Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Jersey Governor Proposes Merger of Thomas Edison State College and Rutgers University

The governor of New Jersey has apparently unilaterally proposed a merger of Thomas Edison State College into Rutgers University. The proposal was outlined as part of the governor's Fiscal 2011 "Budget in Brief." Thomas Edison serves 18,000 students, nearly all adult, pursuing continuing education with flexibly-designed courses. The President of Thomas Edison, George Pruitt, is vehemently opposed to the merger. Even Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick called the merger an "unsolicited proposal" that was "not his idea" and "not something he coveted or wanted."

Like the recent proposed Mississippi mergers, we have a governor on his own suggesting radical changes in the fabric of his state's higher education institutions. Again, this is the notion of having something being done "to" you, not "by" you. Universities are communities of people, all working towards and sharing in the common mission of the organization. Broad buy-in for a change such as a merger must take place. Otherwise, merger proponents face a steep uphill climb, with potential negative effects that can last for extended periods of time. Mergers are successful when they are initiated and supported from within the institutions, not the opposite.