“We are Rutgers!”
Those were the words that could be heard across the Rutgers-Camden campus on Thursday as students, faculty and alumni rallied in support of their school.
They were protesting a new proposal from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie wants to merge the school with Rowan University as part of a bigger plan to overhaul the state’s higher education system.
Rowan University in Glassboro would be elevated to a major research university under the plan to give it control of the Rutgers campus in Camden, which also houses a law school and business school.
“If this campus merges with another institution, both identities will be destroyed,” said one student during the rally.
Many opponents of the plan argue that the Rutgers name is more powerful than Rowan on a national and international level. They fear the merger would create less educational opportunities for students in South Jersey.
“The reason why I chose Rutgers is because it has an international reputation as a research institution,” said one student.
“We feel that we have the right to have more than one school to choose from here in South Jersey,” said Dionne Fields.
Students also argued that having to move to a new location would be a huge inconvenience for them.
“If everything switches, I’d have to drive to Glassboro,” said one student. “That’s not what I want. That’s not why I came here.”
“Rutgers-Camden exists for people like me,” said Clara Green. “I don’t have the choice to go up to New Brunswick. But I still want to go to Rutgers.”
More than 700 students, faculty and staff attended a forum on Thursday in reaction to the proposal.
“We need to tell the governor that this isn’t what we want and he needs to keep his hands out of higher education and leave it!” said one attendee. “Leave it to the teachers, the educators and the students to decide the steps that we take.”
“I don’t care what anyone in Trenton says, I don’t care what Chris Christie says, this is a great University,” said one student. “Great, not good.”
Wendell Pritchett, the school’s Chancellor, also denounced the plan while speaking during the forum.
“I’m opposed to the takeover of my campus,” said Pritchett. “There’s no reason to remove Rutgers from Camden, from South Jersey.”
Hearings on the proposal are set to take place at the New Jersey state house on Monday. New Jersey state lawmakers plan to begin taking opinions on the issue. Students, alumni and faculty from Rutgers-Camden plan on traveling to the statehouse to make sure their voices are heard.