05/07/2012 10:22 am ET Updated Jul 07, 2012

There's Something Special in a Name

A lot of hoopla has surrounded the discussion of the potential merger between Rutgers University's Camden Campus and Rowan University, which is located in both Glassboro and Camden, New Jersey. When Governor Chris Christie said that it was his intention to facilitate a merger between the two schools, it was met with much trepidation. When it was found out by the Rutgers-Camden community that its campus would be absorbed by Rowan University, trepidation was replaced with panic.

Rutgers students are concerned about the quality of education if and/or when the campus is transferred from one university to another. Rutgers-Camden leadership, faculty and staff are concerned naturally about the status of their employment. And there are individuals from various constituencies, Rutgers and otherwise, who fear a political power-play is at hand between party bosses and politicians to establish a geographically friendly solution to having a major research institution in the state of New Jersey: one in North Jersey and one in South Jersey. The Rutgers-Camden community is fighting desperately to remain part of Rutgers and part of Camden and while all of those concerns may be valid, the real reason for all of the anxiety surrounding a potential merger of the schools has hardly much to do with any of those mentioned.

This past week, in a nearly unanimous decision, the Rutgers University Board of Trustees stated their opposition to the complete absorption of Rutgers-Camden by Rowan University, as proposed by Governor Christie, in an adopted board resolution. The students, faculty and staff of Rutgers-Camden are happy about the Board's view on this matter and since the announcement of the Board's stance; many stakeholders in favor of a takeover are now calling for collaboration between the two schools. There have been meetings about this between the Rutgers-Camden administration and students, students have marched to the state house in protest, petitions have been signed and sent to the governor and all governing bodies of Rutgers University, and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg even voiced his opposition to this merger in a visit to Rutgers-Camden this week. To understand why this issue is such a touchy one for the Rutgers-Camden community is to understand that it has little to to do with anything other than this specific aspect of the governor's recommendation in January via University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey advisory committee -- upon the absorption of Rutgers-Camden by Rowan University, the newly formed university will be called Rowan University.

Plain and simple, the reason why folks are upset, specifically the Rutgers-Camden community (including students, administration, faculty, staff and others who profit financially and otherwise from the institution) is because they do not want to lose the brand name of Rutgers University. People can mask their selfishness about this issue by either claiming that this merger benefits or harms the people of New Jersey. But regardless of what side you fall on, the people for and against this merger have their reasons based on their own selfish intentions. Much has gone into the selfish and self-serving reasons why politicians and party bosses want this merger to happen, but what about the Rutgers-Camden community and their selfish reasons for desiring to maintain the Rutgers brand? To be frank, the Rutgers name does look good on a resume, either in the education section or the employment section. That's what it all comes down to for the Rutgers-Camden folks. Confirmations are in the comments made by folks around the University. Students have made comments that asserted the inferiority of the Rowan name in comparison to the Rutgers name specifically when it came to the university on their diploma. Faculty members question whether or not the Rowan name can attract students, faculty and dollars to a merged school and the Rutgers-Camden Chancellor seems absolutely opposed to any sort of takeover, citing that more resources should be allocated down the turnpike.

I am not necessarily saying that there is something wrong with being selfish. Indeed selfishness has its place. But when I see signs that say "Rutgers leaves, Camden bleeds," I shake my head. I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but Camden, New Jersey is suffering with real problems that impact lives, not limited to crime, joblessness and violence -- and that is with a Rutgers presence. I don't believe that Camden will be any worse off without a Rutgers presence. As a matter of fact, many of the people who espouse that phrase don't live in Camden, have no serious dealings with Camden residents and have no real desire to invest themselves in the city, so people should take those signs down. Rutgers-Camdenites angered by this potential merger needs to come to grips with the fact that they simply care for the "assumed" prestige that comes with along with the Rutgers name and the association thereof. I am not saying don't protest, I just implore you to admit why you're protesting this merger. We can all agree that it sounds good to say that we need to keep Rutgers in Camden to afford all South Jersey residents the opportunity for a quality education at a major research institution -- but it is because there are various reasons as to why students prefer Rutgers-Camden over the New Brunswick and Newark campuses, and location isn't the major reason. Indeed, we call all agree that there is something special about a name.