Response of the New Brunswick Faculty Council
to the Recommendations of the
Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training

The New Brunswick Faculty Council, representing the faculty of all units of Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Piscataway, enthusiastically supports efforts to strive for excellence in all aspects of higher education in the State of New Jersey. We therefore applaud Governor McGreevey and the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training for their vision of moving New Jersey public research universities into the top tier of state university systems.  We believe the Commission's proposed merger of Rutgers, UMDNJ and NJIT has the potential to be of great help in this quest for excellence, provided it is accompanied by a firm commitment to enhance all aspects of teaching, research and service, not just those related to health science, education and training, and provided that the necessary financial resources to accomplish this goal are identified and committed.  Without these commitments, the merger would represent a step backward for higher education in New Jersey.

    The Faculty Council has a number of concerns and questions regarding other aspects of the proposed system-wide restructuring, particularly the proposal to split the merged university into three separate institutions overseen by a Chancellor and Board of Regents.  Given these concerns, the lack of any cost estimates for the Commission's proposals, and the fact that the Commission did not assess the impact of its recommendations on non-health-related programs at Rutgers and NJIT, we believe it is premature to endorse the Commission's proposals in toto and to move on to implementation.  Instead, we urge that appropriate working groups of all the major stakeholders in New Jersey's research universities be established to work, with all deliberate speed, to assess the likely impact of the proposed restructuring on all current programs at Rutgers, UMDNJ, and NJIT, to evaluate the costs of implementing the proposals, and to identify a program of financial support required to reach the next level of excellence. Such information is critical for determining the extent to which the proposed restructuring is feasible and desirable, given current fiscal realities.

    Finally, we believe that current Rutgers faculty members, as major stakeholders and experts on higher education, must play a leading role on the bodies constituted to review the Commission's proposals and plan for implementation of whatever restructuring is ultimately endorsed.  Our concerns with regard to funding, the structure of the proposed new system, and the level of faculty involvement are outlined in somewhat more detail in the remainder of this response.
 

Funding

As the Commission noted, "Excellence in education begins with adequate funding."  New Jersey has, however, chronically underfunded its public research university.  To again use the Commission's words: "state support for Rutgers is at the low end of state universities, lags the Higher Education Price Index, and is a decreasing share of the state budget."  Therefore, in order for any restructuring of the research universities in New Jersey to be successful, the State must make a commitment to increase funding for each of the restructured institutions.  Funding levels must ensure:
 
1. Maintenance of at least current levels of excellence in teaching, research and service in existing programs.
2. Adequate support for any new organizational infrastructure needed while maintaining and improving necessary common resources used by all units of Rutgers, such as libraries and networking infrastructure.
3. Recovery from shortfalls in State support that have led to severe challenges to existing academic programs, serious overtaxing of support services and infrastructure, large amounts of deferred maintenance, and deterioration of many classrooms and other physical facilities.
4. Adequate support for efforts to enhance the quality of undergraduate education and to respond to the anticipated large increases in the number of college-age students between now and 2008.
5. Protection of other financial assets, including endowment and property holdings.
6. New support for any additional efforts that will be required to move New Jersey public research universities into the top tier of state academic institutions.

    In accord with the Commission, we cite other states with top-tier academic institutions, whose per student financial commitments to higher education far exceed those made by New Jersey, as evidence that the vision of excellence to which we all aspire cannot be achieved without substantially increased financial resources.
 

Structural Concerns

We have a number of concerns and questions regarding other aspects of the proposed restructuring of the New Jersey research universities.
 
1. We are concerned that the proposed new structure could leave the research universities considerably more vulnerable to political pressure than Rutgers is now.  The Board of Regents could all be political appointees and their choice of a Chancellor could be subject to inappropriate political considerations. To guard against this happening, we believe that the Board should be chosen according to past practice at Rutgers and should be composed of members who will be a strong voice for the importance of the University and university financing in New Jersey.
2. We are also concerned that three independent research universities, each with its own local advocates in the state legislature, could result in funding decisions based more on local rivalries than on academic excellence.
3. There are a number of Rutgers academic units and programs that currently operate on more than one campus, including the College of Nursing, the School of Social Work, and the Business School, Newark and New Brunswick.  In addition, there are many more collaborations between faculty and programs on different campuses than was realized by the Commission.  For example, the Bloustein School in New Brunswick and the Camden Law School offer a joint Master of Public Affairs and Politics (M.P.A.P.) /Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree program and a number of Camden faculty members are active members of New Brunswick graduate programs. It is not at all clear how these programs and interactions would fare under the proposed restructuring.
4. The Commission's report makes no reference whatsoever to the land-grant status of Rutgers or to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) or the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Program (RCE) and their direct institutional connections to Cook College.  Any restructuring of higher education in New Jersey must preserve and enhance the land-grant mission of Rutgers and the state-wide research and outreach programs of Cook, NJAES and RCE. 
5. Many elements of the infrastructure and support services at Rutgers are currently centralized, most notably the library system, computer and networking systems, the payroll system, and the registration system.  Duplicating these at Camden and Newark might well be prohibitively expensive.
6. While we acknowledge that there are reasonable arguments both for and against the proposed separation of Newark from New Brunswick, separating Camden from New Brunswick is more problematic.  Camden would be left as a small, isolated unit without doctoral programs or adequate academic infrastructure (e.g., library and networking support), while New Brunswick would be left with no institutional link to either a Law School or a Business School. It is very important for a major research university to have a Law School and a Business School, as well as a Medical School, to achieve the prominence to which we are all committed.
7. It is not clear whether New Jersey is large enough, geographically and demographically, to sustain multiple research universities on the level of California and Texas. Nor does there appear to be any compelling need for the creation of an additional administrative layer; i.e., the proposed Chancellor (and Vice-Chancellors) and Board of Regents. Other states with structures comparable to that proposed by the Commission have a greater number of research universities spread over a much wider geographical area.  The quest for excellence might be served better by using available state resources to enhance programs on each of the reorganized campuses.

     Given all these concerns, it appears that, at least from the New Brunswick perspective, it would be better to merge Rutgers, UMDNJ, and NJIT into a one-university, three-campus system with one president and three campus provosts, rather than into a three-university system with a chancellor and three presidents.  Regardless of the ultimate structure adopted, it is essential on both historical and practical grounds that the merged research university(ies) retain the name Rutgers.
 

Faculty Involvement

Faculty are major stakeholders in and experts on higher education and it is the quality of their research and teaching which primarily determines the reputation of a research university. Moreover, many Rutgers faculty have either been trained or held appointments at leading public universities and would be particularly valuable participants in any effort to add New Jersey public research universities to the top tier of state institutions of higher learning. Therefore, we believe that Rutgers faculty must play a leading role in the process of review and possible implementation of the Commission's proposals, a substantially larger role than is implied in the section of the Commission's report on implementing the vision.  More specifically, we make the following recommendations.
 
1. Faculty should play an integral role on the Issue Working Groups.  More specifically, since the New Brunswick Faculty Council is concerned with the issues before almost all of the proposed Issue Working Groups, we wish to nominate appropriate Faculty Council members to serve on all of the Issue Working Groups for academic issues and the relevant Issue Working Groups for operational issues.
2. Faculty should be well represented on both the Community Advisory and Academic Advisory Groups.
3. New Brunswick faculty should be well represented on the University Committee of Rutgers UniversityŚNew Brunswick.
4. Since the Commission focused primarily on health science education and training, the Academic Affairs Issue Working Group should reflect the broad range of educational matters that the proposed reorganization would impact. This working group should be expanded and subdivided into subgroups representing the Humanities, the Arts, the Social Sciences, the Biological and Health Sciences, the Physical and Agricultural Sciences, the Professional Schools, and extension and outreach programs.

   The New Brunswick Faculty Council is enthusiastically committed to the goal of the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training to move New Jersey public research universities into the top tier of such institutions. The concerns that we raise about funding, and about some aspects of the restructuring proposed by the Commission, reflect our strong commitment to achieving that goal.  We welcome the opportunity and are eager to join with all the other major stakeholders in public higher education in New Jersey to plan for the best way to achieve our common goal..