Hear that crunching, crackling sound? Hear that shattering glass and smashing steel? That’s the sound of Rutgers/Camden being thrown under a bus by New Jersey politicians, and maybe by our own president and governing boards, in a proposal that would add a medical school to Rutgers New Brunswick at the expense of the Rutgers Camden campus, which would be taken over by the lesser-known Rowan University.
This proposal is a study in magical thinking. Rowan takes over, and magically Rutgers/Camden triples in size, creating a revitalization of Camden – no, not just a revitalization, a renaissance. I’m not making this up – these are the terms being thrown around, and so far not a word has been spoken about where the money would come from to make this happen and how, specifically, two very different institutions could possibly become one. This doesn’t surprise me, because politicians are known for engaging in magical thinking, or at least in magical speaking, as they spew forth vague, empty promises to get what they want. That’s how they get elected. Vague promises, catchy little sound bites – it’s all part of the game.
Politicians are also prone to “misspeaking” (a euphemism for “oops, I said what I really think”), as Gov. Christie did last week in his comments about the Civil Rights Movement, and as Romney did when he said that he “wasn’t worried about the very poor.” And, just to be fair, if I had a nickel for every time Joe Biden “misspoke,” I’d donate the money and have a university named after me. So, perhaps Christie misspoke when he justified the proposed takeover of the Rutgers Camden campus with his insulting statement that education in South Jersey is “good, not great,” although I’ve yet to hear an apology for that one.
The problem with magical thinking is that it ignores the facts. It’s time for a reality check. The fact is that South Jersey already has a top-level research institution in Rutgers/Camden. As a doctoral candidate in the only PhD program in Childhood Studies in North America, I’m proud to state that our Rutgers/Camden faculty is comprised of top scholars in the field who have drawn students from all over the world. I know that I’m only one student, but as a resident of PA I chose to pay the full, out-of-state tuition at Rutgers and to commute to Camden because I wanted the kind of rigorous education that I knew I’d receive at Rutgers. I’m proud to state that I have received a great, not good, education at Rutgers/Camden. The scholars that I have had the privilege of studying under came to this area to be a part of Rutgers, and I fear they will leave if our Rutgers identity is stolen from us. Rather than triple in size, the Camden campus will shrink without the Rutgers name to attract faculty and students.
What does this have to do with my usual topic of race? Probably nothing. I hope nothing. But if the takeover of the Rutgers/Camden campus becomes reality, the good work that Rutgers has done in the Camden community for decades will suffer. As one sign at a recent rally stated, “If Rutgers leaves, Camden bleeds.”
Perhaps the most astonishing bit of magical thinking by the proponents of the takeover is the idea that the thousands of students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni of Rutgers/Camden will acquiesce and meekly give up their Rutgers identity. Magical thinking has caused them to underestimate seriously our fierce attachment to our Rutgers identity and our ability to fight this plan with every legal means at our disposal.
So, hear that roaring, thundering sound? Hear those resolute voices and shouts? That’s the sound of Rutgers/Camden students, faculty and staff stating in no uncertain terms, WE ARE RUTGERS, and Rutgers we intend to stay.
For more info on the proposal check out the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/287404914653436/. Although this page consists of folks against the proposed takeover, many articles both pro and con have been posted there.
To join the fight against the takeover of Rutgers/Camden sign the petition at http://www.r2rmerge.com/