Rowan suspends president search amid merger talk

Posted: March 09, 2012

Amid talk of a controversial merger with Rutgers-Camden, Rowan University has suspended its search for a new president.

Board of trustees chairman James Gruccio announced in an e-mail to Rowan employees on Thursday that the three finalists for the job had withdrawn from consideration.

"We will, however, reengage in the search process once there is clarity as to the proposed reorganization of higher education throughout the state," Gruccio wrote.

Interim president Ali Houshmand will continue in his role while the university's future organization is debated. Houshmand has been interim president since July and had served as chief executive officer since January 2011.

Gruccio was not available for comment, Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona said.

The names of the finalists had not been publicly announced, Cardona said, nor had the three made official visits to the campus. The search was launched over the summer after the departure of longtime president Donald J. Farish.

As talk of a merger intensified, university officials decided last week that continuing with the search didn't make sense. Gov. Christie proposed the merger to help create a stronger public university system for the state, but the idea has been met with fierce opposition from some corners.

The proposal for South Jersey involves merging Rutgers-Camden with Rowan in Glassboro, creating a split campus that would include a law school, two business schools, and the soon-to-open Rowan-Cooper Medical School in Camden.

"The merger discussion just changes the world," Cardona said.

No time line for a new search has been set, he said.

"We don't know when there will be clarity," Cardona said. "At some point in the future, once things clear up, the board will reengage and start the process again."

Asked whether the job was being held open for Rutgers-Camden chancellor Wendell E. Pritchett, Cardona said, "No."

"It's a national search," he said. "The institution that's being created is in line to be instantly a major university. You're talking about 20,000 students."

Pritchett has denounced the merger proposal.


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq.

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