Rutgers-Camden advocates blast higher ed. merger plan in Assembly hearing

CAMDEN – Rutgers-Camden will be the victim of “a hostile takeover” that makes “poor intellectual and financial sense” if the governor’s proposed plan to merge Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University goes into effect, according to testimony from opponents of the merger who spoke during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing today just blocks from Rutgers-Camden.

But the Assembly Budget Committee had few answers for those who testified on Monday, as they told the witnesses they are also waiting for financial figures to be released on the cost of the proposed merger.

Hyun Kyu Seo, an undergraduate at Rutgers-Camden, created r2rmerger.com in opposition of the plan.

Kyu Seo testified that there has “been no form of financial analysis” of the project, adding that there have “been only fantasies of potential success.”

The governor’s plan to merge the universities has been a hot topic of discussion at committee hearings throughout the budget process. The plan would essentially merge Rutgers-Camden and Rowan, eliminating the Rutgers name in South Jersey, and would also see UMDNJ in Newark be taken in by Rutgers University.

“As a citizen and educator, I implore the Assembly Budget Committee to demand facts, figures, and timelines from the governor,” said Vibiana Cvetkovic, a reference librarian at Rutgers University.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-36), Passaic, said that in terms of financial savings, New Jersey’s higher education institutions also have to do their part. Schaer said that, on average, it takes six years for a student to graduate college in New Jersey.

“If we graduated students in four years, it would seem to me that we’d have (more spots) open up,” Schaer said, adding that more undergraduates could choose to stay in New Jersey, instead of fleeing the Garden State for their college education. 

Neil Wise, a Rutgers-Camden adjunct professor, said the university would lose its “invaluable brand name” if Rowan were to take over, as proposed.

“Eliminating the Rutgers presence from the southern third of the state equates to taxation without education,” Wise said.

Drew Humphries, a professor at Rutgers, called the proposed plan “a hostile takeover.”

Adam Scales, a Rutgers-Camden law school professor, said that while Rowan is “an excellent college,” it is not a research university, like Rutgers.

“I suspect a lot of people come before this committee because they’re being asked to do more with less,” Scales said. “Today we have something different – proponents of the Rowan takeover are proposing to do less with more.”

Scales criticized the plan, saying it will result in a duplication of services.

“This is putting the cart before the horse and I’m not even sure the cart and horse are even in sight of each other,” said Katherine Epstein, a Rutgers-Camden history professor.

Opponents of the plan also handed out fliers to attendees on the way into the hearing, and some members of the crowd wore “Save Rutgers” buttons.

Proponents of the merger did not testify at the hearing, and the Assembly Budget Committee did not have much to say in response since they are awaiting financial facts about the merger.  

Earlier story:

Budget hearing: Connecticut working to lure N.J. small businesses 

 

Rutgers-Camden advocates blast higher ed. merger plan in Assembly hearing