camden also just recently started the first early childhood studied Ph.D program in the entire country (file that under things I learned today).

3:19 – I’ve just been notified that we are the only press still here. All of the TV cameras are gone. I will stay here until my laptop dies, or the meeting ends. Whichever comes first.

3:23 – Scratch what I just said before. I snuck over and plugged my laptop in. Fire hazard be damned. Anyway, people are giving rather short testimony now. It is back to faculty and administrators from the different schools. The current speaker left University of Maryland for Rutgers Camden 7 months ago, and now clearly regrets that decision due to the uncertainty surrounding her job.

This is something that should ring pretty loud with people. Why would high quality minds want to come work here with such uncertainty about what could happen? Why would students want to come here without knowing what the school will be called in a few years?

3:30 – Many people are leaving now. Only 12 speakers have finished, 30 to go. I am assuming that people have class, etc.

I almost wish someone would get up in support of the merger to make this more interesting. I am glad to see that individuals from all of the different schools within the Camden campus.

More calls for severing the Camden part of the plan from the medical schools part of the plan. This seems pretty simple. There does not seem to be any economic reasons for why the plan must go through in its entirety.

3:34 – A university librarian is here picking apart Senator Sweeney’s testimony. Saying that his comment that we should take a deep breath shows he intends to do something unpleasant, like a doctor giving you a needle.

Rutgers University libraries are nationally recognized with some honor (I did not catch the name she is talking fast). Rowan is not eligible for the same recognition. Without being associated with Rutgers, the Camden campus library would lose its distinction.

3:40 – Student just quoted Walt Whitman in his testimony. Points for getting creative.

A “non-traditional” law student is speaking now. That basically means she is older than the average law student. She left behind a successful career and a home in North Jersey to get her law degree down here. She says that just graduating from Rutgers is not enough, she wants to be able to return and give back as an alum. This is a sentiment I have been hearing from plenty of graduates lately.

Prior to this meeting, a survey was sent to law students asking about how they feel their donation plans and views of being a Rutgers alum would be affected by the merger. I know how I answered, but I am sure that many of my colleagues answered similarly. It would have negative effects on the school down the line. Supposedly the results of this online survey were given to the Board of Governors prior to the meeting.

3:47 –  International student speaking now. Says that Rutgers Camden hosts students from 26 countries and 7 continents, and that the school is well known throughout the world. She is probably right about the amount of countries, but unless we are taking students from Antarctica she probably meant to say 6 continents. (Sorry, I can’t help myself).

3:50 – I have officially lost count of how many speakers have come up to the microphone.

3:51 –  Ah, President McCormick must be reading because just after the last update he let us know that we have 20 speakers remaining. That means about 40-50 minutes.

3:53 – This last speaker made a good point. By severing ties with the South Jersey campus of Rutgers, it sends a message to the world that Rutgers is in trouble. It is a sign of weakness to start cutting off pieces in order to sustain oneself. Rutgers should not send a signal to potential students and everyone else that it is just as poorly run as many of our government agencies are, where incredibly cuts are now needed. We just saw a presentation of a $2 billion budget without a deficit. It does not show a need for this plan.

4:00 – William Brown is now speaking. He has been a subject on our blog before, but for this issue we find ourselves being allies. Brown is a former Navy SEAL and veteran. He is speaking on the importance of south Jersey veterans having access to Rutgers through the Camden campus. He is citing specific people who would never have been able to attend Rutgers without this campus. He is getting a lot of applause, including from me.

Bill just stopped in the middle of his speech to tell the Governors to look at him. “Everyone one of your guys not looking at me, look at me.” They look shocked up there. McCormick thanked Brown for his service to the nation.

Someone was filming Bill’s speech up there. So Bill, if you have the video clip and send it to me, I will post it on Save Jersey tomorrow.

4:08 – A woman from the Rutgers School of Law Alumni Association is now speaking. She is reading the Almuni Association official statement into the record. You can read that statement in its entirety right here.

4:14 –  Current speaker makes another great point. Rutgers Camden can only be a “research university” if the research faculty remains after the merger. Rowan wants this campus so that it will be eligible for more research grants for its medical school (that is with Cooper Hospital, and therefore George Norcross). Speaker (missed her name) is saying that many research oriented faculty have already told her they will leave or have already started looking for new employment.

“A research institution is not an abstract concept . . . a merger on paper will not make a better institution.”

4:20 –  A finance professor is now speaking, says that the finance issues have not been discussed at all.

Rutgers has the best credit rating in New Jersey, while Rowan’s credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s last year. Also, Rowan has a huge amount of debt compared to its revenue. $52,000 per full time student, compared to $23,000 per Rutgers student.

Cooper Health System’s credit rating is only one step above junk bond status as well.

He is offering three questions

  1. Given Rowan’s propensity to spend beyond its means, how can anyone assure us that this campus will be adequately supported?
  2. How can they support both a medical school and another undergrad campus?
  3. What is the cost to taxpayers, especially if the merger fails?

“Wrong-headed mergers destroy value.”

This was one of the best testimonies in my opinion, but then again I am kind of a nerd and find myself way more persuaded by arguments like that than I am by arguments about diversity and emotions.

4:31 – Current speaker is reporting that the schools have seen a drop in acceptances of offers already since this plan has been announced.  Also concerned that while the merger is taking place, Rutgers will have no incentive to maintain the facilities and Rowan will not have the power (or money apparently) to do so either.

4:33 – The guy who started the R2RMerge petition is coming up to speak. He will be speaker number 41 (which means we are almost done!). By the way, if you have not signed the petition yet what are you waiting for? There are nearly 10,000 signatures!

4:41 –  The R2RMerge guy is way more soft spoken than I was expecting. Gets applause every time he mentions his website and the petition. He is touting the professional doors that Rutgers Camden has opened for him.

4:43 – We are at the final two speakers! Woo Hoo!

“Not all change is progress” line gets a lot of applause.

True fact: Rutgers Law in Camden has the second highest placement of law clerks in the entire country. The only school to place more law clerks out of law school? Yale.

He just ran down a list of high power people who graduated from Rutgers Law. If I could have retyped it all I would have. I had no idea about most of that. It was actually really impressive.

Claims that people like that are not going to come to a Rowan Law School.

4:50 – I HAVE BEEN UPDATING THIS POST FOR OVER FOUR HOURS. But I have gotten a few tweets, emails, texts, comments, and Facebook IMs thanking me for doing so. Judging by our traffic today, a lot of people are interested in this issue and I am glad to do it. Thank you guys for reading.

111 thoughts on “Save Rutgers: LIVE at the Board of Governors Meeting in Camden

  1. Here's a certainty all alumni at Rutgers will not give one dime back to Rutgers if this gets passed, put that in your calculations.

  2. Norcross is pushing for the rail line because his brother king

    george and Sweeney's brother (on the DRPA board) will be contracting out all the work. Over 40% of my and your tolls goes to pay off the interest on the debt that the DRPA has incurred, that's over 2 dollars for every 5 dollars I spend to go over the bridge. CRIMINAL!!!!!

  3. Thank you for this live blog…it is enormously helpful to those of us miles away. The live feed has gone out.

  4. I think you did an amazing job!! Thank you so much for doing this. I had to leave the meeting early to get my daughter off the bus but with your help I was able to stay informed. Thank you.

  5. Thanks Brian. You are doing a great job keeping all of us informed. However, how can powerhouses on both sides of the NJ party lines be stopped? This reminds me of the argument I read about how a certain prison in Camden would help the city. How did that work out? Greed and ego.

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