Saying it took agreeing in principle up front, and hashing out the details later, state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge) joined other prominent Senate Democrats late Monday in introducing legislation aimed at solving the reorganization puzzle of higher education in New Jersey.
"I've been working on the issue for several months, and having discussions with the Senate president and others who are interested in this issue," Vitale said. "As chairman of the health committee, I felt involved from the health care perspective — which is medical education throughout the state to elevate that — and also University Hospital, and how we can make that an even better institution."
Vitale said he and Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) first agreed in principle that South Jersey "deserves and warrants a serious medical school and a serious academic institution"; that the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers and the proposed merging with several UMDNJ assets, including Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, were "a perfect match"; and that Essex County could be organized similarly to the New Brunswick plan.
"Of course the details were worked out over time, and they will continue to evolve," Vitale said. "The document that is before us is a very thorough template, but there is still discussion to be had in terms of governance and finance — but hopefully those issues, when cool, smart minds prevail, will work themselves out."
Vitale said it makes sense for both medical and higher education "to rationalize all the assets in a way that will promote outside resources to the state, but it also allows us to really bring together all the intellectual capacity we have in New Jersey for a single mission."