A Brief History
Rutgers University’s unique history has shaped its current governance structure. From its founding in 1766 as Queen’s College, a private institution, until it was reorganized as The State University of New Jersey in 1956, Rutgers was governed by a Board of Trustees.
A 1956 contract between the state and the Board of Trustees fully and formally established Rutgers as The State University of New Jersey. This legally binding contract (enacted into law as Rutgers, the State University law, NJSA 18A:65-1 et seq) created the Rutgers University Board of Governors as the university’s primary governing body. The Board of Trustees remained in both an advisory capacity and with certain fiduciary responsibilities on all Rutgers campuses.
The contract defines “all departments, colleges, schools, centers, branches, educational and other units and extensions” as being part of Rutgers University, including assets “formerly maintained by the college of South Jersey” in Camden.
The contract also stipulates that Rutgers University “shall be and continue to be given a high degree of self-government … free of partisanship.”
In a 1972 opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that this contract established Rutgers as “an autonomous public university.”
Rutgers University Board of Governors
Under the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, effective July 1, 2013, the Board of Governors expanded from 11 to 15 members. Eight are appointed by the New Jersey governor and seven selected by the Rutgers Board of Trustees.
The 1956 contract stipulates that the Board of Governors “shall have general supervision over and be vested with the conduct of the university.” The Board of Governors’ authority and responsibilities include:
Determining policies for the organization, administration and development of the university.
Disbursing all funds appropriated to the university by the Legislature, as well as funds received from tuition, fees, auxiliary services and other sources.
Purchasing all lands, buildings, equipment, materials and supplies.
- Selecting the university president, with the advice and consent of the Board of Trustees.
Rutgers University Board of Trustees
The Rutgers University Board of Trustees is one of the oldest governing bodies in higher education in the nation. This board predates the founding of the United States and the state of New Jersey.
The Board of Trustees has 59 voting members. Under the 1956 contract, the Board of Trustees’ authority and responsibilities include:
Acting in an overall advisory capacity to the Board of Governors and the university administration.
Control of university property and funds that were part of Rutgers as of Aug. 31, 1956.
Appointment of seven Trustees to the Board of Governors.
- Membership on Board of Governors committees.
Also under the 1956 contract, the state of New Jersey cannot amend, alter in any substantial respect or repeal “the provisions for the essential self-government of the university” without the consent of the Board of Trustees.