From the beginning, the biggest problem with the reorganization of New Jersey’s universities — one of those mystifying legislative priorities that makes you wonder
who’s really pulling the strings in Trenton — has been the continued failure by those scrambling behind the scenes to make a deal to include the perspective of the universities in their scheming.
So last week, we really weren’t surprised to see, hours after Rutgers’ governing boards voted to create a commission to negotiate with the Legislature on the issue, Assembly Democrats basically give the board of governors the finger by announcing plans to introduce a bill identical to one the Senate introduced earlier in the week.
If the power brokers pushing for a realignment had done their homework, so to speak, they probably would have realized how unpopular that was going to be, particularly with alumni of the affected campuses. Let’s be clear: a medical school would be a great asset to Rutgers, and years of public black eyes have left UMDNJ in need of a takeover.
Why that involves nuking the rest of the landscape is where we get a little tepid in oursupport of this. Where the plan really goes pear-shaped is the part where, months after this has been a front-and-center — of, if you prefer, cloak-and-dagger — discussion, the public still has no idea what the cost will amount to.
Rutgers took some heat for meekly affirming its principles, rather than drawing a line in the sand and telling the state to back off. But Rutgers can see the writing on the wall, and it’s picking its battles accordingly. We respect that the theme from the school has been one of compromise, or at least trying to open a dialogue. The state claims it doesn’t need the trustees’ approval, and feels confident it can ram this through the Legislature or courts, if needed. It would be a mistake, however, for politicians to take that attitude before the court of public opinion. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail here.