I hope that this morning you were able to get through my rather long legal analysis of how the Rutgers/Rowan merger could happen and how it may be stopped. As you can clearly tell, today we have changed Save Jersey to Save Rutgers Camden, and throughout the day we will be covering the merger plan in depth in hopes of bringing awareness and sparking even greater interest in the issue.
This post is a part of that coverage. Today is the first Senate Higher Education Committee hearing on the merger, and from what I hear it will not be the last. I have been told that students from Rutgers Camden undergraduate, graduate, and law schools are all on their way and will be arriving soon (battling traffic on 295 North no doubt).
Just like I did with the Congressional Redistricting hearing back in December, I will be updating and time-stamping this post throughout the hearing, so keep checking back or keep refreshing the page if you would like to follow along.
The meeting is set to begin at 10:00AM in Committee Room 4 at the State House. However, this is Trenton and government after all, so I assume we will be starting late.
10:08: Just as I expected, things are moving slowly. People are filling the seats and there are about 100 students outside protesting with large signs that they cannot bring with them if they choose to come in. Just to editorialize and criticize a bit, I find it to be a total waste of time to stand around outside with signs during the hearing. The Senators need to see these people if its going to make an impact. Some people have chosen to file in to the room, most of whom seem to be graduate students.
10:14 – The committee has just been called to order. Senator Sarlo is missing in action. Public hearings have just been announced in Newark and Camden. Dates will be announced at a later time.
Chairman of the UMDNJ advisory committee is testifying first. Notice the specific name of the committee… Seems as though they may have overstepped their score.
10:18 – If you would like to listen to the hearing live rather than read this, you can do so on the NJ legislature website.
10:23 – Dr. Sol Barer, the chairman of the UMDNJ committee, says that the decision of the committee was unanimous and the best option for New Jersey and higher education. He also says that there were public hearings held, but they were only held in Newark and the scope was a discussion of changes for UMDNJ.
10:24 – Senator Cunningham made some important points.
- All of the University Presidents involved in this deal are interim only
- There are no financial findings outlined in the report by the UMDNJ committee
Barer says that fiscal concerns were outside the scope of their mission under the executive order that created the committee.
10:29 – Interesting side note: not one member of either higher education committee has a member from Southwest Jersey. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but why do I feel like that may have been on purpose? It is not as though certain people were not aware that this was coming…
10:36 – This discussion so far is really focusing on UMDNJ and University Hospital. No discussion yet on the acquisition by Rowan. UMDNJ would be coming into the Rutgers fold and moving upstate.
10:41 – Senator Kean, one of our biggest supporters in the State House, is now questioning Dr. Barer. Kean is bringing up the interim presidents issues again, clearly this seems to be a sticking point for the committee.
Barer keeps talking about UMDNJ. Something tells me the proposals should have just focused there, where the big problems were.
Barer believes that this merger will help New Jersey create jobs in clinical pharmaceutical research. We are a big pharma state, but we do have very few clinical trials compared to similarly situated states.
10:49 – FINALLY a Senator asked whether blending Rutgers and Rowan would cheapen the value of a Rutgers degree.
Barer says that he does not believe it will. Although I don’t recall the executive order asking him to study that, so I don’t understand why he feels the need to state his opinion since he won’t give his opinion on costs. He offered zero explanation or support for his stated opinion on the value of the degree.
He is saying that as it stands Rutgers Camden is only a satellite campus and therefore this will be a better situation for it and education in South Jersey. Unfortunately the Rowan memo we reported on last week states that Camden would still be nothing more than a satellite campus.
10:53 – Barer says that they needed to do something and the time to do it is now, and that he is very happy with the final recommendations of his committee.
Senator Sarlo, who is now here, is concerned that in the south the committee found it important to combine the medical school with a university, and yet in the north they are keeping university hospital separate from Rutgers in Newark.
Barer is talking in circles trying to explain the reasoning. At the end he simply concluded by saying that it doesn’t get enough funding.
11:01 – Sarlo is calling the inclusion of the Law School and Business School in Camden to be an after thought to the deal. The room just erupted in applause.
Barer is talking about how we need a public research university in the south. Dodging the question?
Side note: Dean John Farmer, of Congressional Redistricting fame, just entered and is standing the back of the room. He is the Dean of Rutgers Newark Law School, which will not be a part of any merger.
Sarlo gets another applause for noting the lack of financial details listed in the report, making it difficult to follow the money. These people should check out Sarlo’s proposals in the Senate Budget Committee if they want to see something scant on fiscal detail and sense (zing!).
11:06 – Rutgers University President Richard McCormick is now testifying. He is on the record in the past of being in support of similar merger plans. His emails on the issue since the committee report came out have been vague at best.
He is reading a pre-written statement and saying nice things about members of the UMDNJ committee. Boring. Rutgers students in attendance have been asked to stop clapping or making any noises. I cannot say that I disagree with that call. I don’t want to be here all day either!
11:09 – Senator Rice (D-Newark) is walking around the committee room. He cannot seem to sit still.
11:13 – President McCormick is still going on and on with his prepared statement. While he does this, Rutgers students protesting outside are getting loud enough to actually be heard inside.
McCormick is now talking about Rutgers Camden. Talking about 100s of millions in investment that has already taken place, and more that is to come. Also that Rutgers has invested in Camden for over 60 years when many other institutions and businesses were leaving.
He is stating on the record that he believes the goals of the committee can be achieved WITHOUT merging! This is the first time he has made a definitive statement on the issue (that I am aware of).
McCormick says that the Board will not willingly relinquish the Camden school, and that he will not be recommending it to them. He is now criticizing the report for being too vague on how the merger would go through.
11:18 – McCormick says that the Boards have met to discuss the proposals and have created a task force for that purpose, but have not made any determinations as to its position yet. The next meeting will be February 15th at Rutgers Camden, which we already announced.
McCormick wants to bring the Rutgers Camden students into the discussion, Cunningham agrees that often in these types of issues those most affected are shut out from the discourse.
McCormick says that he hopes students attending Rutgers should receive Rutgers degrees no matter what happens with the merger. He hopes and expects that that would be the practice in this instance.
11:23 – Sarlo is asking McCormick who he thinks is going to be carrying out this merger plan. He should read my analysis on the law that Save Jersey published this morning.
McCormick estimates that the merger in the north will cost no less than $40 million. They have hired an M & A firm already to do public reports on the process.
11:27 – Dr. Denise Rodgers, interim president of UMDNJ, is now up to testify.
We are now learning about the history of UMDNJ. I have a feeling she’s not going to touch on the alleged scandal that has plagued the institution over the last few years.
I am losing interest in her testimony. So here is a picture of the abnormally large committee room 4, this time to the front:
11: 36 – UMDNJ is in danger of becoming a bad school if this does not go through, according to Rodgers. I am, of course, paraphrasing.
11:38 – Checking out live website traffic statistics, I am happy to see so many people in Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Glassboro following this live reporting. Feel free to comment below and add to the discussion.
11:42 – I have been told that there will in fact be more committee hearing on this issue (probably in the Assembly as well). If I can get excused from class like I was today (Thank you, Dean Andrews) I will be back to report on those as well.
Rutgers students are getting loud outside again. I think the Senators are glad they did not decide to come in. Although it would have likely been entertaining.
11:47 – 75% of patients seen at University Hospital do not pay for their care, according to testimony. Rodgers believes this is partially why people do not look to UH as a place they would want to go for elective surgery, but only for trauma care.
11:51 – Next up is the President of Rowan University, Dr. Houshmand. His testimony is currently focusing on the amount of high school grads who leave New Jersey for college (I was one of them). He says it costs a lot of money.
He is going on and on about people going to Philadelphia for medical care and entertainment. Let me be clear, because I am sure that he does not even believe what he is implying. Merging Rowan and Rutgers is not going to make Camden, NJ some sort of destination city! If you believe that I have a new bridge across the Delaware River to sell you.
11:56 – Now the CEO of Cooper Hospital is speaking. He says Cooper is the largest employer in Camden City. No offense to him, I mean that is great and all, but considering the state of the economy in the city that is not really a hard thing to accomplish.
He is pushing for the Rowan Medical School at Cooper to be affiliated with a research institution (Rutgers Camden). If the merger does not go through, it will be the only medical school in the nation not affiliated with a research institution.
My incredibly obvious question is: WHY DIDN’T THEY THINK OF THAT PROBLEM BEFORE THE DECIDED TO MAKE A ROWAN MEDICAL SCHOOL?!
12:00 – These two seem to agree with McCormick that Rutgers degrees should be given out to current and future students coming into Rutgers Camden during the transition should the merger actually take place.
Rowan has just under 12,000 students, 60% of them come from South Jersey. The rest come from North Jersey, 29 other states and 13 different countries. This merger would grow the Rowan student body to nearly 19,000 students.
Houshmand feels that the “benefit” that would come from the merger far outweighs any of the costs or discomforts.
He claims that Rowan students have many questions on the merger as well. 400 people showed up to a meeting there to discuss the merger. Concerns ranged from consolidation of programs, loss of jobs, and curriculum changes.
12:07 – Houshmand estimates that the merger will cost money whether it is partial or full. A full integration will cost substantially more and will take many years.
Houshmand will not say whether taking over the Law School is a “deal breaker” of them. Correction, he just changed his mind and said no it probably would not be a deal breaker.
The Cooper CEO is arguing that Rowan should get the law school because it would help to distinguish law school. He is critical because Rutgers Newark and Camden are schools with the same name, but are 70 miles away, and most people consider them the same school (which is what the law faculties actually want to do).
12:14 – Rutgers and Rowan professors are under different unions. That could pose a bit of a problem for this plan.
Houshman is advocating for the Rutgers Camden professors to keep their current practices of teaching less classes and doing more scholarship and maintaining full time employment. Rowan professors are required to teach more classes for the same status.
12:18 – Meeting adjourned. Shows over. Check back later today for more on the merger.