August 18, 2019 | 74° F

Merger would hurt University outreach programs


In the almost two months since Gov. Chris Christie first announced his support of a proposal to merge the Rutgers-Camden campus with Rowan University, more questions than answers have been raised about the impact this merger will have on not just the South Jersey region, but also on the state as a whole.

There have already been numerous articles and opinion pieces written about the pros and cons of this merger, with very few answers coming from Trenton and the other power players involved. My issue with the merger pertains to issues that Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., actually raised in a letter to Christie in mid-February.

According to an article in The Courier-Post titled “Lautenberg concerned over school merger plan” on Feb. 23, the senator brought into question what would happen to all of the University facilities in South Jersey besides the Rutgers-Camden campus. The University and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (formerly Cook College) run a Cooperative Extension in every county in New Jersey that provides local residents with agriculture resources, 4-H programs and resource management, among other invaluable resources. The University also runs a food innovation program in Bridgeton, the Pine Lands Field Station in New Lisbon, and the University’s Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences administers the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. All of these centers and outreach programs are invaluable resources not just to South Jersey residents, but also to all residents of New Jersey.

Lautenberg asked Christie and the other supporters of the merger in February what would happen to these programs, as well as outreach posts in South Jersey if Rowan and Rutgers-Camden were to merge. I find the lack of answers to these valid questions deplorable.

Most of these programs are run by the University’s New Brunswick campus — will New Brunswick be forced to pull completely out of South Jersey? The University is the land-grant university of New Jersey, and Rowan does not have the academic programs or the resources to support these much-needed centers in southern New Jersey. Lautenberg called upon the governor to provide a clear list of all the University facilities that Rowan would take over, and as a University alumnus and former resident of the South Jersey agriculture community, I would also like to know what will happen to all of the programs that the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences provides for South Jersey.

From what I have read of the plan, the governor wants to make two distinct research universities in New Jersey — does that mean he plans on giving Rowan control of not just Rutgers-Camden, but also of the Cooperative Extensions that the New Brunswick campus runs? Rowan does not even offer the academic programs to support these outreach programs. Does the governor plan on providing more state funding to this new university, so that they can start their own School of Environmental and Biological Sciences?  

Unless the new comprehensive research university includes agriculture, marine science and food science programs, I feel the merger will do more harm than good in the region. Rutgers-Camden sits in a prime location to develop and extend programs in New Brunswick, including, but not limited to, marine sciences and agriculture.

Charlotte Haines is a Douglass College Class of 2006 alumna.

By Charlotte Haines

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