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1. Miami (Fla.) (60) 11-0 1,524 1
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4. Georgia  11-1 1,335 5
5. Southern California 10-2 1,284 6
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The Rutgers Merger Move - Who's Who

The Possible Rutgers Merger: The Commissioners and Key Players

By Michael M. Shapiro

The Report of the New Jersey Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training recommends a merger of Rutgers, UMDNJ, and NJIT. This is the most important development in higher education in New Jersey in many years. It is a serious issue that requires in-depth examination and a thoughtful dialogue that involves all interested parties. Unfortunately, the press is currently failing to mention important facts and glossing over others that need to be considered. 

Is the Commission's proposed merger about improving higher education in New Jersey? Or is it about improving medical education in New Jersey? Or is it about benefiting the pharmaceutical industry? Perhaps it is a combination of all of these factors. Maybe that is a good thing and should be championed. Certainly, improving medical education in New Jersey is a worthwhile endeavor and one that should be lauded by New Jersey residents. 

The pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey employs tens of thousands of New Jersey residents and provides life-saving drugs to millions of people throughout the State and the nation. It helps fuel New Jersey's economy. The state must do everything within its power to retain and aggrandize the pharmaceutical industry's presence here. However, if the merger is designed to aid the pharmaceutical industry, is dramatically altering the lion's share of higher education in New Jersey the best way to achieve that goal? And is the proposed merger the best way to go about consolidating New Jersey's institutions of higher learning?

Whatever the reason(s) for the merger, it is important that the Commission and the Governor be open, provide full disclosure regarding the issue, and act in as transparent a way as possible. However, currently these standards of sound public policy are lacking. It is in the public's interest and right to know that this column has been penned. What follows is a look at the individuals involved with the Commission and the proposed merger. They are established figures in our community. It is important, though, for the public to know their credentials so that the Commission's Report and the proposed merger can be placed in perspective. 

I. THE KEY PLAYERS

Governor James E. McGreevey

The Governor, a former Merck & Company employee, is an ardent supporter of the New Jersey pharmaceutical industry, an industry that contributes prodigious amounts of campaign cash to many members of both political parties in New Jersey. At an event called Pharmfest held on March 28, 2002, the Governor stated that the pharmaceutical industry "understands its corporate responsibility and is working to improve the well-being of people everywhere," and continued on to extol the virtues of the New Jersey pharmaceutical industry. This past week the Governor and Commission Chair Vagelos met with the editorial board of the Asbury Park Press to make their case for the proposed merger. In explaining the need for the merger, McGreevey stated, "We are not supplying the intellectual capacity to the pharmaceutical companies" that now operate in the state. "They will not stay here just because they like New Jersey. We need to maintain the present investment and attract future investments." 

Recruiting the pharmaceutical industry to stay in New Jersey is important and could lead to more jobs and money for the State and her citizens. That's a good thing. However, is altering the higher education system in New Jersey and converting it into an engine for producing excellent pharmaceutical employees, as envisioned by the Commission's Report, the best way to go about it? Certainly, not without a great deal of analysis and thought, which are lacking both in the Commission's Report and in the public discourse since the Report was released. 

Former State Senator John Lynch

Former State Senator John Lynch is a key ally and mentor of Governor McGreevey. As State Senator and before that, Mayor of New Brunswick, Lynch worked hard to develop New Brunswick as the "Healthcare City." Lynch helped secure Johnson and Johnson to stay in New Brunswick, encouraged the building of Robert Wood Johnson hospital, and many other health care providers. Lynch's efforts were a success and thanks to his hard work, while some New Brunswick neighborhoods have not improved, redevelopment of New Brunswick's deteriorated downtown has had many positive effects. Health care throughout the state has also improved, in large part because of Lynch's efforts. Lynch has also been a champion of higher education in New Jersey. Through his work in New Brunswick and the State, Lynch has become a strong ally of New Jersey's pharmaceutical industry. 

Now that we have met the key players, we must next introduce the primary engines responsible for the report.


II. THE PRIMARY ENGINES

Merck & Company and Dr. P. Roy Vagelos:

According to the website for the Governor's Office, before becoming active in politics, Governor McGreevey worked in a "management position for Merck & Company." Merck & Co. is a major contributor to politicians throughout the state. Merck gave $2,600, one of the largest, if not the largest, campaign contributions to Governor McGreevey's General Election campaign, which was reported on August 7, 2001. On Merck's web page listing Merck's Board of Directors, Dr. William Kelley is named as a Merck Director since 1992 and Dr. Samuel Thier is named as a Merck Director since 1994. Two of the members of the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training are Dr. William Kelley and Dr. Samuel Thier.

McGreevey named Roy Vagelos to a seat on the Rutgers Board of Governors and Board of Trustees. He was also named Chair of the New Jersey Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training. Vagelos was President and CEO of Merck & Company beginning in 1985. When Vagelos briefed the Rutgers Board, he said that he picked the members of the Commission, not Governor McGreevey. 

When questioned by the Board, Vagelos also stated to the Board that the Report was scheduled for completion at the end of the year in December but that the Governor insisted on it getting completed earlier. At a Rutgers University Senate meeting, Vagelos was asked why the Report was prepared sooner than anticipated to which he responded that the Governor wanted it earlier, before Rutgers appointed its new President. Interestingly, since Rutgers is the principal stakeholder in the Commission's findings, without a President, Rutgers is left leaderless during these critical weeks when the Report was published and released.

On 9/17/02, the Associated Press reported, "Commission chairman P. Roy Vagelos denied reports that his panel had decided to recommend merging UMDNJ with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers." At a Rutgers Board meeting on October 17th at 3 p.m., Vagelos gave a verbal review of the Report in which he aggressively advocated the merger. Vagelos told the Board that there was little room for compromise. No debate was permitted. 

Since the report has come out, Vagelos has lobbied aggressively for support of the merger. Present and former UMDNJ Presidents have argued against the merger. Rather than responding to the merits of their arguments Vagelos told the Star-Ledger on 11/9, "You have to have the deans on board, and they are. They're the ones that count." Sources have said that Vagelos and McGreevey's staff were out lobbying these deans for their support. 

Harvey Holzberg and Robert Wood Johnson Hospital:

According to the Star-Ledger in its report on August 7, 2002, Governor McGreevey named Harvey Holzberg, the CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, to Chair the Board of Trustees at UMDNJ. Holzberg is a friend of former state Sen. John Lynch, who represented New Brunswick (where both Rutgers and Robert Wood Johnson are located) and was also the city's mayor. 

McGreevey stood by his appointment despite the fact that Holzberg was under investigation by UMDNJ and the state Attorney General's Office. The investigation arose because of accusations of fraudulent billing and a conflict of interest in having the head of RWJ Hospital chairing UMDNJ's Board, which makes decisions regarding hospital affiliations. Holzberg was cleared of all charges by the New Jersey Attorney General in September.

Previously on August 2, 2002, as cited in the Star-Ledger, the President of UMDNJ Stuart Cook wrote a letter to Governor McGreevey in which he "seemed to be responding to political pressure of some form": Cook defended his actions in investigating the matter of Holzberg and explained he had retained a firm to help UMDNJ evaluate the claims made by the accuser. Then Cook wrote, "I am writing to clarify a misunderstanding that I believe occurred during our telephone conversation. During our very brief conversation yesterday, you inquired whether . . . UMDNJ had retained a firm to lobby against Mr. Holzberg's appointment as board chair." On August 6, 2002, Holzberg traveled to Newark to see the President of UMDNJ, Stuart Cook. In the Star-Ledger article on August 7, 2002, Cook said he had no objection to Holzberg being named chair of the UMDNJ Board.

Before the merger was announced, Senator Rice expressed strong opposition. From a Star Ledger article discussing Rice's appearance in front of the Commission on 9/18/02: "Any merger plan 'is dead upon arrival in the State Legislature, you need to know that,' state Senator Ronald Rice (D-Essex) testified, looking directly at Commission Chairman P. Roy Vagelos. 'Whatever your findings are, UMDNJ and NJIT will not be merged. If it's not broke, we're not going to fix it,' Rice added as the overflow crowd in the lecture hall cheered." (from "UMDNJ battles plan to unite with Rutgers," Star Ledger, 9/19/02). Senator Rice has been nearly silent about the merger since his comments of 9/18/02. 

The November 20, 2002 Star-Ledger reports that in attendance at a closed-door meeting between Vagelos and power brokers at UMDNJ was Harvey Holzberg. Holzberg refused to comment on the meeting. UMDNJ power brokers were "advised by Holzberg not to make any public comment about the discussion after it was over." 

So we have been introduced to the key players and primary engines behind the Commission and its Report. We must now meet the secondary players.

III. SECONDAY PLAYERS 

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton Lacy:

Governor McGreevey appointed Clifton Lacy as New Jersey Commissioner of Health and Senior Services. The Governor also named him to the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training. According to Lacy's biography on the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services web page, he was Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Multiple sources confirm that Lacy is also rumored to be the heir apparent to Holzberg as CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. 

The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT):

The President of NJIT, Dr. Robert Altenkirch, has enthusiastically endorsed the Commission's Report. Although the Report calls for merging NJIT, UMDNJ and Rutgers, it does not analyze NJIT at all and barely mentions NJIT, despite the Report's 130+ page length. President Altenkirch became President of NJIT in July of 2002, just three months after Vagelos was named to the Rutgers Board and a month before Holzberg was named Chair of the UMDNJ Board. 

So we have now met the key players, the primary engines, and the secondary players. Finally, we must meet the other individuals involved with the Commission and merger…

IV. OTHER PARTICIPATING INDIVIDUALS

Robert E. Campbell, the Chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, former Vice-Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, member of the Board of Overseers of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Chairman of New Brunswick Affiliated Hospitals, and Chairman of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, sits on the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training. 

Dr. William Hait is the Associate Dean for Oncology Programs at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, part of UMDNJ. He is also a member of the Commission, listed as Director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Dr. Norman Edelman is listed as the Dean of the School of Medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and serves on the Commission. In the 1970's he was on the faculty of the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Chair of the Medical Service of Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.

Dr. David Mechanic, professor and director of the Institute of Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University sits on the Commission. He is the Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's National Health Policy Investigator's Program. He also served on the Presidential Search Committee for the new Rutgers University President.

Dr. Steven Schroeder serves on the Commission and is listed as the President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Dr. Harold Shapiro serves on the Commission and is listed as President Emeritus and Professor at Princeton University. His resume reads that he was on the Board of Overseers of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 2000. He also served on the Advisory Council for Dr. Mechanic's Institute.

Dr. Maria Soto-Greene serves on the Commission and is listed as the Senior Associate Dean of Education at the New Jersey Medical School of UMDNJ. 

Former Governor Kean is on the Board of Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is listed as the Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He also is rumored to be the Governor's choice for Chancellor of the merged university. 

The Commission and the proposed merger are important issues that, in one way or another, will affect all New Jersey residents. While the Governor has made the merger his top priority and has indicated a desire to have it approved quickly, the Governor and the Commission should be encouraging an in-depth public dialogue regarding the various issues involved. Such a dialogue could bring New Jersey residents together for a common purpose, focus attention on the importance of higher education, and could result in alternative ideas being publicly aired. Only by the Governor, the Commission, and New Jersey's residents working together, can the excellence in higher education envisioned by the Governor and the Commission come to fruition. 

Michael M. Shapiro is a third--year student at Stanford Law School. He serves on the Alumni and External Affairs Committee of the Stanford University Board of Trustees and was President of the Student Body at Stanford Law School. He graduated from Rutgers College, Rutgers University in 1998 with a B.A. in Political Science, and became one of the youngest people in the State of New Jersey to run for office of a major city when he ran for Mayor of the City of New Brunswick in 1998 at the age of 21. Mike welcomes your feedback via e-mail at shaps@stanford.edu.

 

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Fan Feedback

It's finally over. Thank God! Think we can be WVU next year or the year after???? They turned it around in a hurry! Hate to say it but we still have a long ways to go fans! Don't read the preseason hype next year as you'll be let down again.
We still lack athletes ( size, speed, kids that make plays) to compete w/ the other BE bowl teams and these type of win/loss records are not going to attract the recruits we need to get out of the bottom or next to bottom of the BE.

 

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