The Rutgers Board of Governors got a big, passionate reception Wednesday at the Camden campus. Outside, more than 100 students rallied against the proposed merger with Rowan University. Inside, more than 40 individuals testified about what the merger would mean to them.
Students, faculty and community members, many decked out in Rutgers red, spoke out against folding the Camden campus into Rowan University.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, pleaded with the crowd to keep an open mind.
“It would be horrible to kill an idea that you don’t know what it is,” said Sweeney, as the crowd yelled and booed.
Sweeney pointed out that the proposal is far bigger than the Rowan Rutgers Camden merger; it will impact much of higher education in New Jersey.
A long line of speakers argued that changing names would mean a loss of academic prestige and excellence for students coming to Camden.
Rutgers Camden religion professor John Wall argued that, even though Rutgers stands to gain some in the proposal to restructure New Jersey’s higher education, the losses would be greater:
“Rutgers would be divesting itself of its foothold in the South of New Jersey including thousands of former students and alumni and millions of dollars in revenue,” said Wall. “The board and president McCormick would be remembered 20 years from now, less for gaining a medical school in the North, and more for unnecessarily ceding the fastest-growing third of the state.”
Rutgers marketing professor Julie Ruth consulted her own recent research on brand identity to discuss how Rutgers might be affected in the long term.
“If Rutgers severs Rutgers Camden from Rutgers, Rutgers will be perceived as breaking relationships, but not just relationships but betraying members of its own family,” she said.
Ruth warned that the Rutgers brand would be tarnished, affecting the university’s ability to attract students, faculty and funding.
Board members and university president Richard McCormick assured students that those enrolled now, and those enrolling in this academic year, would graduate with a degree from Rutgers.