Historic Bill Preserves Rutgers' Statewide Imprint, Expands Its National Impact

June 29, 2012

Members of the Rutgers Community:

Last night, both houses of the New Jersey legislature passed historic legislation that reshapes higher education in the state and will have a profound and enormously positive impact on Rutgers. The legislation, which awaits Governor Christie’s signature and approval by our Boards of Governors and Trustees, will mark a transformative moment for the university, positioning Rutgers quickly to become one of America’s most elite research universities.

It has long been a goal for Rutgers, and one I personally hold, to have an academic medical center. Integrating an academic medical center into Rutgers will add immense value to the entire university and the state, dramatically improve our ability to win research grants and attract the very best scholars, and create exciting synergies not only within the sciences but also between and across disciplines from the arts to law to social science and public policy. Under the legislation approved yesterday, we would gain these advantages without jeopardizing the status of Rutgers–Camden as an integral part of Rutgers. Furthermore, Rutgers will have an even greater presence in Newark, our state’s largest city.

As you know, the original recommendation by the governor’s medical education advisory committee in January would have had the entire Rutgers-Camden Campus absorbed into Rowan University while moving three units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry into Rutgers. The final plan approved yesterday by the legislature is much different, and much more advantageous to Rutgers: it allows us to keep our entire Camden Campus, preserve our autonomy and independence, and incorporate all of UMDNJ in Newark and New Brunswick (except University Hospital) into Rutgers. Our footprint, which was once threatened, will now be even more substantial; in geographic terms, it will continue to be statewide, in terms of prominence, it will be enormous.

The fact that this legislation is so beneficial to Rutgers and to the state is a credit to so many in the Rutgers community—starting with the eloquent and passionate way in which Rutgers–Camden students, faculty, staff, and alumni, led by Chancellor Pritchett, rose up to defend their campus and demand that it remain in Camden and part of Rutgers. Equally essential were Rutgers board members who played critically important roles, especially in the final weeks, in seeking improvements to the legislation through public testimony and quiet face-to-face meetings with legislative leaders, the governor, and their senior staff members. Vice president Pete McDonough worked tirelessly in coordinating our negotiations with Trenton leaders over the past five months. I admire Governor Christie for his leadership in advocating for a stronger system of higher education in New Jersey, and I applaud the legislative leaders who worked so well and cooperatively in improving upon the original proposal.

This bill provides a full year for our Board of Governors and Board of Trustees to review the legislation, conduct thorough due diligence, and suggest any reasonable  corrections that will be necessary to help Rutgers, and the state, achieve these remarkable and laudatory goals. It will be during this one-year period that our boards will make their decisions whether to accept or reject this plan for restructuring and integration.

I am also pleased to report that both houses of the legislature approved legislation yesterday to put on the ballot this November a $750 million bond issue to support higher education capital construction statewide; if approved by the voters of the state, the bond issue will help Rutgers and all New Jersey colleges and universities in meeting critical campus construction needs.

In the weeks ahead the university leadership will continue to analyze the restructuring bill and share information relevant to the legislation with the Rutgers community. Chancellor Wendell Pritchett’s communication to the Camden Campus community from earlier today, which provides an excellent summary of the bill’s impact on Rutgers–Camden, can be found at news.rutgers.edu/camden/legislation-restruct-20120629. Chancellor Phil Yeagle will be communicating with the Newark community his afternoon about the bill’s implications for Rutgers–Newark.

It is, of course, my strong hope that the boards will approve the plan and thus usher Rutgers into a new era of prominence. Immediately upon integrating the medical schools into Rutgers, our university’s national ranking in terms of grant funding will move from the 50s to the low 20s; more important, we will be poised to become one of America’s preeminent public research universities, with statewide presence and national impact.

Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey