Rutgers-Rowan: The fix is in

“The fix was in long before the merger was ever presented to the public.” That’s according to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who was commenting on the proposed takeover of Rutgers-Camden by Rowan University, after reading a consultant’s report about how to handle the anticipated backlash from the merger.

This is part of a series of commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

“The fix was in long before the merger was ever presented to the public.”

That’s according to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who was commenting on the proposed takeover of Rutgers-Camden by Rowan University, after reading a consultant’s report about how to handle the anticipated backlash from the merger.

The rhetoric has been harsh about the takeover, but it has reached a fever pitch after a report, commissioned by Rowan University months before Governor Christie announced his proposal, was made public last week.

The report, “Establishing the New Rowan University,” seems less like due diligence and more like a conquest strategy, nearly focusing in its entirety on presenting plans to convince the public this takeover is good for South Jersey without revealing any financial details. 

In one part, the consultant’s report urges supporters to “spend as little time as possible explaining how and why the protests have missed the point.”

Instead, it suggests that proponents of the takeover (Christie, Norcorss, et al.) “should spend the great majority of their time describing the opportunities (a merger) makes possible.”

According to Adam Scales, a professor at Rutgers Law School in Camden, the plan amounts to a “hostile takeover.” He told The Record the report “focuses significant attention on how to ‘sell’ this half-baked proposal to the public, and cram it down the throat of Rutgers-Camden.”

So we can count on Christie to use the opportunity to sell the public on the merits and long-term benefits to South Jersey, right? Maybe bizarro Christie in the mirror universe would have chosen that tactic, but our loudmouth governor chose to use the opportunity to call out Lautenberg as a “political hack” who should retire, simply for seeking more details about the merger. Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, piled on, calling Lautenberg’s request “more bitter nonsense.”

Is it really that wrong to want to seek some details about a complete overhaul of South Jersey’s higher education system? This will effect thousands of students, teachers and faculty, and some of the questions, such as how will the takeover effect tuition rates, seem too important to be glossed over by bullying platitudes that simply seem to say, “we got this.”

“The people of South Jersey don’t want propaganda and marketing,” Lautenberg said. “They want substantive answers to their questions about the merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Residents of South Jersey deserve answers to some very simple and serious questions the takeover creates. They also don’t deserve to be treated like petulant children just because they don’t kiss the feet of a man who thinks those that disagree with him are idiots.

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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