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Rutgers Board Plans to Fight Governance Change

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — At an emergency meeting Friday, Rutgers University’s board of trustees pledged to try to persuade lawmakers not to adopt a bill to shake up the university’s governance and suggested taking legal action if the bill does become law.

Rutgers New Brunswick campus
Rutgers New Brunswick campus (Rutgers)

Trustees president Dorothy Cantor called the bill under consideration by the Legislature a “power grab” that would give politicians greater control of the makeup of the flagship state university’s governing board.

The bill was introduced in March but did not get much attention until a newspaper article this week about it. In fact, Rutgers officials said they had not heard about it.

The measure would expand membership in the university’s powerful board of governors to 19 voting members from 15.

Currently, seven of them are appointed by the larger but less powerful board of trustees from its own members. The other eight are designated by the governor with consent of the state Senate.

The new plan is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, both Democrats. Under it, the governor would get two additional selections without needing the Senate’s approval. The Senate President and Assembly speaker would also be allowed to recommend a member each to the governor.

The upshot is that politicians would have a greater majority of appointments.

The university’s top lobbyist, Pete McDonough, said he’s been told the bill is to be amended to require all four new positions be filled by people with medical backgrounds and two of them would be Rutgers alumni.

That squares with a major shift in Rutgers. The university last year absorbed two medical schools as part of a reorganization of the state’s higher education structure, and it’s now focusing on trying to become a biomedical research powerhouse.

But Cantor said there are other ways to add people with medical expertise.

“I can’t help but wondering if there was sincerely a need for this there would have been four more,” she said, “two political appointees and two trustees.”

University officials say Rutgers’ chief lawyer is looking into whether the Legislature could legally change the board makeup without the trustees’ consent.

The Senate’s higher education committee is scheduled to consider the bill at a hearing on Monday.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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