RU Moves Forward with Strategic Plan

barchi
President Barchi, pictured above, at  discussed strategic plan with students, faculty and staff last year.
                                                                                                                  Photo taken by Charlie Kratovil, courtesy New Brunswick Today

by Molly O’Brien

Early last month, A Strategic Plan for a New Rutgers was approved by the Rutgers University Board of Governors, and is now published online.

“I am pleased to report that the Board of Governors approved our University Strategic Plan today,” reads an email sent on February 4 from Rutgers President Bob Barchi.

“This bold, five-year plan challenges our university community to work together toward a shared aspiration for Rutgers: to be broadly recognized as among the nation’s leading public universities—preeminent in research, excellent in teaching, and committed to community.”

The comprehensive five-year plan, with pictures and other visual elements, is available online here: http://universitystrategy.rutgers.edu.

Barchi continues in his email, saying “With all the transformative changes that are happening at Rutgers and our 250th anniversary right around the corner, this is a singular moment in our history—a time for bold action to achieve our enormous potential. Together, we will build the new Rutgers.”

Response:

Rutgers describes the plan in a press release as “a bold and comprehensive blueprint that will propel Rutgers to the ranks of the nation’s premier public universities.”

According to reporter Keith Saergeant for the Asbury Park Press, the Board of Governors met on Rutgers-Newark campus February 4 to discuss “physical master plan, which is expected to outline future directions for improvements to campus infrastructure and provide plans for long-term growth.”

“School officials say it will complement the strategic plan and both documents will reinforce the university’s overall aspiration.”

On the following day, Saergeant wrote another article for My Central Jersey, stating the plan was approved by the Board with the help of a $750,000 grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Saegreant writes in the story, “The 64-page document, which was 14 months in the making, comes with a hefty price tag: approximately $3.4 million to the Boston Consulting Group, a global management strategy-adviser that, according to Barchi, “didn’t write the plan” but generated “the background data, the analysis, and the logistical work that” that the university’s staff “didn’t have the capabilities to do.”

In the university email sent out by the president, Barchi says “our plan reflects the participation of Rutgers students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of our governing boards, and friends of the university.”

The plan is being implemented almost a year after President Barchi’s town hall meetings. These meetings were to serve as a forum for students, faculty and staff to have an “open discussion” about the present and future states of the university.

President Barchi’s administration conducted a number surveys in an effort to gauge the opinions of Rutgers students, faculty, and administration. These surveys asked questions regarding campus life, classroom environments, academic support, campus life, and other aspects dealing with the university’s programs and atmosphere.

Bob Barchi presented the results of his surveys as well as some possible plans for the university.

A video from Vimeo.com:

Reactions to President Barchi’s first Town Hall meeting from The Daily Targum on Vimeo.

A video posted by Enrico Cabredo from the Daily Targum, features President of Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) John Connelly after attending President Barchi’s first town hall meeting.

“I am optimistic about the strategic plan and about the ways in which students can share their voice with the Rutgers community. I think it’s a really good sign of faith that President Barchi is reaching out to us,” Connelly explains to the Targum.

Two New Brunswick Today articles recount the third Town Hall meeting held at the Rutgers Student Center Multipurpose Room on College Ave.

A preview for the third Town Hall Meeting describes Barchi’s rules for the open forum of the meetings.

“While “any question regarding the strategic plan” is fair game, Barchi told the audience at a previous town hall in Piscataway, “I am not going to respond to open questions about the university.”

Barchi explained that he wanted an open floor discussion in order to assess what Rutgers University needed in the strategic plan.

Tara Nurin wrote on NJspotlight.com that many were disappointed with how President Barchi handled comments from students, faculty, and other employees of the instution.

In the article published February 18, Nurin writes, “Despite an 18-month research process that included stakeholder surveys, focus groups, retreats, town hall meetings, and 13 review committees, New Brunswick Faculty Council Vice Chair Mark Killingsworth says the majority of his peers are “very, very skeptical” of the plan and don’t believe the administration’s claims that it wants to engage them on academic and procedural matters.”

Nurin spoke with a dean from Busch campus named Thomas Papathomas, who explained to her, “Preparation of the [university’s strategic] plan was very inclusive. Whoever says otherwise lives in another world.”

In the second article New Brunswick Today published about the third town hall meeting, President Barchi appears to not have been so welcome to some questions asked at the event.

President Barchi is quoted saying, “the university isn’t planning a damn thing!” to Marios Athansiou, President of New Jersey United Students (NJUS) in response to a question about plans for urban redevelopment in New Brunswick.

Philly.com published a story by Inquirer Staff Writer Jonathan Lai on the topic of the effect this strategic plan also has on the City of Camden as the new Rutgers-Rowan joint board was recently established to further the university’s goals of healthcare and education and plans for redevelopment in the City of Camden.

Lai reports that the strategic plan makes “health a main goal,” and that the University plans to “[revise] the authorities of the Rowan University-Rutgers Camden Board of Governors and authorizes Rowan University to participate in public-private partnerships.

“Within [the strategic plan] is a provision giving the Rowan-Rutgers board a number of new powers, including the ability to acquire land and the use of eminent domain.”

In addition to the Rutgers University strategic plan, a bill that would stimulate urban redevelopment in Camden recently passed into law by Governor Chris Christie.

Watch the Governor take a call from a listener of 101.5’s Ask the Governor radio show, in which Governor Christie explains that no such bill reached his desk.

Video of NJ 101.5 Radio Interview is available on NJ 101.5’s official website.

“If a bill like that comes to my desk, I’ll have to take a close look at it,” says Christie in the interview. “I haven’t heard anything at this point about eminent domain being given to a university – I don’t think that’s the way it works.”

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