U. continues work toward UMDNJ merger
University President Richard L. McCormick announced progress on the merger between the school and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey at Friday’s University Senate meeting.
“It’s an unparalleled, once-in-a-lifetime, pick-your-metaphor opportunity,” McCormick said of the merger. “My administration, working with faculty and deans and also with faculty and deans at UMDNJ, have begun serious plans for integration.”
McCormick announced the appointment of Chris Malloy, dean of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, as interim provost of Biomedical and Health Sciences.
“He has begun the work already,” McCormick said. “But it will be up to my successor to decide whether that is a permanent position.”
The merger would add 5,000 employees to the University payroll and integrate the purchasing of the medical school. The budget of UMDNJ is more than $500 million, he said.
“That doesn’t swamp the overall Rutgers budget, which is $2.1 billion, but it’s a very significant addition to it so we are taking that very seriously,” McCormick said.
Dan O’Connor, associate professor at the School of Communication and Information, asked what the anticipated cost of the merger would be.
“UMDNJ financials are opaque, to put it kindly, but we are seeking to get involved,” McCormick said. “If those elements of UMDNJ come in with their fair share of the state appropriation for UMDNJ … we will be fine.”
Despite the optimistic outlook, he said talks are not far along, but the University already began searching for professionals to advise the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees on the finances.
Paul Panayotatos, chairman of the Senate, opened the floor to Senate members for discussion of the appointment of a new University president.
“The Board of Governors has chosen a search committee for the appointment of a University president,” Panayotatos said.
The committee had already made available a statement describing the qualifications and characteristics sought, he said.
Richard De Lisi, dean of the Graduate School of Education, said a primary concern should be the candidate’s willingness to work to make the University affordable for everyone.
“We want our next leader to be a person who endorses our values … around equity and excellence and does not see them as contradictory, but as working together,” De Lisi said. “That is the strength of Rutgers, has been the strength of Rutgers and needs to be the strength going forward.”
De Lisi said he wanted the next University professor to answer the question: “How are we going to deal with the fact that our nation … has decided that public higher education is an individual benefit and not a public good?”
Katherine Yabut, the undergraduate student Board of Trustees representative, said the University as a public institution should be available to as many students as possible.
She also highlighted that students do not have as much sway on these issues as students do at other institutions.
“The influence, which we are supposed to have here, is really not seen,” said Yabut, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “At many other universities, there are student representatives at the Board of Governors.”
Student senators also expressed concerns over the affordability of many new residence halls.
Nathan Gwira, student senator for the College Avenue campus, said many of the newly built residence halls will make it difficult for lower income students to afford.
“What are the measures being taken in relation to more affordable housing because people cannot afford the ones now?” he asked.
McCormick said the University had taken into account the moderate fee increases in recent years, and since the residence halls are full, the prices have been affordable.
“I do recognize that for some students that is cost they can’t bear, and there, the recourse is to our financial aid office, which stands to help our students,” he said.
In his administrative report, McCormick also addressed the issue of funding campus renovations through the first state bond since 1988.
University presidents in New Jersey are working to put this issue on the November 2012 ballot so residents could vote on whether to approve it.
“New Jersey has not done a very good job supporting higher education facilities,” McCormick said. “Some states have annual appropriations for higher education, but we don’t even have those either.”
He said there are buildings at the University falling apart under their own weight because of years of neglect and lack of funds.
“We are making more progress in solving this problem than we have in a long time,” McCormick said. “I am cautiously optimistic that we can get a bond issue vote on the ballot in November 2012.”
A limited number of facilities can be repaired because of cost issues. Therefore, deans from all campuses have been asked to propose their highest priority projects, he said.
“We received far more proposals [than expected],” McCormick said. “We don’t know what the bond issue will be, but we are pretty sure that all of the $1.6 billion worth of Rutgers proposals will not be able to fit on it.”