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Rutgers to Decrease Number of Trustees in Response to Internal Report, Pressure From Sweeney

RU Board of Trustees Will Gradually Shrink From 59 Members to Just 41
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The Rutgers University Board of Trustees passed a measure on its December 8th meeting which would shrink the number of trustees from 59 to 41 voting members.

Twelve of the members would be gradually phased out of the Board of Trustees, while an additional six members would be cut immediately.

"The task force spent enormous time and effort to conduct a comprehensive and unvarnished review of current governance and the beat ways for Rutgers to self-improve," Board of Trustees Chair Sandy Stewart told NJ.com.  

The changes were made as per recommendation by a interim task force report released by the Board of Trustees on June 20.

Recommendations from the report included an overall shrinkage in the size of the Board of Trustees, and keeping the Board of Governors size to 15 members.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney had criticized the University for making the report public sooner.

The move comes amid a series of political battles between Rutgers governing boards and Sweeney, beginning with the failed attempt to give away the Rutgers-Camden campus to Rowan University based in Glasboro, part of Sweeney's legislative district.

Since then, Sweeney has sued to stop the appointment of New Brunswick resident Martin Perez to the more powerful Rutgers Board of Governors, as well as introduced legislation to eliminate the Board of Trustees, which helped stop the Rutgers-Rowan merger.

Most recently, in June, the State Senate approved a bill sponsored by Sweeney that would increase the size of the Board of Governors from 15 to 19 members.  The new members would have all been appointed by the Governor at the advice and consent of the Senate, but critics said that would disturb the balance between the Trustee-appointed members and the political appointees.

The Board of Trustees has authority over all University assets predating the passage of the Rutgers Act of 1956, which designated Rutgers as the state university of New Jersey. 

The Board of Trustees comprises twenty alumni members, five members appointed by the State Governor, six appointed by the Rutgers Board of Governors, twenty-eight charter trustees and the University president. 

On the other hand, the Board of Governors handles all assets and decisions made post-1956. The 15-member board sets the tuition and budget, and selects the University president, who runs day-to-day operations at the massive institution.

Senator Sweeney had a largely positive reaction to the move by the Board of Trustees.

Along with Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Sweeney has proposed a bill which would essentially mirror the actions of the Board of Trustees, and solidify the 41-member Board of Trustees as state law.

"Rutgers is changing, and I applaud it," Sweeney told NJ.com.