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Rutgers Boards Oppose Merger Plan, Oks Talks

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Rutgers University's two governing boards affirmed their intent to keep control of the Camden and Newark campuses, however, they leave open the possibility of a higher education restructuring deal with the Legislature.

The seemingly contradictory positions followed several hours of private and public discussions Wednesday on a plan to overhaul the state's university.

The joint session of the Board of Trustees, which is mostly advisory, and the more powerful Board of Governors was held Wednesday in New Brunswick. They met to consider Governor Chris Christie's proposal to reorganize the campuses in Camden, New Brunswick and Newark. He had proposed combining the Rutgers campus in Camden with Rowan University to create one major research institution that would attract grants and private donations.

Rutgers' two boards adopted a "Statement of Principles" that endorses some internal restructuring but doesn't cede control of the Camden or Newark campus. It left room for some collaboration with Rowan, but insisted that each institution "retain its independence and autonomy." They also said only they could legally make restructuring decisions, not the governor or lawmakers.

Legislation introduced this week splits the Camden campus from the Rutgers system, funds it separately and creates a joint governing board with Rowan University. It also folds the University of Medicine and Dentistry into Rutgers and gives the Newark campus more autonomy.

The trustees oppose the deal. And a faculty group from Rutgers-Camden has vocally opposed the merger.

The faculty, students and alumni at Rutgers-Camden want to retain the Rutgers name.

But that’s something Rowan University can’t give up.

“I’d rather that didn’t happen,” said Henry Rowan, 86, the founder of Inductotherm Industries, which he started in his garage and grew into the world’s largest maker of induction heating and melting equipment for both industrial and military uses.

Rowan gave $100 million to Glassboro State College – the largest single private gift to a university in U.S. history at the time – which changed its name in his honor after receiving the gift in 1992.