Bill introduced to reshape Rutgers, Rowan, UMDNJ

Posted: June 05, 2012

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney introduced sweeping legislation Monday to break up the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and move most of its assets to Rutgers and create an independent board to govern both Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University.

The legislation, cosponsored by Senators Donald Norcross (D., Camden) and Joseph F. Vitale (D., Middlesex), comes after months of protests and negotiation following Gov. Christie’s announcement in January that he planned to restructure New Jersey’s public universities with the intention of making them more competitive.

Christie, who has said all along that he would not support any compromise on his original plan, which among other things envisaged a merger of Rutgers-Camden into Rowan, issued a statement Monday supporting the legislation, which would preserve Rutgers-Camden as a distinct entity.

"This is a critical and positive step, and the governor looks forward to working together to achieve this reorganization by June 30," read a statement from his office.

Highlights of the legislation:

•All of UMDNJ’s schools in Newark and New Brunswick, except University Hospital, would be moved to Rutgers. University Hospital, in Newark, would become independent.

•Rutgers-Camden will be "granted autonomy" and will operate under a 7-member board of trustees. The school will receive funding directly from the state.

•Rowan University will be designated a research institution, ensuring greater state funding.

•The joint Rowan/Rutgers-Camden board will have authority over both school’s boards of trustees.

•Rutgers’ board of governors will be expanded from its current 11 voting members to 15.

The legislation comes days ahead of a scheduled Wednesday meeting and votes by Rutgers’ current boards of trustees and governors on a statement opposing any drastic restructuring of the university.

Norcross, a brother of powerful Democratic leader George E. Norcross III, has opposed Christie’s plan to merge Rutgers-Camden into Rowan. But he said Monday that his legislation avoids the pitfalls of that plan.

George Norcross, a managing partner in The Inquirer’s parent company, has generally backed the governor’s plan.

In a statement Monday, Donald Norcross said: "We have worked very hard over the last several weeks to listen to all sides of the debate and incorporate their ideas into this plan. Real change will be achieved only through respectful collaboration."

Contact James Osborne at 856-779-3876, or on Twitter @osborneja.

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