Rutgers: Easiest way to accomplish merger would be through boards' set of principles
The chairman of Rutgers University's board of governors said the easiest way to accomplish a realignment of the state university with Rowan University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey would be to follow the set of principles approved Wednesday by Rutgers' leadership boards.
"This would be the path of least resistance, through the boards," said Ralph Izzo, also president and CEO of PSEG. "The path of least resistance would be to follow these principles."
If that path can't be followed, then a discussion needs to occur to determine if the principles are acceptable, Izzo said.
The principles approved Wednesday — unanimously, with one abstention — affirmed that the boards of governors and trustees will work to establish a collaborative agreement with Rowan University, as long as Rutgers-Camden maintains its autonomous status and any collaborative "mechanisms" are approved by both universities and the governing boards of Rutgers. The principles also included an agreement to merge with UMDNJ, as long as the state provides adequate funding for integration and any deficits incurred during the reorganization.
"I think that both boards are trying real hard to find common ground, and we realize the magnitude of the opportunity — as it relates to the medical school — but don't want to create a structure where the Rutgers brand is not governed by Rutgers oversight," Izzo said.
The Rutgers boards also agreed to establish a committee to negotiate with the Legislature on a restructuring plan for higher education. The committee is expected to be formed this afternoon.
A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie released a statement Wednesday evening saying the governor's office was encouraged that Rutgers' boards "have established a joint committee, and are ready to engage in this reorganization of higher education in New Jersey. We look forward to bringing these discussions to a successful conclusion by June 30."
Asked about that June 30 deadline, Izzo said, "We got that message loud and clear. That's our hope as well."
Not a slap in the face
Hours after the joint session of the Rutgers boards, a group of key Assembly Democrats announced they would introduce legislation today that matches the bill proposed by Senate Democrats on Monday. The Senate bill would make sweeping changes, including a new governance structure for Rutgers-Camden that would seem to violate the set of principles approved by the Rutgers boards Wednesday.
Asked if the Assembly Democrats' action Wednesday was a slap in the face to the Rutgers boards, Izzo said he "didn't take it that way."
"I think that is part of the legislative process," Izzo said. "That's the vehicle, and now we need to talk about the vehicle."
The Rutgers board of trustees had planned to issue a "set of principles" last week, but abruptly canceled their meeting because of a desire to get both governing boards on the same page, a Rutgers source said last week. The source cited the fact that Izzo was out of town last week as a reason for the delay in creating and issuing a joint statement by the two Rutgers boards.
However, Izzo did not attend Wednesday's joint meeting of the Rutgers boards, instead calling in by phone. Izzo said he couldn't come to New Brunswick because he was at PSEG's office in Newark attending a series of internal meetings to prepare for the company's annual board of directors strategy meeting.
"Nothing sinister here at all," Izzo said. "Remember, yesterday was a last-minute governors add-on" meeting. A press release about Wednesday's meeting was sent to the media at 5 p.m. Monday.