Report of the New Brunswick Faculty Council Budget and
Planning Committee on Eliminating Barriers to Collaboration
Between Rutgers and UMDNJ in New Brunswick and Piscataway

In discussions surrounding the proposed restructuring of New Jersey's public research universities, Rutgers, UMDNJ, and NJIT learned much about ways they can work together more effectively, as well as challenges that currently make collaboration and cooperation often more difficult than may be necessary.  Many of the insights and the cross-institutional relationships created in those discussions transcend the specifics of the proposed restructuring.  It is important that the unprecedented forward progress made during the discussions not be squandered even though restructuring proved not to be feasible at the present time.

    As part of the restructuring discussions, the Administrative Disparities Subcommittee of the University Committee - Central prepared a comprehensive report identifying a wide range of challenges that have made and make collaboration between Rutgers in New Brunswick and Piscataway (RUNB) and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) cumbersome and sometimes impractical.  A subsequent report from Newark acknowledged that many of the disparities identified are not unique to New Brunswick and Piscataway (NBP) and asked that any resolutions to such challenges for NBP be conveyed to Newark so similar improvements might be achieved for the Newark campuses of the three institutions.

    The Budget and Planning Committee applauds the outstanding work of the Administrative Disparities Subcommittee and energetically and enthusiastically recommends that the Rutgers administration move forward on the recommendations of the Administrative Disparities Report.  In particular, we have four specific recommendations outlined below.

Recommendation 1: The Rutgers administration in New Brunswick and Piscataway should work with the administration of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to re-establish the Administrative Disparities Subcommittee as a Task Force; the main charge to this Task Force should be to develop implementable ways to eliminate barriers to collaborative efforts in research and graduate and postdoctoral education between the two institutions and improve support and administrative services for all members of both institutions.
    Over the months of its work the Administrative Disparities Subcommittee created a collective, comprehensive view of the challenges facing the two institutions, as well as extremely cordial and constructive relationships among a range of personnel at the two institutions that is unprecedented and should not be lost.  The proposed Task Force would provide an immensely valuable resource for cogent counsel to both administrations, and leadership and coordination of the efforts of any focused committees to move forward on specific issues initially recommended by the Subcommittee, directed by people most directly impacted by these efforts.  Particularly crucial to the success of the Subcommittee was the participation of representatives of a broad range of faculty from departments and centers at both institutions, including both research and clinical faculty.  The comprehensiveness of the Subcommittee's report also makes it in an extremely well-positioned starting point for structuring the efforts of the two institutions via the Task Force.

    The Subcommittee's report recommended the creation of four committees, one on graduate program disparities, one on postdoctoral appointments, one on research, and one on infrastructure.  To streamline movement forward on the Subcommittee's recommendations, and to focus on those that pertain to collaboration and cooperation (as opposed to those that were more relevant to restructuring), we recommend combining the four proposed committees into three: one dealing with graduate students and postdocs, one dealing with research, and one dealing with information technology. These committees would serve as subcommittees of the proposed Task Force.

Recommendation 2: The Rutgers administration in New Brunswick and Piscataway should work with the administration of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to create a jointly staffed committee comprised primarily of faculty members from both RUNB and RWJMS that will focus on disparities in the training and support of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. This committee should report to the proposed Task Force and its Chair should be a member of the Task Force.
    This committee should be comprised of members of the Graduate and Professional Educational Policy Committee of the New Brunswick Faculty Council, members of the RWJMS Research Committee, members of the Graduate Faculty – New Brunswick from both RUNB and RWJMS, administrative staff from the Graduate School – New Brunswick, and other faculty, administrators, students, and postdoctoral appointees from both institutions, including members who can effectively address the economics of various options and propose financially feasible solutions, as well as administrators knowledgeable about the human resources aspects of graduate student and postdoctoral appointments.

    The committee should identify the differences that exist in student resources and support services between the institutions and define steps that will enhance student services and resources.  It should also review the policies governing postdoctoral appointees of each institution and develop more uniform procedures that will advance the goals of joint academic and research programs.  Much more detailed recommendations for topics to be studied by this committee can be found in the Administrative Disparities report.  However, the key issue that must be addressed above all else is the significant difference in resources and support services for students in joint programs across the institutions -- the ultimate goal should be complete equality in the treatment of students in joint programs regardless of the institution in which they are enrolled.

    Our recommendation to combine the proposed committees on graduate students and on postdoctoral fellows is based in part on the belief that some of the procedures developed for improved support and training of graduate students may be helpful for postdoctoral appointments as well. Moreover, progress on simplifying joint postdoctoral appointments may have longer-term significance in providing insights on how to facilitate joint faculty appointments as well.

Recommendation 3: The Rutgers administration in New Brunswick and Piscataway should work with the administration of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to create a jointly staffed committee comprised primarily of faculty members from both RUNB and RWJMS that will focus on procedures governing research administration, infrastructure, and administrative services to advance joint research initiatives, research collaboration, the objectives of joint centers and institutes, and more effective support of teaching, research, and service. This committee should report to the proposed Task Force and its Chair should be a member of the Task Force.
    This committee should be comprised of members of the Research Committee of the New Brunswick Faculty Council, members of the RWJMS Research Committee, and other faculty and administrative staff of both institutions involved in the establishment, conduct, and support of large-scale research efforts.  This might include directors of joint centers, PIs of large grants not affiliated with centers, business managers/departmental administrators from centers and large departments, and key administrative staff in the institutions' sponsored programs offices. When, necessary, the committee should be able to call upon personnel from such services as parking, computer services, physical plant, telecommunications, human resources, legal services, and purchasing, and those with knowledge about the various financial aspects of options being considered.  Here, too, many detailed matters to be studied by this committee can be found in the Administrative Disparities report.  However, a key goal must be the establishment of a joint IRB process that requires only one review for joint projects. Parking is also a major challenge that is a barrier to collaboration, and we urge the committee to confront this challenge despite the long-standing difficulties that have made it an issue that is repeatedly deferred by both administrations.
Recommendation 4: The Rutgers administration in New Brunswick and Piscataway should work with the administration of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to create a jointly staffed committee comprised primarily of faculty members from both RUNB and RWJMS that would focus on information technology matters, especially as concerns disparities between the two institutions that provide barriers to research and academic collaboration. This committee should report to the proposed Task Force and its Chair should be a member of the Task Force.
    The Administrative Disparities Subcommittee found that there are major disparities in institutional investments in information technology between RUNB and RWJMS and these present serious challenges to joint research and academic programs.  For example, despite extremely laudable cooperation between the libraries of the two institutions, some collaborative efforts are severely impeded due to disparities and incompatibilities in available technology.  The proposed committee would develop strategies to lessen the negative effects of existing disparities on joint programs and collaborative research projects and suggest ways that communication between the two institutions could be enhanced without major additional investment. Equally important, it would provide guidance on ways in which further investments in information technology could be made in a manner that most effectively facilitates collaboration.  The committee might, for example, provide recommendations for ways in which small investments would have large payoffs in helping the institutions work together more effectively.

    The committee should be comprised of members of the Research Committee of the New Brunswick Faculty Council, members of the RWJMS Research Committee, representatives of the libraries, computer services and telecommunication services of both institutions, and a number of faculty, postdoctoral, student, and staff users of these services.
 

Additional Comment

One concern we have heard expressed is that moving forward on these recommendations could cause difficulties for colleagues at RWJMS.  Our discussions with administrative leaders at RWJMS suggest that they, too, are eager to move forward in cooperation with RUNB on these matters.  The RWJMS research committee, the only elected faculty governance body at RWJMS, is eager to move forward collaboratively with RUNB in the manners recommended here.  Further, the Rutgers University Graduate School - New Brunswick counts many professors from RWJMS among its faculty, and is another body prepared to move forward on these recommendations.  We urge the Rutgers administration to harness the constructive energies found in the New Brunswick Faculty Council, the RWJMS Research Committee, the Rutgers University Graduate School – New Brunswick, and the members of the Administrative Disparities Subcommittee of the University Committee - Central to work on making collaboration between the two institutions in New Brunswick and Piscataway as transparent and effective as we are all in agreement should be possible.
 

Martha Cotter, Co-Chair
Haym Hirsh
Fred Kauffman, Co-Chair
Paul Leath
Jim Miller
Dan O’Connor
Paul Panayotatos
Ted Szatrowski