New Rutgers-Camden chancellor Haddon focused on diversity, affordability, accessibility

Posted: April 28, 2014

CAMDEN When Phoebe Haddon decided her Temple law students needed a better understanding of the complex legal history of inequality, she set about creating her own course.

"It came out of a conversation we'd been having for a while: That our students didn't have a strong sense of history in terms of race relations and inequality issues," said Theresa Glennon, a professor at Temple's Beasley School of Law who helped start "Seminar on Race and Ethnicity: Law, History, and Equality."

"We created all the materials ourselves, so it was really great to work with her on that," Glennon said. "It wasn't just her taking time for one of her colleagues like me, but she was very focused on individual mentoring."

Haddon's past and current colleagues said they expected to see Haddon bring that openness and strong work ethic to her new job: chancellor of Rutgers University's Camden campus.

After 28 years teaching law at Temple, Haddon, 63, became dean of the University of Maryland's law school in 2009. On July 1, she will take over Rutgers-Camden from Wendell E. Pritchett, who announced last fall he would step down at the end of the school year.

Haddon and her husband, Temple law professor emeritus Frank M. McClellan, plan to move back to their home in Mount Airy.

Haddon "was always carrying around a big stack of things that she had to work through," said Glennon, who worked with her beginning in 1993. "Going through it in a waiting room for a plane, or at a hotel . . . she was always working. You'd get e-mails from her at midnight."

Over the years, especially in her five years at Maryland, her first administrative role, Haddon developed interests central to Rutgers-Camden's identity: civic engagement, diversity, college affordability and accessibility.

"How we provide access to students of diverse backgrounds and incomes is going to be a critical problem going forward," Haddon said in an interview last week. "Rutgers has done a great job promoting diversity and promoting the public values that lie behind a public institution."

Haddon has a strong sense of her principles and stands by them, friends said. But Haddon is collaborative, not dictatorial, they said, and spends a lot of time listening.

Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, a professor at the University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law, remembered Haddon bouncing ideas off colleagues at a round table in her office.

Haddon "had some visions and ideas about legal education" when she arrived in Maryland, Eisenberg said. But "she respected the important role of the faculty in exploring whether or not those ideas were right for this law school."

Haddon sat down with each faculty member individually to discuss scholarship, administration, and teaching, Eisenberg remembered.

Not that Haddon's a pushover.

Deep commitment

Controversy erupted a few years ago when Maryland's environmental law clinic helped pursue a case against poultry heavyweight Perdue Farms and a chicken farmer working for Perdue, which is based in Maryland. A lawsuit filed by environmentalists alleged that the farm was polluting a drainage ditch that led to a nearby river.

Some state lawmakers responded by threatening to cut funding to the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus; the governor sent Haddon a letter criticizing "this very questionable suit."

Haddon backed her students, and the university supported her.

"I decided that once we were committed to this case, that you can't withdraw unless there are reasons outside of that political pressure," Haddon said.

"As a member of the faculty as well as an administrator, I thought it was important to clarify roles for our public institution - a public institution that was committing students to work on a public controversy," Haddon said.

The students ultimately lost the case in 2012 in federal court.

"She really respected that part of what she taught our students is how to be advocates even if you're representing somebody who is disadvantaged or somebody who is unpopular for one reason or another," Eisenberg said.

Haddon has long been interested in issues of social justice, friends said.

She aimed to instill fairness and encourage students to think about broader policy issues - "where the law should be, not only where it was," said Eleanor Myers, a Temple law professor who worked with Haddon beginning in 1992. "Those are values that have animated her career from as long as I've known her."

Affordability

At Rutgers-Camden, Haddon expects to engage those issues head-on, she said. As state funding for colleges and universities has dropped, schools have been left scrambling for resources, in many cases raising tuition.

Haddon hopes to generate alternate revenue and find efficiencies to support a diverse student population, through scholarships and other means, she said.

"And so that means recruiting, that means making sure that we keep the programs affordable to the extent possible, it means rethinking how we deliver curricula, encouraging innovation, and it means fund-raising," she said.

Haddon also aims to scale back some of New Jersey's infamous brain drain - "We want to capture some of those people, we want to let them know there's quality education right here" - and to work with Rowan University and others.

And she wants to continue Rutgers-Camden's civic engagement mission. "All students should think about their relationship to the community and bring their expertise in this problem-solving," she said.

To pursue her goals, Haddon will likely seek help from the Rutgers-Camden community of more than 300 full-time faculty members, 6,500 students, and tens of thousands of alumni.

JoAnne Epps, dean of Temple's law school and Haddon's longtime colleague, said she believed Haddon would dive right in.

"She's going to have to understand the context to which she is moving. And that will probably be pretty easy for her, because that will require a lot of listening and watching. She's good at that," Epps said.

"She's very inclusive as a life creed, and I think it very much defines who she is," Epps said. "And I think it is a characteristic that has served her well over her career."


Views of a New Chancellor

University of Maryland law dean Phoebe Haddonwill take over Rutgers-Camden on July 1. Here are some of her thoughts . . .

 On responsibility:

"I bring people in to the discussion. I do it early, I listen, we engage in conversation. And ultimately, when you're the dean [or] you're the chancellor, the buck stops with you. I don't think it's appropriate to do it without hearing from other people.

 On the problems facing

public universities:

"Leaders have to consider how to do more with less. Whether there are other revenue-generating opportunities, how do you create access for students who aren't going to be able to pay their way?"

 On combating New Jersey's

"brain drain":

"I am really excited about the prospect of doing more to identify students in that area to come to Rutgers-Camden. It's interesting to me that, as many quality schools as there are in New Jersey, including Rutgers predominantly, many, many students go outside of New Jersey to get their undergraduate and graduate educations."

 On selecting Rutgers-Camden:

"The Rutgers-Camden community is of the size and quality that I thought would be a good place for me to make the next step. . . . But also to help define some of the future of higher education in terms of costs and opportunities. How we provide access to students of diverse backgrounds and incomes is going to be a critical problem going forward."


jlai@phillynews.com

856-779-3220 @elaijuh

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