Rowan University releases blueprint for Rutgers merger

Rowan University on Thursday released a blueprint for its proposed merger with Rutgers-Camden. Rowan administrators are calling for increased collaboration in mapping out the two schools’ futures together, but Rutgers Camden is still protesting the consolidation.

The plan outlines that the two campuses — Rowan-Camden and Rowan-Glassboro — would be largely distinct, and would retain their own traditions and identities.

Students would apply separately; for the first several years, each school’s current curriculum would remain in place. The initial change for students and faculty, according to Rowan interim president Ali Houshmand, would be minimal.

Houshmand said combining the schools would allow them to add more academic programs, as well as expanding the combined enrollment from 20,000 students to 25,000 students in about five years.

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“Putting them together will enable us to start embarking on making brand-new degree programs, specifically professional degree programs that are so desperately needed,” Houshmand said. “Biomedical engineering, pharmacy, nursing, public health.”

Schools’ communication limited

The report, originally meant as an internal planning document, was prepared in advance of a meeting with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. It does not include input from Rutgers-Camden, which Houshmand blames on the school’s unwillingness to talk about the merger.

“We have been willing and have made every effort to speak with our colleagues but, unfortunately, to no avail,” Houshmand said. “Instead, unfortunately, a number of people have been engaged in throwing a lot of mud at Rowan, insulting this institution, and it’s hurtful.”

Rutgers-Camden chancellor Wendell Pritchett said they are communicating, just not in making plans for a merger.

“We have lots of conversations with Rowan all the time. We manage a bookstore together, the Rowan-Camden students are in our library,” Pritchett said. “We haven’t had conversations about a merger because, one, the campus is opposed to it and, two, my bosses haven’t directed me to have any conversations.”

Dan Cook, a Rutgers-Camden faculty member who has been outspoken against the merger, said the plan provided few new details, but solidified some of his existing concerns.

“We can’t even talk about this as a merger, many of us here are talking about it as a takeover, and this document clearly shows that there is nothing that is going to be merged, it’s going to be subsumed,” Cook said.

Students and faculty at Rutgers-Camden have formed a nonprofit to oppose the merger. Signs protesting a “takeover” dot the campus.

Rowan students low key

But at Rowan, the merger seems to have caused much less of a splash among students.

“We got an email discussing everything that was going on with the merger,” said senior English and education major Charlie Defranco. “I’ve heard here and there about it, (but) I wouldn’t say it’s a highly discussed topic.”

Under the plan, students entering the Camden campus in the fall of 2013 would be the first to graduate with a Rowan degree.

The Rowan blueprint assumes Christie would merge the two campuses through executive order, but some argue the campuses can’t combine without approval from the state Legislature.

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