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Rutgers–Newark Law School Alumni Association Opposes Proposed Merger of Rutgers–Camden with Rowan University

May 17, 2012 – 

Following is the text of the letter sent to the Rutgers University Board of Governors by the Board of Trustees of the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Alumni Association expressing opposition to the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University.

May 17, 2012

Members of the Board of Governors
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Winants Hall
7 College Avenue
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901

Dear Dr. Izzo and Members of the Board of Governors:

The Board of the Rutgers School of Law-Newark Alumni Association stands together with our sister institution, the Rutgers School of Law-Camden, in opposing the proposed merger of Rowan University and the Rutgers Camden Campus. We have followed closely the status of that proposed merger. We have also read the statements of various proponents and opponents and reviewed the written positions of various Rutgers constituents, including those of the Rutgers Board of Trustees and the Newark law school’s faculty.

We note, as a threshold matter, our concerns about the process that led to the merger proposal. The original proposal was put forth by a committee who studied the restructuring of medical education in New Jersey. Its charter was not to suggest any restructuring of Rutgers University or to suggest potential severance of any part of Rutgers. It took no input on these topics from the public or the various interested Rutgers constituencies. The proposal for transferring the Camden campus from Rutgers to Rowan appears to have been inserted perhaps by people who may believe the idea is worthy, but who – due to the methodology used to create the proposal – failed to see the fundamental flaws in it and certainly did not attempt to reach any consensus. This approach seems to be continuing given the reports of “behind the scenes” discussions regarding alternative formulations for the merger. These secret discussions are unworthy of the University and the State and are bound to lead to further backlash and lack of consensus. We read this week of a “compromise” being discussed of a “combined institution” for a “Rowan – Rutgers University.” Again, this possible proposal has not been reviewed by the Rutgers constituency – the students or faculty – or the public at large. To put it bluntly, the structure of Rutgers should not be decided behind closed doors by a small group that represents neither the University as a whole nor the public it serves.

Moreover, we have serious concerns about the potential costs of the proposed merger. Neither the economic consequences of the original merger proposal nor the potential costs of some yet-to-be-announced “compromise” have received any public examination. And, based upon the statements we have read, there has not been an adequate analysis of possible financial consequences by any party. The current proposal – and presumably any future proposal – will have very significant economic consequences to Rutgers, Rowan and the State of New Jersey. Those economic consequences must be known and analyzed.

Finally, the proposal, if accepted, will have very negative educational consequences. We focus in this regard on the Rutgers School of Law-Camden, with which we are most familiar. The consequences of the proposal itself have been harmful – for example, we understand that the applications to the Camden law school are down over 30% (more than twice the national average) and the number of students admitted and planning to attend is down 50% from last year. Faculty members who have signed on to teach at the Camden law school, with the prestige that attaches to this University, feel betrayed and disaffected – and new faculty members are very hard to recruit. Further as reflected in the February 14th statement of our law school’s faculty, (i) opportunities for cooperation between the Rutgers School of Law-Newark and the Rutgers Camden Law School are diminished and (ii) limited State resources for legal education would have to be increased by virtue of any transfer of Rutgers Camden to Rowan – an extremely unlikely prospect given the State’s financial situation. Indeed a very open question is whether the Rutgers Camden Law School will be able to maintain its accreditation, since accreditation is non-transferrable and the ABA may well take a dim view of a forced transference of a law school to an entirely different institution. This issue has not been addressed at all.

In short we urge the rejection of the proposal to merge Rutgers Camden with Rowan. Further, should any proposal emerge from the closed discussions referred to earlier in this letter, we urge that such proposal be subject to open discussion by the affected constituencies, rather than emerge as a fait accompli. Otherwise, the consequences will not be fully analyzed or understood and the disaffection which is obvious to all will continue and possibly even become worse. Lastly, we note that sufficient time needs to be allowed for analysis of any compromise proposal and, accordingly, the July 1st purported “deadline” is not workable and should be eliminated.

Respectfully submitted,

The Board of Trustees of The Rutgers
School Of Law–Newark Alumni Association

cc: Rutgers University Board of Trustees