No share at Rutgers–and what happens?



“What we’re struggling with is a president who has a mission that doesn’t apparently involve active involvement in university life,” said Thomas Prusa, a professor of economics. “Maybe if the president was more tuned in, he would think that we have 58,000 students, 18 to 22 years old, and what exactly is happening? He is throwing balls at students’ heads? And he’s calling them what? He was not interested in that. He was interested in how do I make this merger work.”The New York Times

That president is Rutger’s Robert Barchi. The context is the firing of the head basketball coach and a merger with New Jersey’s state medical schools.

What we have here is a prime example of why shared governance is so important.

Our growing American divide between those at the top and everyone else, a divide seem most dramatically in income distribution and accented by the “Occupy” movement’s ’98%’ meme, exists in academia as well. One of the only ways we can still bridge it is through insistence that shared governance become more of a reality than it has been in a generation.

A real commitment to shared governance–which should also include students–would probably have kept Rutgers on an even keel. Barchi’s:

first town hall meeting with students, in late February, got terrible reviews in the student newspaper, which reported that he spent most of the time discussing the merger and almost none taking questions from students, and that he dismissed concerns about student debt.

In the best of all collegiate situations, issues aren’t determined by the top, but by the whole… and no one constituency can determine what is important to others–or to the whole.

“The number of things that have been done without even consulting senior leadership on campus is endlessly frustrating,” said Jack Lynch, the associate dean of Arts and Science in Newark.

The more inclusive the consultation (it should go far beyond “senior leadership on campus”), the better. The school would find itself able to concentrate on its mission and not on distractions like the mishandling of a screwed-up basketball coach. Or even on a merger imposed from above and beyond.