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.