RutRo! The Rutgers-Rowan Merger.

Mike Russell | Staff Writer

I‘ve spent many, many hours of my life arguing with Central and North Jersey residents about the relevance and character ofSouth Jersey. Why? The rest of the state is ready to dismiss us as unimportant. If the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean met in the middle of South Jersey, leaving nothing butTrenton and above alive, no one would seem to care. In a state already cast aside by the rest of the country,South Jersey is the lowest of the low (excuse the pun), cast aside by the rest of a state that no one wants in the first place.

With the attention lavished onto Jersey City, Hoboken, and even Newark, it’s easy to feel like the little brother whose parents merely care of out of obligation, annoyed when he commands attention away from his older, more talented brother. I mean, look at everything our older brother has: multiple universities, including the State University of New Jersey; some of the richest residents in the state; a plethora of taxable former New Yorkers who want to enjoy the economic bounties of New York City without the frustration of having to park in New York City; the list goes on.

And yet, South Jersey continues on, fighting for attention and resources and love fromTrenton. We even have our own embassy fromNorth Jersey: the Rutgers Camden campus. RU-C is like a nod from our parents that says, “Don’t worry; you’re still a part of thisNew Jerseyfamily. We haven’t forgotten about you”.

But now we’re eighteen years old and our parents are telling us they want us out of their house. Dad’s saying he wants us to move in with our friend,RowanUniversity, and mom’s telling us that it’ll be better for us this way. And we’re not leaving the house without a whole lot of kicking and a whole lot of screaming.

This proposed merger of folding RU-C into Rowan will sever a valuable tie to the state as a whole.Rutgersis the State University of New Jersey, which means it should have a presence in every part of the state to ensure that the entire state has access to its educational bounty. Rutgers Camden, especially, services all ofSouth Jersey, giving non-tradition students and commuters a relatively low cost and highly respected option for higher education.

Rutgersas a whole is considered a public institution with an Ivy League reputation and education. Rutgers Camden gives all ofSouth Jerseyaccess to what is arguably one of the best public institutions in the country. To rip that away from us would be devastating.

George E. Norcross III claims that it will be good for theSouth Jerseyregion because we could focus on creating our very own world class research institution. To this claim, let me repeat what a speaker at the recent forums said a few days ago: “We already have a world class research institution inSouth Jersey. It’s called Rutgers Camden!”

Rutgers Camden has access to most of New Brunswick’s resources, making it possible to do high level research at our small campus. To say that we need a better or uniqueSouth Jersey research campus sounds completely nonsensical.

Why do Governor Christie and Mr. Norcross want to abolish a great research institution that already exists? So South Jersey can stand on its own two feet whileNorth Jerseysits in Papa’s lap? Why mustSouth Jerseyhave its own unique research university and deepen the statewide schism that so many already believe exists?

2 Comments

  1. Rutgers-Camden, in and of itself, is NOT a research institution, but part of a university system whose main campus (New Brunswick/Piscataway) is designated as such. The Carnegie Foundation, the standard bearer in higher education classification in terms of structure and governance, categorizes Rutgers-Camden as a master’s institution — the same classification as Rowan University. Rutgers-Camden has introduced three Ph.D. programs (all of which were recommended by the Vagelos Report in 2002) in the last three years, so perhaps the classification could change once the first doctorates are granted by Rutgers-Camden.

    The most unfortunate thing for Camden is that there has been no real, concerted, and SUSTAINED effort by Rutgers’ two governing boards to truly develop and expand Rutgers’ presence in Camden, its potential for greater research productivity, and its attractiveness as an institution of first choice for a larger number of New Jersey’s prospective college students. Don’t forget that it is Rutgers’ central administration governing out of New Brunswick/Piscataway that executes strategic initiatives in, and allocates resources, including the appropriations the Rutgers system receives from Trenton, to all three campuses. Truly and honestly the boards have made the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus its priority, much to the expense of Camden’s development.

    I’ve been closely following the developments of this merger proposal and find myself to be undecided because I can grant arguments from both sides. It is encouraging to see Camden students advocate so passionately for Camden, but I’ll be particularly interested in seeing if the Rutgers boards vouch for its Camden campus as passionately, at least in words. If this merger doesn’t go through, I hope Camden’s students refocus their passions and frustrations on Rutgers central administration to plea for more attention and resources for Camden. I am of the firm belief that maintaining the status quo IS NOT beneficial for all of New Jersey.

  2. I live in Central New Jersey and am an alumnus of Rutgers-New Brunswick. I can tell you that most people around here are not happy about the plan to remove the Camden campus from the university and change its name to Rowan (which most people have never heard of).

    Please don’t blame us for the actions of this governor. And as you mentioned without any geographic association, South Jersey’s own Mr. Norcross is widely seen as being in cahoots with the governor on this matter. Perhaps it is the gov’s way of paying him off for not campaigning against him next year? Time will tell.

    In any event, there seems to be a lot of activity to avoid the merger. Most of us would prefer to see Rowan remain as is and the medical school facilities in Camden be included as part of the larger merger of most of UMDNJ with Rutgers.