Let the public vote on a Rowan-Rutgers merger

As a champion of holding a referendum on gay marriage, Chris Christie also ought to give New Jerseyans a chance to vote on his shotgun wedding proposal for Rutgers-Camden and Rowan universities.

The latter is easily the most contentious element of the governor’s admirably ambitious plan to reorganize/revolutionize higher education statewide, largely by dismantling the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, aka, the college that helped make then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie a star (he famously sent UMDNJ no-show job holder and state Senator Wayne Bryant to the slammer).

Under Christie’s long-awaited, yet-to-be-publicly-debated proposal, most of UMDNJ’s assets would be divvied up between Rutgers’ New Brunswick and Newark campuses. Rowan would absorb the Rutgers campus in Camden, where the rising, Glassboro-based teachers’ college-turned-university will open a medical school with Cooper University Hospital later this year.

Key goals, the governor says, include getting rid of the “patronage pit” of UMDNJ; providing Rutgers-New Brunswick with a medical school; and creating a first-class research university in South Jersey.

“Let there be no doubt about it, this change is going to happen,” he declared.

“It’s going to happen because it’s what’s right for New Jersey."

Christie, who’s nothing if not sure of himself, may be right.

Then again, maybe not, according to unionized faculty members and others at Rutgers.

“(We) agree with the goal of a great research university in South Jersey, but collaboration or consortium is better than a merger,” the Rutgers AAUP-AFT said in a statement, adding, “the loss of the Rutgers brand name for South Jersey, and the costs of the merger, would do more harm than good.”

Others on campus are unhappy with the idea; critics are assailing the merger as more about politics than pedagogy; and there’s also an online petition drive against the move.

Seems the issue is pretty contentious, just like marriage equality, which the governor now says should be settled via a referendum.

“I think this is not an issue that should rest solely in my hands, or the hands of the Senate President or the Speaker or the other 118 members of the Legislature,” Christie said Tuesday.

"Let’s let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state.”