The End of Rutgers

James McGreevey has plans for the University of New Jersey. The "University of New Jersey"? What is that? If you weren't asked if you wanted Rutgers' name changed, you aren't the only one.

Governor James McGreevey has announced a plan to change the name of Rutgers University to the University of New Jersey.

Dear Old Rutgers is about to be thrown onto the trash heap of history.

The plan announced, as part of a merger of higher education institutions, would change Rutgers University to either "The University of New Jersey -Central" or "University of New Jersey- New Brunswick"  with a possibility of the change being to the "University of New Jersey-Rutgers".

Not that bad, you might think, if they did the third option. But if you have been around Jersey politics for any period of time you know that once the clamor of the initial change is over, the suffix "Rutgers" will be dropped from the name of the University altogether. At that point "Dear Old Rutgers" will cease to exist having been replaced by the University of New Jersey.

I don't know how many places I have been throughout this nation where people were impressed by the name Rutgers and its great academic history. That is about to be thrown to the wind by a shortsighted governor with no sense of the University's great tradition.

Defend your degree.

Complain here.



The Associated Press Story:

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Gov. James E. McGreevey on Monday released details of his plan to merge Rutgers University with two other state colleges, creating a statewide university system that will emphasize science and medical research.

Rutgers, after more than 175 years bearing the name of a Revolutionary war hero, would be combined with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology into a 65,000-student state system made up of three autonomous universities, according to the plan.

If it is implemented, "the eyes of higher education around the nation will be on New Jersey for a long time to come," said Dr. Harold T. Shapiro, former president of Princeton University.

McGreevey's proposal comes from a panel he convened in March to make UMDNJ stronger. P. Roy Vagelos, a member of Rutgers' Board of Governors and head of the panel, briefed Newark-area lawmakers about the plan Saturday.

"Dr. Vagelos and the commission have set forth a vision which we can implement which will ensure excellence for our research-based universities, for our economy, and for the future of this state," McGreevey said Monday.

Under the plan, the University of New Jersey would be a single research university system which would encompass three universities: UNJ-North, based in Newark; UNJ-Central, based in New Brunswick and Piscataway; and UNJ-South, based in Camden and Stratford.

McGreevey said the Rutgers name would be incorporated into the name of one of the campuses.

Similar to the University of California system, each university would have its own president but a chancellor overseeing the three schools would be responsible for hiring the presidents, writing budget requests, and approving new schools.

Vagelos said part of the problem with the current system is the leadership is too centralized and bureaucratic, discouraging cooperation between different state universities.

McGreevey said he is actively recruiting former Gov. Thomas Kean, currently the president of Drew University, to serve as chancellor.

The report also found that, despite significant strides at UMDNJ, "the goal of excellence has not been achieved."

Vagelos said the state's medical schools don't attract enough research dollars, attracting an average of $42.4 million for research each year, while state medical schools ranked in the top ten attract an average of $181.3 million per year.

"That is unacceptable and that has got to change," Vagelos said.

The report did not tackle funding for the plan, saying only there would be "upfront costs."

Of the three schools, only UMDNJ officials have publicly raised concerns about merging the medical school with another university.

But on Monday, the school issued a statement commending the governor for his "commitment to improve the overall quality of health education offered in New Jersey" and said it would be reviewing the commission's report.

NJIT president Robert A. Altenkirch said the commission's report is the first step in a long and involved process.

"While much of the commission's report is an analysis of UMDNJ and Rutgers, it is the presence of NJIT that could help forge emerging synergies among the applied physical, mathematical, computing and engineering sciences with the biological and biomedical sciences and medicine here in Newark," Altenkirch said.

Norman Samuels, acting president of Rutgers University, said the university needs time to read and digest the recommendations. The Board of Governors has appointed a group to review it.

The plan must be approved by legislators, many of whom voiced support for the concept Monday, including Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon, Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex.

It also has the support of the two top-ranking Democrats in the Assembly, Majority Leader Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, and Speaker Albio Sires D-Hudson.

But the proposal may meet resistance from those who fear giving up local control and from alumni and faculty who question what effect the change will have on the identity of their schools.

Rep. Donald Payne, D-Newark, said his main concern is that UMDNJ and NJIT, "anchors" of the state's largest city, do not get shortchanged.

"We're just determined that Essex County does not lose. We're not looking for any diminution of what we have," Payne said.

Vagelos said the new system would benefit Newark.

"I think the vision is so dramatically improved that once people ... realize what this could mean for Newark, I can't imagine they would be opposed to it," Vagelos said.

The governor's proposal comes at a time when each of the schools is undergoing administrative changes.

Rutgers, which has 50,000 students on three campuses, is searching for a new president. NJIT has 9,000 students and just got a new president to replace longtime leader Saul Fenster. UMDNJ, which has 4,500 students, recently lost three top officials after a new chairman was appointed to its board.

The report also calls for a plan for implementation to be developed within a year, with the full merger process taking up to five years.

Rutgers originated by charter in 1766 as Queen's College. The college was renamed after Col. Henry Rutgers, a Revolutionary war hero, in 1825.

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