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 Someone tells the truth about improving education at Rutgers

 

Delivered by Ronald W. Giaconia

at Rutgers                                                                               Board of Governors                                                                                  Meeting – 12/13/02

 

            Since the publication of the Report of the New Jersey Commission on Health Science, Education and Training, there has been much debate and discussion on its recommendations.  I also applaud the goals and the original purpose of this report, but I would like to focus on the issue of "funding", or to some the history of "underfunding" of higher education and give my personal perspective.

            On page Roman Numeral 111 of its Executive Summary the report states, "with respect to funding, the commission endorses the state's commitment to funding two-thirds of educational and general costs for research universities."

            Within the text of the report on page 89, the commission makes the following statement "excellence in higher education begins with adequate funding."

            I support both statements – and so do the great majority of reasonable people interested in higher education.

            But what is the history of funding of higher education in New Jersey?  The debate goes back further than you would imagine!

            A personal anecdote:

            In 1957, only one year after Rutgers was made The State University, funding became an immediate issue.  I would like to read from a copy of a newspaper article, which was a "Letter to the Editor" by two Rutgers student leaders – The Editor of The Targum and The Editor of the Scarlet Letter Yearbook.

The letter starts – "We students here at Rutgers are presently awaiting a decision, a very important decision, that is to take place next week when the Legislature reconvenes."  It continues – "reports were made public that the Joint Appropriations Committee of the Legislature was planning to cut the Rutgers budget by over $2.1 million."  The budget for 57-58 would be less than 56-67.

The letter continues:  "These facts point to one thing, that Rutgers, as the State University, must provide many more educational facilities in the future than it is now providing.  In order to do this, Rutgers must have greater state support.

The letter finishes with this statement: "Following are a few facts for comparison between our state and other states, that definitely show a crucial educational problem in this state."  "State expenditures per capita for higher education ranks New Jersey as forty-fifth."  "This is ironic since New Jersey is the fourth richest state."

Does this sound familiar?  By the way, I can attest to the authenticity of that letter to The Editor because I was one of the students who signed it at the time.

That's 1957

            In the book Rutgers:  A Bicentennial History, The Author relates the following historical anecdote.  In 1926, John Martin Thomas, the new President of Rutgers University, commissioned the division of Higher Education with the U. S. Bureau of Education to examine the needs and make recommendations for higher education in New Jersey.

            The survey documented New Jersey's shocking deficiencies in higher education.  The report represented an authoritative blueprint for the future and left no doubt that there was an enormous gap between services provided by Rutgers and those, which, should be provided by an adequately supported State University.

            The conclusion of this blueprint for the future was and I quote "if New Jersey was to boast a real state university the state would have to appropriate funds on a heretofore unprecedented scale."  That was 1927 60 years after Rutgers was designated a land grant college, but a full 30 years prior to its designation as a State University in 1956.

            The report by the New Jersey Commission on Health Science, Education and Training and several informed sources point to other states, which have enviable systems of higher education.  Frequently mentioned are California, North Carolina, Michigan etc.

            I have spent the last few weeks reading the speeches of Dr. Mason Gross, a former President of Rutgers University.  One speech caught my attention – to the 1947 Constitutional Convention Association at its annual meeting in Princeton, September 1959, several years after a new State Constitution was adopted.

            President Gross, in his remarks to this group, stated the following:  "On the subject of higher education in the State, the Constitution has nothing to say" – "it is worthy of note that higher education does receive explicit attention in the constitution of some of our states.  In Michigan, for example, the regents of the University of Michigan are set up by the Constitution as a fourth arm of state government, or a par with the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches."  He continued "this status undoubtedly helped the university to grow to its present position of eminence amongst the world's great universities by giving it prestige and strengthening its autonomy."

            He concluded his argument with the final statement:  "This, I believe can be construed….that in 1947, the people of New Jersey in general, and even its ablest leaders, did not consider the question of public, tax supported higher education as one of the more important questions facing the state."

            I'm not so sure that Dr. Mason Gross would not make that statement today.  It appears we have a great desire to achieve elite status in higher education – but to be blunt – are we willing to invest the dollars necessary to reach that goal?

            Supposedly, the state of California invests approximately $17,000 per student at UC Berkeley, while Rutgers receives approximately $6,000 per student from the state of New Jersey.

            Based on our history in higher education – do people who raise the issue of funding have reasonable justification for their concern?

            Is the lack of adequate funding historical, systemic or cultural – as Mason Gross suggested?  Or, is it all of the above?

            Altering structure is no silver bullet – there's no magic way to transform an institution from an already great state university into one of the leading universities in the nation by simply moving lines along on an organizational chart.  What it takes is the hard difficult work of a greater investment of dollars.

I speak on the issue of funding today in the hope that it might help to elevate its importance in discussions, which will inevitably take place in the weeks ahead.  I appeal to my colleagues who have been appointed to the Implementation & Review Committee to do just that.

Thank you.

 

Fan Feedback

On Recruiting:

Mike, I'm very very very happy today. The extention, the verbals. Boy I fill like a 12 year old on X-Mas.I think if we keep getting bigger RB u will see some of the smaller back's become DB's or WR.

 

On Notre Dame's participation in the Big East:

Notre Dame enjoys all the benefits of Big East membership and thumbs their
nose at the league when it comes to football.
Basketball membership has flourished for ND since we let them in  the back
door.
Now, they steal a bowl spot from West Virginia.
They must be either in or out!
But I doubt if the Providence group will have the fortitude to  give them 
this choice.

 

On Schiano's Extension:

Should Mulcahy have done it?  Why now?  What progress have we made?  These
are all valid questions, but there are many others we could ask also.  How
come there were no relationships with the in state high school coaches?  Why
had the little things been ignored?  What is the attitude of the staff?  How
do the kids react to the coaches stern discipline?  Do they continue to play
hard when behind or following a tough loss?
  It is really easy to bash the extension of Schiano's contract, but we must
look at the bigger picture and talk about what happened when the injury bug
hit, and the big games came back to back.
  This is a good young coach who has made mistakes and grown, while following
a path that most of us long suffering fans believe is the right way to change
the program.  Comparisons to others that are based only on the record miss
all the important points of academic improvement, physical improvement and
depth improvement.  But primarily attitude and discipline improvement.
  Thanks Bob for providing us with continuity and giving Greg Schiano the
opportunity to recruit without looking behind him for the naysayers.

 

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