The merger plan, and its opposition

People seemed to enjoy my letter to Governor Christie. If you are seeking more information on the planned merger / takeover of Rutgers-Camden, some useful links and commentary now follow.

John Wall, a professor at Rutgers-Camden, has been archiving everything relevant on his Merger Information page. Vibiana Cvetkovic has compiled a history of this merger and its ancestors, dating back to 2002. And if you feel like you would like to add your name, the petition against the merger now has 8,551 signers (at time of writing this post).

The opposition to the merger does not come out of some romantic attachment to keeping the Rutgers brand. The bigger issue is that the scheme simply isn’t a very good one.

The hope is to create a large research university in South Jersey, combining the sparkling campus of Rowan, the Cooper Medical School, and the intellectual capital of Rutgers-Camden. This will be astronomically expensive. As soon as Rutgers-Camden splits from Rutgers, it will lose access to the 3.6 million books in the Rutgers library; Rowan currently has a little over a tenth of that, and so will need to purchase a considerable number very quickly. Sports facilities will have to be massively expanded. Rowan itself will need to be re-organised, its teachers having to teach less and research more. Accreditation as a research university is not easily awarded, and so the Rutgers-Camden campus would have several years without research university status, without a functioning scholarly library, without the ability to attract top quality faculty, international students and so on.

But the bigger question is where the money for all these new investments will come from (investments that are, under the present college structure, completely unnecessary). Both the long and short answer is: nobody knows. Governor Christie has said that the merger will cost New Jersey nothing, but he hasn’t said how this will become possible.

Obviously, Rutgers-Camden needs additional investment and improvement, as does the entire system of college education in South Jersey. It makes sense for these three nearby universities to co-operate and pool resources. However, all of the stated goals of the people who are pushing the merger could be achieved by a consortium model, where the colleges retain their independent structure but build shared projects and linkages. A consortium model has worked in other US states. And such an approach really would cost the people of New Jersey nothing, or close to it.

The realistic, hard-nosed, business-minded choice is to oppose the merger. If you would like to sign the petition, it is here.


10 thoughts on “The merger plan, and its opposition

  1. Daniel, you are spreading a lot of nonsense and fear here. First myth, loiss of a research university in SOuth Jersey. Rutgers Camden is not a research university. Take a look at the US News and World Report. It is a regional university/college below many ordinary colleges in this country. Basically, Rutgers Camden carries the Rutgers name like a Gucci name on a fake Gucci bag.
    Second myth LACK OF LIBRARY. We have to build a library infrastructure across the state universities. That could be done by a simple agreement.
    Third myth, it will cost too much. South Jersey already has two (out of four) state medical schools: UMDNJ-Stratford and Rowan Medical School. State has to spend money to support these two medical schools, faculty etc. which will automatically support and uplift Rowan Research University. Rutgers Camden has a large body of very old faculty members who should have retired and made way for new blood decades ago. These individuals do not do anything except collecting state paychecks and benefits until they die. Even younger faculty members are learning from them and following the proven strategy of collecting paychecks without doing any real work. This is the real drain of state higher education fund. Merger can solve most of that.
    Fourth myth, Rutgers-Camden is going to be better off without merger. Under the current South Jersey higher education layout, if the merger does not happen, Rutgers-camden will become an useless appendage to South Jersey higher education. It will slowly cease to exist. Rutgers never developed it beyond a ghetto no-nothing campus and the rate Rowan is growing, Rutgers-Camden with its poor track record will continue in its declining course.
    Sixth big myth, cooperation between institutions is better, UMDNJ-Stratford, Rutgers-Camden and Corriell had many past agreements over last two decades. It simply did not go anywhere, because a very incompetent and super old Rutgers Camden faculty. Most (not all) of the faculty members are there to collect paychecks and benefits. All these past agreements became nothing more than useless exercise. I have seen many of these agreements personally. Total overhaul is the only solution.

    Governor is doing the right thing. We all need to support him.


  2. Sam, how about some facts.
    1. Rutgers Camden, with its new PhD programs, is poised to become a research I university within a few years. Many of its faculty have joint appointments in New Brunswick and are indeed part of an AAU university. Read the latest annual reports about the accomplishments of the faculty and their national and international work and awards won. You can also look up profiles of all the new faculty hires, on Rutgers Camden service to military veterans and on Rutgers’ investment in Camden of hundreds of millions of dollars, as noted by Rutgers President McCormick in his address to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
    2. Check the library information here:
    Until you’ve done the research with data base suppliers regarding costs, don’t speculate.
    3. Check the latest Moody’s report on the UMDNJ merger.
    4. Your ad hominem attacks on residents of Camden, on students, on an outstanding faculty suggest you have some personal animus against Rutgers Camden. I am sorry that you feel this way and you are certainly entitled to your opinion. However, your statements are untrue and must be corrected.


  3. As a Childhood Studies PhD candidate at Rutgers/Camden who studies the intersections of race and childhood, I’ve tried to be careful not to make the conversation surrounding the proposed Rowan takeover about race. However, this person’s characterization of our vibrant, close-knit, rigorous learning community as a “ghetto no-nothing campus” makes it impossible for me to do so. Sadly, some people’s belief that nothing good can come out of Camden reflects only their own prejudices and has no basis in fact.


  4. Sam,

    Thanks for your input. However you need to stop thinking in 20th century terms about buildings when it comes to libraries and realize that because there is a Rutgers campus in South Jersey, and only because there is, South Jersey has access to one of the best research university libraries in the country right now, today. The library on the Rutgers campus in Camden is a seamless portal to all the databases of the Rutgers system, all the books of the Rutgers system, and all the profession librarian knowledge of the Rutgers system. Below I have compared the Rutgers System Wide Library System to the Rowan University Library. When you walk into the library of Rutgers Camden you are walking seamlessly into the Rutgers System Wide Library system, but that will remain true only if Rutgers-Camden remains part of the Rutgers system. Below are the direct comparisons showing the library resources available to South Jersey right now because of the Rutgers presence, compared to what Rowan is in a position to provide the region. Note that the only choices without Rutgers in South Jersey are

    1. a terrible loss of resources to South Jersey or

    2. Rowan having to spend 90% more per year than it does now, which will mean doubling the cost to taxpayers of what is being spent to duplicate research resources in the state, since of course Rutgers System Wide will not spend less without Rutgers-Camden, it just won’t provide the library resources to South Jersey any longer, which it does as of today,
    Below are the comparisons:

    At present Rutgers-Camden has full access to all Rutgers research resources. The merger proposal would have one of three effects:

    1. Southern New Jersey would lose all access to these research resources or would see access greatly diminished and connected to whatever the new merged university could spend.

    2. The new university would have to begin to spend 90% more than Rowan spends currently to equal the loss of the resources to the region that Rutgers-Camden can now provide as part of the Rutgers system. If Rowan spent to make up the loss it would not mean that Rutgers System Wide would be spending less, which would mean double the costs total for the state over what Rutgers alone spends now on research resources and a great deal of duplication of cost for the same research resources.

    3. If Rutgers-Camden remained part of Rutgers and created collaborate and cooperative agreements and relationships with Rowan University and Cooper Medical School Rutgers-Camden would then provide access to these research resources without any additional cost to what is being spent now, or at most with an additional cost of user fees to Rowan and Cooper Medical that would be a fraction of what the merged Rowan University would need to spend to duplicate what the region would lose if Rutgers-Camden was removed from Rutgers System Wide.

    Expenses for Libraries and Research Databases Rutgers System Compared to Rowan

    Library Books
    Rutgers System Library—3.6 million books
    Rowan University Library—420,000 books
    At present Rutgers-Camden faculty/students have full access to system wide library with faculty/student status. Books arrive by free courier within 24 hours of being ordered from anywhere in Rutgers library system.

    Removal from Rutgers System would mean depending on inter-library loan, which would mean paying for shipping cost of any books ordered, which would be granted to users on guest status not faculty/student status, which would most likely cut checkout time for students by 50% and check out time for faculty by 80%.

    Electronic Databases
    Rutgers System wide spends $6.2 million per year on electronic databases and subscribes to 91,000 different electronic databases.

    Rowan university spends $650,000 per year on electronic databases and subscribes to 41,000 different electronic databases. The numbers suggest that among the 51,000 electronic databases that Rowan is not subscribing to are the more expensive databases, usually Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) databases. Such databases are essential for, particularly, medical school research.

    Access to Partnerships with other Research University Libraries
    Rutgers Library System Wide is a member of the Association of Research Libraries and the Center for Research Libraries, which provides only to members (and so not available via interlibrary loan) 5 million newspapers, dissertations, journals, and government publications. All Rutgers Campuses have full access to these services.

    Rowan University is not a member of either organization and would need to spend at approximately the level that Rutgers Libraries System Wide currently spends to be invited to join.

    Additional Research Materials
    Rutgers University Libraries System Wide holds 7 million microfilm reels of scholarly material.
    Rowan University holds 519,000 reels of scholarly material.

    Impact on Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

    Rutgers-Camden faculty members have access to internal Rutgers System Wide Grants from the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. A merger would need to find replacements for this money to prevent loss of research resources to Southern New Jersey.

    The grants are:
    Presidential Fellows Program
    Faculty Research Grant Program
    Research Council Grants

    Grant Application Support Database Search Support
    Rutgers-Camden grants assistance office receives regular support from Rutgers System Wide Grants assistance office giving Rutgers-Camden more grant support than any university of its size in the nation.

    This support includes access to expensive grant search database systems usually only found at Research 1 (R1) Universities. Databases include: The Pivot Funding and Research Search Engine and COEUS Grant Aid and Traveling System developed by MIT.

    Costs of Supplies, Lab Equipment, and Insurance
    Costs for STEM research are enormous and insurance particularly when research involves human or animal subjects, potentially hazardous chemicals, radioactive material, or lasers is highly expensive.

    Rutgers System Wide bargains on behalf of faculty members of all three campuses with vendors for all supplies and lab equipment and with insurance companies. System wide Rutgers commands what is considered “gold standard” discount rates and prices because of the volume of its purchases through economy of scale. The much smaller merged university would pay much higher costs for the same services since it would not be able to provide the same volume of business.

    Likely Loss of Equipment Currently at Rutgers-Camden
    All equipment at Rutgers-Camden purchased through federal grants legally belongs to Rutgers System wide and Rowan university would likely have to purchase this equipment to keep it within the merged university. Obviously Rutgers System wide has no plans to remove Rutgers property from Rutgers-Camden should it remain Rutgers-Camden.


  5. Andrew,

    Thank you for that detailed and enlightening cost comparison. Sounds like it would take many tens of millions of dollars upfront and a minimum of $10M per year in perpetuity for an independent Rowan-Cooper University to function as a serious research institution. SImply acquiring Rutgers-Camden without the resources Rutgers-Camden now shares with the Rutgers system as a whole does not even begin to get Rowan-Cooper anything it needs to progress along the path toward a serious research institution as defined by Carnegie standards.

    So much for claims that this merger is virtually cost-free.


  6. Sam: The notion that Rutgers-Camden faculty are old and unproductive is patently ridiculous. You have obviously never been to the Rutgers-Camden campus. Faculty there are just as productive, and held to exactly the same tenure and promotion standards, as faculty anywhere else at Rutgers University. What will happen with a takeover by Rowan is that the “Genius” grant winners, internationally renowned authors, and leaders in their field that make up the large part of Rutgers-Camden faculty will simply leave.


  7. “Sam” needn’t go to Rutgers-Camden to know the faculty there are not old and unproductive. Thirty seconds spent looking at the faculty’s publicly available websites and CV’s would make clear to anyone that “Sam” simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It wouldn’t take a lot of effort by “Sam” to acquire some information before posting his idea, and putting that little bit of effort into getting information instead of spewing vitriol might keep him from being so wrong so publicly again.


  8. My husband has worked at Coriell Institute for the past 21 years, and he assures me that the failure of any collaboration between UMDNJ, Rutgers-Camden, and Coriell Institute was not caused by the age of any of the faculty at Rutgers-Camden.


  9. Sam,
    You need to learn not only how to research properly but to write properly. If I went into any of my college-level courses, even at your imagined version of Rutgers-Camden, I would be thrown out. Your arguments are not only false, but, fortunately for the anti-Takeover, your poor writing skills are detracting from your cause. By the way, if you are going to name places, such as Coriell Institute, learn how to spell them.


  10. I invite Sam to check out the faculty page for the department of psychology, my department, and point out all the old professors who are just picking up paychecks and not doing research. I see a lot of young folks fresh out of grad school and postdocs who publish multiple papers per year. The average age of the faculty in our department is in the 30s. Sam’s take on Rutgers-Camden is one that simply does not describe the reality of what Rutgers Camden has become in the last ten years. But I’ve learned over the years that it is pretty useless to argue with stupid. So I ask all the stupids out there who agree with Sam to check out what we do in the psych department and not their impression from a campus tour two decades ago.

    Sean Duffy
    35 year-old Associate Professor and director of the undergraduate program in psychology who is actively teaching and researching and publishing, whose lab is training 17 undergraduate students to become researchers.


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