Testimony of Richard L. McCormick

President of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Senate Higher Education Committee
Monday, February 6, 2012

Madam Chair, Senator Cunningham, Fellow Committee Members: Thank you for the opportunity to speak today about the final report of the UMDNJ Advisory Committee. Over the past year, I and other Rutgers administrators met on a number of occasions both with the advisory committee as a whole and with its individual members. This advisory committee was a very thoughtful and committed group of leaders with a clear interest in giving New Jersey the best possible system of higher education and medical education. I’m proud to note that most of them earned degrees from our state university.

The chairman, Dr. Sol Barer, has a PhD from Rutgers and is the former CEO of Celgene Corporation. The other members included Bob Campbell, who has an MBA from Rutgers and is the former vice chairman of Johnson & Johnson; Joyce Wilson Harley, a Douglass College and Rutgers–Newark law graduate who is executive director of administrative services at Essex County College; Anthony Perno, president and CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Development Association and a graduate of Rutgers–Camden Law; and Dr. Harold Shapiro, former president of Princeton University.

The reports of the UMDNJ Advisory Committee, reflecting many months of study and deliberation, propose sweeping realignments of higher education in New Jersey.

The interim report, issued in September of last year, recommended the integration of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey into Rutgers. All of those entities are located in New Brunswick and Piscataway. In fact, many of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and School of Public Health offices and classrooms sit on Rutgers property, in buildings owned by Rutgers.

More significantly, we have many faculty members with joint appointments at Rutgers and the medical school, our institutions comanage research institutes such as the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, and all of the PhD programs in the life sciences at Rutgers–New Brunswick are joint programs with Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The recommendation to integrate these entities with Rutgers is logical, it makes logistical sense, and most important, it will benefit New Jersey. Indeed, integration of these institutions will launch Rutgers and medical education and research in New Jersey on a path to become not only a national leader, but a global leader as well.

If I may, I would like to discuss some of the benefits of the integration proposed in the committee’s interim report and endorsed by the governor.

A comprehensive university-based health sciences center would:

  • attract the best medical talent;
  • bring to our state the latest medical advances and technologies;
  • improve access to clinical trials offering hope for intractable diseases;
  • significantly increase the flow of federal and industry research dollars into the state; and
  • enable our residents to receive world-class medical care locally.

From an academic and research point of view, integrating these entities would result in a health sciences presence that is larger than the sum of its parts.

Over the past few years, Rutgers faculty and researchers have brought to New Jersey outside research grants that have approached or surpassed $400 million a year. The university ranked 56th out of all research universities in America for R&D expenditure. When the medical school and associated entities are integrated, that total will grow and Rutgers’ rank will immediately move to 32nd—in the company of universities like Harvard and Purdue and positioned to move much higher.

The critical mass that will be created by combining our schools, the elimination of conflicting protocols and bureaucratic barriers to collaboration will enable the combined schools to seek major scientific grants and other funding that have often escaped us because of these hindrances.

Rutgers’ rank among the world’s greatest research universities will be further enhanced. New Jersey’s prominence as an international leader in the bio and pharmaceutical industries will grow as well. New Jersey faces fierce competition from other states and from around the world for these industries’ investment. As the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey has argued, policies that promote private sector collaboration with our universities are critical to improving the climate for the life sciences.

The benefits that would accrue to the university and to the state would be significant, substantial, and sustainable. The quality of life for all New Jerseyans, from all points of view— educational, employment, economic, and health—will be improved. The benefits from making these transformative steps today, will shape New Jersey’s future and guide New Jersey’s economy for decades.

These changes, which are so logical and make so much logistical sense, are nevertheless extraordinarily challenging. Adding 5,000 employees to the payroll and integrating data systems, HR functions, telephone systems, and the raft of other seemingly routine aspects of running the “business side” of the academic ledger has already required the hiring of additional staff and consultants. Our immediate estimate is that the integration will cost more than $40 million in one-time expenses. This integration will be challenging but doable—and eminently worth doing.

The final report of the UMDNJ Advisory Committee, which was recently announced, embraced, and endorsed by the governor, suggests even more dramatic changes to higher education in New Jersey.

In addition to reaffirming the recommendation to integrate Robert Wood Johnson Medical School into Rutgers, it called for a revamped and recast health science university in Newark, known as the New Jersey Health Sciences University, which would be based on the existing UMDNJ schools in Newark.

The report also called for continued state ownership, but private operation, of University Hospital. Keeping University Hospital open and fulfilling its critical role for the residents of the greater Newark community is essential to New Jersey’s largest city.

Lastly with respect to Newark, the report called for increased collaboration between the colleges and universities through the adoption of a formal memorandum of understanding between the New Jersey Health Sciences University, NJIT, and Rutgers–Newark. This will expand the opportunities for joint research and will benefit all three institutions.

Most controversially, the report recommended the expansion of Rowan University, in Glassboro, to include all of the Rutgers–Camden Campus, including all of the undergraduate programs as well as the Rutgers–Camden law school and the Rutgers–Camden business school.

That recommendation is difficult for Rutgers. The Camden Campus has been an integral part of the university for more than 60 years. At the same time that other investment was leaving Camden, Rutgers continued to expand by building new dorms and classrooms in the city, maintaining a vibrant campus in the city, increasing enrollment, and adding course offerings at the campus.

We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Camden and have plans to continue that investment. Rutgers constructed a major new law school facility; improved the recreation, dining, and residential facilities; and contributed to the critical redevelopment of Cooper Street. We have made the campus an increasingly sought-out place in Camden: a place where students can be safe, have a great college experience, and graduate with a world-class education.

The goals articulated by the Barer committee for South Jersey are laudable, including increased access to higher education, intensifying the level of research conducted, and ensuring collaboration between Rutgers–Camden and Cooper-Rowan. But I believe these goals can be achieved by other means.

First, through formalized collaboration between our two schools (like that which the Advisory Committee has proposed for three institutions in Newark); next, through the construction of new buildings in Camden that would house lab space, classrooms, and other facilities that would be shared between our schools; and also through the ability for students at Rowan to take classes at Rutgers–Camden and vice versa. These and other steps could effectively and efficiently achieve the goals set forth by the Barer Committee.

Given our choice, if we could pick and choose among the recommendations of the UMDNJ Advisory Committee, we would not want to turn over the Rutgers–Camden Campus to Rowan University, in Glassboro. I can’t imagine that either the Rutgers Board of Governors or the Board of Trustees would willingly relinquish the campus, nor would I recommend that course, if there were the possibility of choosing among the recommendations.

At this point, however, we don’t know if we will have a choice because the exact contents of a plan are understandably unclear. We do not yet know whether the global restructuring as recommended by the committee will move as a single package, with linkage between all of the parts, or if the parts will move independently of one another. We also do not yet know the vehicle for the restructuring—whether this will be done by an executive reorganization plan or by legislation.

These are important questions, and I hope and expect that they will all be answered. What is clear, however, is the role that the Rutgers governing boards will play in this process.

Once the determination is made as to the content of the restructuring and the vehicle for the restructuring, the Rutgers Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees, as required by the Rutgers Act of 1956, will consider the restructuring and will hold a vote on the proposed changes that affect Rutgers.

Prior to that vote, but after fully understanding the nature and the content of the restructuring, I will be making a recommendation to the Rutgers boards.

My obligation, as president, is to make a recommendation based on what is in the very best interests of the entire university, taking into consideration the near-term and the long-term consequences of any course of action, and to fully explore and understand how a decision will affect our ability to move, as Governor Kean so aptly put it, from a good university to a truly great one. My recommendation will be based on all of those factors and how they affect our nearly 250-year old university.

Thank you again for the opportunity to address your committee. I will be happy to take your questions.