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Christie reveals changes for U. campuses

Gov. Chris Christie announced plans to restructure higher education in New Jersey that would greatly impact the University.

He said in a press conference Wednesday that he accepted an advisory committee’s plan to integrate Rutgers-Camden into Rowan University for an expanded South Jersey research university.

Christie also said a new medical campus made up of University of Medicine and Dentistry schools like the New Jersey Medical School would be established in Newark. The school would be called the New Jersey Health Sciences University.

He also approved a merger between the University and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the UMDNJ-School of Public Health.

“We have missed opportunities and failed to identify long-term strategies for our institutions to grow,” Christie said at the press conference. “We cannot compete in this state with good, but not great, educational institutions at any level.”

President Richard L. McCormick said in an email sent to the University community that the UMDNJ-University merger would help the University become a top-tier research institution.

“It offers enormous potential to enhance education in the health sciences and other fields, increase federal funding, create new biomedical companies and jobs, improve access to the latest treatments for state residents and re-establish New Jersey as a global leader in pharmaceuticals and biomedical science,” he said in the email.

McCormick applauded the formation of the New Jersey Health Sciences University in the email and said it would make joint research opportunities with Rutgers-Newark possible.

But he said integrating the Rutgers-Camden campus into Rowan would require a thorough discussion and the University’s Board of Governors’ and Board of Trustees’ consent.

“Rutgers has made a significant commitment to South Jersey, which is part of our pledge to serve the entire state and is intrinsic to our role as ‘The State University of New Jersey,’” he said in the email.

Some Rutgers-Camden faculty and students are unhappy with the proposed combination of their campus and Rowan.

Matt Paterno, a University College-Camden junior, said losing the University name would hurt the city of Camden and the school.

“Rutgers-Camden is essentially the crown jewel of Camden,” said Paterno, a student member of the University Senate’s executive committee. “[Camden] is known for its economic and social decay. When you have Rutgers University, you have a world-renowned, prestigious place [where] people feel good to be.”

Jenna Cantarella, president of the Rutgers-Camden Student Governing Association, said she has never seen the students, staff, faculty and alumni more united on an issue than remaining a part of the University.

“We strongly want to stay part of Rutgers University. Students choose Rutgers because it is Rutgers,” said Cantarella, a Camden College of Arts and Sciences senior. “We are proud to be part of the state research university, and we hope to remain a part of it.”

Adrienne Eaton, a labor studies professor and president of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that Rutgers-Camden faculty members do not see how the state will benefit from joining Rowan.

“The loss of the Rutgers brand name for South Jersey and the unnecessary costs of merger would do more harm than good,” she said in the statement. “Consortium and collaboration would better serve South Jersey in both the short term and the long term.”

Some students on the New Brunswick campus are also opposed to Camden splitting from the University.

Matt Cordeiro, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said he is against Rutgers-Camden and Rowan merging.

“Rutgers has invested a lot in South Jersey and wants to see it grow,” said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “I don’t think the students, faculty and staff want [the merger].”

Ellen Taraschi, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the merger might affect students’ decisions to enroll at the school in Camden.

“I think Rutgers is definitely a brand, and people attending or planning to attend Rutgers-Camden are being short-changed quite a bit,” she said. “Rowan will no longer be Rowan but part of the University of South Jersey, so Rowan is going to lose its name, too.”

Joe Cardona, a Rowan spokesman, said the plan to merge the schools has no deadline or guidelines yet, but Christie is working with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3, to get it moving.

If the legislature does not intervene within the next 60 days, the plan will go into effect. The creation of a large state research institution would include Rutgers-Camden, Rowan’s Glassboro campus and satellite Camden campus, and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, which is under construction.

Some students are more in favor of the University acquiring a medical school.

Cordeiro said the University has a lot to gain from merging with RWJMS, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the UMDNJ-School of Public Health.

“The medical school was once part of Rutgers. It’s right in the city, and there are already a lot of joint programs,” he said. “More faculty and students are welcoming this change. Robert Wood Johnson generates more money than the other [schools] in the UMDNJ system, like University Hospital in Newark.”

Farah Benarba, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, said the merger would improve the University’s reputation.

“It’s about time Rutgers finally got a medical school. We are one of the few public state universities in the country without one,” she said. “I think it’s a win-win for Rutgers and UMDNJ.”

Pamela Chin, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the University should have a medical school as a state university.

“[The Newark schools] will be more consolidated and will be able to be better organized and focus on a couple schools rather than stretch out,” she said. “Of course, [UMDNJ] will be losing its more developed and stronger programs, but this way other areas of Newark can be improved, which is in great need.”

— Anastasia Millicker contributed to this story.

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