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Building a Better Rutgers

As Robert L. Barchi assumes the presidency, integrating most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers could vault the university into the top tier of research universities.

Robert L. Barchi begins his tenure as the 20th president of Rutgers at a time when the university is poised to become a topflight research university. During the summer, after months of protracted negotiation, the New Jersey legislature voted in favor of the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed into law in late August. The Rutgers Board of Governors and Board of Trustees are evaluating details of the law, which, upon their approval, will take effect July 1, 2013. (As required by the Rutgers Act of 1956, the legislation needs the approval of both boards, which are currently resolving any outstanding issues as part of their fiduciary responsibilities.)

The act paves the way for the integration of most of the units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) into Rutgers, and they include the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey Medical School, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Jersey Dental School, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Health Related Professions, School of Nursing, School of Public Health, and University Behavioral HealthCare.

These entities, as the legislation stipulates, will be part of a new school of biomedical and health sciences, which will have elements on both the New Brunswick and Newark campuses. The new school—run by a chancellor who reports to the president and who will oversee the effort to advance biomedical research and medical education—will also include existing units from Rutgers, among them the College of Nursing and the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.

The restructuring will leverage Rutgers’ biomedical research strengths with academic medical schools to form a major academic and health sciences university. The integration will lead to synergies not only within the sciences, but also across disciplines, from the arts to law to social science and public policy.

The Camden Campus—which had been under consideration to merge with Rowan University before the proposal was jettisoned because of sustained and widespread opposition from the Rutgers community—will remain part of Rutgers and collaborate with Rowan in programs in the health sciences. In addition to energizing all three regional campuses, a reconfigured Rutgers will bring even more benefit to the state of New Jersey and society.

A bond issue on the November 6 ballot will give voters the chance to support a $750 million bond to fund capital improvements on the campuses of New Jersey’s colleges and universities. It’s the first higher education bond issue put before state voters since 1988.