Inquirer Editorial: Lessons unlearned

POSTED: June 10, 2014

Having twice failed to forcibly reshape Rutgers University, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is back with yet another ham-handed attempt to commandeer the state school’s governance. Although reform and restructuring of the system should be on the agenda, Sweeney’s approach to the issue continues to reveal a remarkable refusal to learn from his mistakes.

The senator’s latest scheme would pack the university’s Board of Governors with additional political appointees, shifting the balance of power to the governor and legislators. The takeover bid narrowly escaped a Senate committee last week, but that ought to be as far as it goes.

With a 15-member Board of Governors and a less powerful 59-member Board of Trustees – which Sweeney (D., Gloucester) tried and failed to blow up last year – Rutgers hardly needs even more overseers. Nor is micromanagement by politicians a recipe for better university governance.

A similarly dictatorial approach alienated many at Rutgers in 2012, when Sweeney’s proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University came up short despite its merits.

Rutgers officials can help head off Sweeney’s latest attempt by releasing an internal report on potential governance improvements. The university must embrace a measured and open approach to reform lest it be vulnerable to political hijacking.

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