At Rowan, an early acceptance of merger plan?

Two months before Gov. Christie stunned South Jersey by proposing the merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan universities, Rowan’s top official described some of its key aspects to student leaders.

Interim President Ali A. Houshmand told the Student Government Association that the “Rowan University name will remain the same” and “Glassboro…will become the main campus,” according to minutes of a November 21, 2011 meeting posted on Rowan’s website.

But it wasn't until December 1 that Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Wendell Pritchett appeared before the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Advisory Committee, also known as the Barer Committee. It recommended the merger as part of a statewide higher education reorganization plan, dated  January 25, 2012 -- the day of Christie's announcement.

Says one Rutgers-Camden professor, "how is that Houshmand was apparently consulted or briefed on the Commission's ultimate conclusions, but much of Rutgers-Camden leadership was not?  And, how did the commission know it would reach this conclusion?"

Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona says conversations about a potential merger were under way for months prior to actual testimony before the committee.

He also notes that the Rowan name has long been of particular concern: Two decades ago, an unprecedented $100 million gift from industrialist Henry Rowan enabled what was then Glassboro State College to transform itself into a rising university with a respected engineering school.

"What Dr. Houshmand said to the Student Government had to do with how we saw it happening as (the proposal) developed," Cardona says.