from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, 22 Sept, 2014

 

 When I told a Rutgers official that my son was weighing Rutgers against Private University X, she said without hesitation: "I'd go to X."

 

Rutgers in the Barchi/Flood Era


By Michael A. Livingston


Drive anywhere in central New Jersey and you will be greeted by a billboard proclaiming Rutgers' membership in the Big Ten Conference, supposedly the first step toward "big time" university status. If the billboards conformed to reality, it would be encouraging indeed. Unfortunately, they don't.

The problems start with the name itself. The Big Ten is no longer the Big Ten but the Big Fourteen, including schools like Nebraska, Maryland, and Penn State. When the latter joined 20 years ago, it was supposed to be the first step toward academic improvement and a national reputation. I don't have to tell you what happened there.

A more immediate question is the cost of admission. Rutgers' football coach, Kyle Flood, has a base salary of $950,000 and was guaranteed $1.9 million for assistant coaches. (The team lost its first conference game.) That's nearly $3 million from a university that has refused to pay previously negotiated raises to faculty and regularly taken an aggressive, hostile tone in contract negotiations. This is in addition to a $650,000 salary paid to the university's president, Robert Barchi, and extravagant compensation to "chancellors" of the Newark and Camden campuses, positions that did not even exist a few years ago. By contrast, the governor of New Jersey is paid $175,000, and state legislators $49,000.

If Rutgers' performance matched this compensation, it might be understandable. Sadly, the university remains, in Gov. Christie's words, "a good university but not a great one." In the US News survey of American universities, Rutgers ranks 70th, 20 places behind Yeshiva University, which doesn't have a football team, and 69 places behind Princeton, which deemphasized the sport 60 years ago and pays its head coach about a quarter of Flood's annual salary.

The Camden and Newark law schools, which ought to be flagships of the university, rank 81 and 83 respectively, the result not of any failure by their faculty and students, but of a consistently low level of university support and the refusal to provide a meaningful foothold on the New Brunswick campus. Other units have broadly similar records.

The statistics are compounded by the low morale of Rutgers faculty and employees, a problem that results directly from the lack of resources. When I told a Rutgers official that my son was weighing Rutgers against Private University X, she said without hesitation: "I'd go to X." The tour guide for my other son - a person whose job is to sell the university - said he attended Rutgers because he got in-state tuition and the weather was good when he visited. Both of my children went elsewhere.

Barchi's defenders argue that his sports strategy will provide new revenues, which will benefit the university as a whole. In fact, the opposite is happening. A US News report found that more than 40 percent of the athletic program is being subsidized by the university, an extraordinary number even by the standards of large schools. This is at the same time that salaries were frozen and tuition and fees increased significantly. The university's lack of fiscal transparency, also worse than most universities, compounds the problem.

In fairness, Rutgers' problems are not entirely unique. We live in a culture that values entertainment over substance, the principal reason that we are declining in comparison with other countries. But universities exist to counteract this phenomenon, promoting knowledge and culture and providing an example for the rest of society. Unfortunately Rutgers, in the Barchi/Flood era, has decided to provide precisely the wrong example, for New Jersey and its young people. It's time for a change.


Michael A. Livingston teaches Federal tax law and statutary interpretation and legislation at Rutgers Law School

 

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With thanks from the RU1000 web team to loyal Rutgers alumnus Mr Bert Vorcheimer