Some time in the fall of 2011, Rowan University made a fateful decision. After some months of discussions with Rutgers-Camden personnel about how the two institutions could best ally their resources to secure greater financial support for higher education in South Jersey, the conversations stopped. Now we know why.

Instead of working out a mutually beneficial and agreed upon plan with Rutgers, Rowan, or one of its allies, turned instead to outside help for a report—a battle plan actually—on how best to take over Rutgers-Camden’s assets.  According to a column in the March 29 Star-Ledger, the plan, from The Learning Alliance for Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, was commissioned at a cost of $30,000.

That report, issued January 26th, the day after Governor Christie released and endorsed the Barer Advisory Committee report, proceeded on three premises. First, the Governor would act swiftly and decisively by using his executive powers to effect the merger. Second, he would name Rowan a research university at the same time. Finally—and this was the lynchpin—the merger would be tied to other recommendations in the report. Specifically, Rutgers University would have to divest itself of the Camden campus and all the resources attached to it in order to acquire medical facilities further north.

We know this deal was already in place in November, when the action plan was commissioned, because Rowan Interim President Houshmand met with Rowan students on November 21st to answer concerns about how a merger would affect their education. The minutes, posted on the Rowan website  under the title “South Jersey Merger,” was summarized under the heading “Governor Sent Recommendation.” Among the answers to questions was the affirmation that Rowan faculties were already preparing for a merger. The Barer Committee was still meeting at the time and had not even interviewed Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Wendell Pritchett to get his input to their deliberations.

The Learning Alliance report provided considerable detail on how to seize the opportunity offered by the governor through the proposed merger, making sure, as I have reported previously, that Rowan centralize in Glassboro administrative and budgetary power over the combined institutions.

Not surprisingly, the consultants anticipated a negative reaction at Rutgers, writing, “First, we believe a significant portion of the faculty and staff at Rutgers-Camden will express their unhappiness with what the Advisory Committee has recommended.”  As a response, the consultants recommended a communications strategy focused on “an optimistic discussion of the educational future the Advisory Committee has imagined.”  Those managing the transition, it advised, should “spend as little time as possible explaining how and why the protests have missed the point.”  Rowan has since issued a request for proposals from firms willing to execute its public relations plan.

 The report also anticipated the likelihood of litigation, with the result that “the process of accrediting the New Rowan University undergraduate programs at the current Rutgers-Camden location will be substantially slowed—even put on hold—pending the outcome of possible legal challenges.” Rather than accepting delay, however, the consultants urged the Steering  Committee charged with executing the merger to complete its work by July 1, 2012, the same deadline the governor has since embraced for completing his proposal  for reorganization.

Re-iterating the importance of acting expeditiously, the report asserts, “We believe it will be possible to realize the Advisory Committee’s vision of having in place a major research university in South Jersey even if the full integration of Rutgers-Camden is delayed. All that is required to start the process is the designation of Rowan as a public research university, the necessary reclassification of staff, and a substantial augment in the funds available to the New Rowan University to build the infrastructure a successful major research university will require (emphasis added)If Rowan, Cooper University Hospital, and the State of new Jersey make clear their intention to establish a major research university in South Jersey, we believe that sooner or later the great majority of faculty at Rutgers Camden will ask to join….”

Not incidentally, Rowan’s consultants urged the university to address its own faculty concerns, notably teaching loads, research support, and tenure review. Noting “a lingering issue regarding the power of the Board of Trustees and the role of the faculty in the governance of the institution,” the consultants urged that the issue be addressed “to preclude the faculty’s discontent…in the enacting of the organizational and curricular changes the New Rowan University will require.”

So the situation is clear. Instead of pursuing avenues of possible cooperation with Rutgers-Camden, Rowan embraced a high-stakes strategy to assure the aggrandizement of its own status. With its unilateral action, Rowan severely compromised the possibility of partnership and mutual collaboration with Rutgers.  By choosing to wait out the victims of its own hostile action, even as it tries to sell its motives as honorable and informed by good practice, it has tarnished its reputation and greatly diminished its standing.   


  • Rutgers – Camden has one huge piece of leverage and it comes in the form of one of the symbols we’ve come to despise: Cooper Medical School. We threaten that we are going to challenge the lawfulness of Gov. Jon Corzine’s Reorganization Plan No. 002-2009 which created Cooper Medical School at Rowan University via the same executive power that is in dispute (not really since we/OLS actually know Christie doesn’t have the power). The medical school could be tanked by the courts and at the threat of that, we may just see a turning point. Now all we need to do is find a person/entity with standing :)

    • It would be interesting if the Corzine Reorganization Plan 002-2009 were challanged.

  • The truth that we are seeing here is that Higher Education, not unlike politics, in New Jersey is business as usual in the sense that deals are made behind closed doors and we taxpayers are force fed the results. This time I do not believe that the Univ. of Penna report anticipated the level of opposition we are now seeing. I also have been seeing an increased level of hostility coming from both the students at Rutgers Camden and Rowan in opposition to this proposal, another issue the report may have missed. The thought of integrating these two institutions and student body is becoming increasingly less possible. I am hoping that the Trustees at Rutgers can act for what is in the best interest of Rutgers University and vote down this merger. Where else can Governor Christie take UMDNJ to have it taken over, Rutgers is his only option. He has no other trump card.

  • Well-said, sir.

    I’m a Rowan student, and I’m not happy about this either. There’s talk on campus suggesting that our former President Dr. Farish was forced out by the Board pf Trustees because he opposed the merger.

    This, coupled with Rowan’s continued aggressive expansion of dormitories (i.e., Rowan Boulevard), the continued slashing of funding to individual departments, lack of merit scholarships for the general student body (i.e., outside of department scholarships), and now this most recent decision to overload the school with incoming freshmen and sophomores (which has caused chaos for the housing lottery procedures and left several upper classmen without housing on campus), has caused great distress for the student body, and has left many of us feeling that this university has strictly become a for-profit institution, abandoning its former directives of bringing to people a higher education.

    Now, it’s all about the money. This has left many students distressed. What’s worse is that we have no power to stop this. Our fate is in the hands of the state legislature, unless Senator Lautenberg can convince the Department of Education to investigate the legality behind this merger in the first place.

    My best hope is that the merger is either abandoned, or Rowan becomes a research institute on its own.

    And let me say that while the Rowan administration is pushing for the merger, the student body wants nothing to do with this.

    • Thank you for your comment and for expressing your concern. It’s pretty obvious that the odds have been stacked against the opponents of this plan, and yet as opposition has built, the proposal has looked shakier and shakier. Can we find a way to support students on your campus? I know there was opposition to the plan early, but it seems that it has been shut down since the Governor’s announcement. Our own students are passionate about this, and maybe there is a way to pool resources that can make a difference.

  • It seems that much took place before the Barer Report was in place. It’s strikes me that $30,000 is quite a lot of money for the recommendations provided. And like the Barer Report, there are no references or notes as to how conclusions were drawn. On the up side, clearly their recommendation that opposition comments and concerns be ignored has proved unsuccessful. The report seem to assume that some planning and research were in place to support the recommendations. Of course, there is none. It is a concern that Rowan has an unlimited war chest that will be used to blanket south Jersey with schemes rather than facts. The acknowledgement that litigation is likely is also telling. This means those who supported elimination of RUC/expansion of Rowen knew from the outset that they were on tenuous ground. As information leaks out, it becomes more and more obvious that elimination of RUC has been on the table a long time. It was not an afterthought.

  • I used to think the nefarious Wall Street types who figured out how to bundle and sell toxic assets and get communities to invest in securities they didn’t understand and snooker people into hedge fund deals that went south had some smarts. But since I read the Zemsky report, I realize they were amateurs. It probably took a lot of time, labor and resources to do those deals. On a per hour basis Zemsky has them beat. For $30,000 he produced a 15-page report that says pretty much nothing beyond—grab Rutgers Camden and let the faculty be damned. They appeared not to have spoken to the Deans, faculty, staff or students at Rutgers Camden, nor do they appear to have interviewed the President of Rutgers or the Board of Governors or the Board of Trustees.

    What a model! I’m going to set up my own consulting shop and head over to Rutgers Camden. For $60,000 I promise to produce by the end of the week a 30-page report telling them how to take over Princeton. Sure, the Princeton faculty will be mad and might take legal action, but they’ll get over it.

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