New Brunswick Portion of Rutgers University Strategic Plan Delayed

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—After receiving much criticism for his proposed strategic plan, Rutgers University President Robert Barchi's administration announced today that a deadline for completing a similar plan specifically devoted to the New Brunswick campus will be pushed back from June 1 to September 1.

"We will use the additional time to include material from the individual school plans, as appropriate," wrote  Chancellor Dick Edwards in an email to the Rutgers-New Brunswick community, adding they had received 130 proposals for inclusion in the plan.

"In the coming weeks, we will provide more information regarding funding some of the priority proposals," Edwards said.

The submitted proposals are available online at nbstratplan.rutgers.edu, the same website where the Edwards said the school will be posting a draft of the New Brunswick plan "within the next few weeks."

Strategic planning has been in the works since Barchi's arrival on campus in the Fall of 2012.  He hired Boston Consulting Group to create the overarching 68-page plan published in February.

That document was a broad-based, five-year plan meant to cover all three campuses – New Brunswick, Newark and Camden – and the newly formed Rutgers Biomedical and Health program.

It focused on how the administration intends to improve Rutgers, setting goals for development and enhancement based on its strengths and weaknesses, and called for the three main campuses to use the current plan to develop their own local strategic plans.

But, in the overarching plan, there is no mention of how Rutgers intends to benefit the New Brunswick community.

According to Barry Batorsky of the English Department, “Most of the community service in the report is directed at Health Services, and the University’s interest there is with the health industry rather than with specifics about what particular benefits will come to the community.”

The administration maintains they will actively seek input from all sects of the Rutgers community, including the New Brunswick Faculty Council, the Rutgers University Student Assembly and other student government groups, the Deans Council, and the Academic Leadership Program.

After its release in February, the strategic plan quickly came under fire by faculty and students who claim there was not effective representation of either group when the final plan was drafted.

In the introduction, Barchi wrote, “This document, the product of an intensive 18-month planning process, reflects the efforts and input from members of the entire University community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of our governing boards, and friends of the University.”

However, many professors and faculty members disagreed, arguing that although their input was taken, they were never fully included in the process of designing the plan.

“I would consider this document to be a draft,” said David Hughes, Professor and Undergraduate Director of the Anthropology Department.

“The document hasn’t been ratified by anybody, hasn’t been taken back to any of the constituencies that contributed to producing it.”

Students too have questioned the legitimacy of the plan.

“I think it's intentionally vague in a lot of areas, and gives the administration a lot of leeway in how they can implement it,” said first-year student Alex Uematsu.

As an example, Uematsu said that the strategic plan frequently references the University’s commitment to shared governance, without ever explaining what they mean by it.

Currently students at Rutgers have representation on the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees, but have no voting power.

“We as students have to watch what they do very carefully, and make sure that our interests are strongly represented as the strategic plan is carried out.”

Another major point where the plan is vague is on how the University intends to fund the projects it sets out.

According to Robert Puhak, a Math Professor at Rutgers-Newark, “a concern that should be for everybody is… what kind of finances will be needed to carry out these goals? And how will that effect competing interests within the University?”

Although it discusses strengthening the University’s internal resources to make them more profitable, the plan is vague on what external funding sources Rutgers will pursue.

“I think students, faculty, and administrators should be pushing for more state aid to keep costs off students,” said Newark student Edwin Rodriguez.

“Rutgers is a state school and as a state school, most of the budget should come from the state.”

One of the reasons that members of the Rutgers community outside the New Brunswick campus are so concerned with the plan is that it focuses very little on Camden and Newark explicitly.

“Rutgers Newark has been getting the short end of the stick for a long time,” said Rodriguez.

“I am not sure if it is still happening, but our funds have gone to subsidize things in New Brunswick in the past.”

The administration’s focus on maximizing the University’s profit potential is especially evident in the performance measures they set out for the faculty.

The only two performance measures in the plan are: “Grant revenue per square foot of research space, and per full-time tenure-track faculty” and “Faculty awards and election to national academies and honorary societies.”

These measures are very specific and may prove highly troublesome for professors whose fields do not offer many grants or awards.

The measures also exclude any mention of the faculty’s performance in the classroom.

“Theres nothing about your impact in shaping and inspiring young minds,” said Hughes.

“They don’t measure the services we provide to the communities around our campus, and more broadly to the world.”