Rutgers Board of Governors approve nursing college merger, discuss Rice controversy


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Photo by Julian Chokkattu |

J. Michael Gower, senior vice president for finance, speaks at the Board of Governors meeting at Winnants Hall on the College Avenue campus.


NURSING SCHOOL MERGER

The Board of Governors voted today to integrate the two nursing colleges despite reports of criticism and requests for delays.

The merger of the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences School of Nursing and the College of Nursing at Newark and New Brunswick is set for July 1, 2014.

Patrick Nolan, executive director of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers at Rutgers, spoke to the Board of Governors and suggested it push the merger to July 1, 2015.

Nolan said the merger came to the Rutgers AAUP-AFT’s attention in February after discussion about it began in a belated process at the University Senate.

“The questions we had were: ‘What is this going to cost?’ … ‘What is going to be the impact on the staff on the College of Nursing or the School of Nursing?’ It was not known,” he said.

He would like, at the very least, for the staff to have some preservation for one year while Rutgers fully contemplates the impact of the merger.

Lucye Millerand, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers, also presented to the board. She said the faculty and staff have been in the dark about the process of the merger.

“Every answer is ‘I don’t know’, ‘I can’t answer’ and ‘We’ll see after the merger is approved,’ so you have a lot of highly skilled folks who don’t know what to do with their time and their skills,” she said. “Today, you’re being asked to vote on an idea, when what is really needed is a plan.”

Dr. Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, said planning for this merger was not sudden and has been underway for a year, in an interview with The Daily Targum.

“The faculty voted probably 95 to five in both schools to do it, and there have been huge numbers of faculty committees working together for many, many months to make this happen,” he said.

He said the only problem was that the University should have alerted the University Senate and the Labor Management Committee about the merger to get feedback early in the process.

Strom said the plan is to expand the nursing school in New Brunswick to increase opportunities particularly for students earning nursing degrees.

Every merger comes with risks as well as the potential benefits of eliminating duplication and saving money, he said.

“If, in fact, ultimately, there are savings, that would be fantastic because that money can be reprogrammed into academics,” Strom said.

Strom said the administration did not yet know the full cost of the merger.

While the University Senate agrees with the merger, Ann Gould, faculty representative on the Board of Governors, said the Senate hopes the board will consider issues concerning personnel, facilities, administration, financing and timing.

RICE CONTROVERSY

Others brought up the controversy surrounding Condoleezza Rice as the Rutgers-New Brunswick 2014 commencement speaker.

Samuel Rabinowitz, faculty representative on the Board of Governors, read a letter dated March 28 to the board. More than 350 faculty and staff signed a petition opposing the board’s decision to invite Rice for commencement.

Signatories of the petition have created a new forum for discussion on the Rice decision: A Sakai website titled “Rice at Rutgers?”

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE

J. Michael Gower, recently hired senior vice president for finance, reported on the different organizational structures at Rutgers.

According to an October 2013 article in The Daily Targum, Gower resigned from his position of chief financial officer at the University of Vermont in 2008, after reports surfaced about UVM entering into contracts with Huron Consulting Group without following proper procedures under his supervision.

He said Huron Consulting Group has assisted Rutgers for several months, digging through data to look at where Rutgers spends its money.

“It's my understanding that Huron began providing products and services to Rutgers long before I began working at the University,” he said in an email from The Daily Targum in October 2013.

PHYSICAL MASTER PLAN

University President Robert L. Barchi also referred to the status of the physical master plan and said Rutgers will begin open forums on all the campuses and plans to present a report at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester, and will follow up with a final report at the end of the fall semester.

Barchi also lauded the Department of Philosophy, which was recently ranked second in the country and third in the English-speaking world.

The Board of Governors announced Dr. Jeffrey Brenner as the 2014 Rutgers-Camden commencement speaker. Brenner, a primary care physician at Cooper Health, will be awarded the honorary degree of doctor of science.

Brenner earned the MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship in 2013, according to the MacArthur Foundation website.

The board also approved a Bachelor of Arts and Health Sciences degree program at the Rutgers-Camden College of Arts and Sciences.

The board reappointed KPMG, LLP as the University’s external auditors and engaged KPMG to perform audit services for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The total fee for its services ranges from $807,520 to $874,720 for legacy Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Candace Straight, chair of the Committee on Audit, said the committee hopes to hire a company to audit and check information technology services at Rutgers. 


By Julian Chokkattu

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