SWEENEY TESTIMONY BEFORE SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE

TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney delivered the following testimony today to the Senate Higher Education Committee regarding his legislation that would add four members to the Rutgers Board of Governors. The legislation is a fair and needed approach to ensure that the transformational changes occurring at the University continue to attract the leadership and attention it deserves:

“I am here to talk about S-1860, my bill to increase the number of voting members of the Rutgers Board of Governors from 15 to 19.

“I believe this goes to an important issue. I believe that this would improve the ability of the Board to effectively govern Rutgers at an important time in the schools history. This is important for Rutgers, important for the State of New Jersey and, most importantly, important to the students – those who are enrolled now and all the students who will be attending in the years ahead.

“But let’s keep this in perspective. Let’s do away with all the histrionics and focus on the facts. Let’s stay focused on what this bill will do, how it will do it and why it’s important.

“The historic restructuring of higher education in New Jersey is an important accomplishment. This restructuring had been tried many times in the past but never accomplished. In a bipartisan way and with broad-based support, the Legislature got it done.

“It will give Rutgers the ability and the opportunity to build on its record of academic excellence and become a world-class leader in higher education. It can make Rutgers and New Jersey a leader in research and development. It can attract research funds. It can lead to new jobs – high tech jobs – and it can be good for the state’s economy.

“While the restructuring plan is in place and the implementation is moving forward, it is important that it is done right. It is important that the follow through is effective. There is a lot at stake.

“Rutgers has a budget of approximately $3.6 billion. It has a student body of close to 65,000. And, it’s the state university of New Jersey.

“With the restructuring, 40 percent of the University is new, including the merger of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, The School of Public Health, New Jersey Medical School, New Jersey Dental School, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Nursing and University Behavioral Health Care.

“This is why the Board of Governors must include members with medical experience. Right now, no one on the Board has medical expertise.

“The legislation will require that all four new members have professional medical experience. Two would have to be Rutgers alumni. With the rapid advances in science and medicine it is critical that this experience becomes part of the school’s management. It is important that the medical schools and the programs in life sciences are managed effectively and that we take advantage of the great opportunities they provide.

“Of course, modernizing and improving the governance of Rutgers is important for the entire university. The series of scandals at Rutgers were not just embarrassing, they were damaging to the school’s reputation and to its ability to pursue academic excellence.

“The status quo is not acceptable.

“Rutgers’ history is a source of pride, but we can’t rely on an 18th Century organizational model to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Enhancing the Board of Governors will modernize and improve governance of the university.

“In fact, a number of respected universities with medical schools have governing boards with more than 19 voting members, including the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University, both with 36 members, the University of North Carolina and Penn State University, both with 32 members, the University of California, with 25 members, and the University of Massachusetts, with 19 members.

“Increasing the membership of the Board of Governors will help Rutgers to continue to be an elite school that can compete with the best universities in the country.

“Thank you for your support on this bill.” 

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.