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Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi Charts a Course for the University's Future
President Robert L. Barchi outlined priorities for the academic year on Friday that include reshaping the university’s management, moving forward with the integration of Rutgers and UMDMJ and developing a strategic plan to chart a course for the future.
Barchi made his remarks at the first University Senate meeting since he assumed the role of president three weeks ago. He credited the advisory body – which consists of representatives of faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni – for its fight during the restructuring of higher education to keep the Camden Campus as part of Rutgers. He said the senate’s efforts “basically turned the legislation around” – and pledged his commitment to “shared governance.”
The president spoke for about 20 minutes before taking questions for another half hour. He told the crowd that he welcomes dialogue and looks forward to “the push back and the give and take.’’
“I think that is where most of the progress gets made,’’ Barchi said. “I am perfectly willing to change my mind when I hear better ideas coming forward – and I hope you will push them out there.’’
In the next eight months, Barchi said the university will face a huge change in size and scope that includes a 50 percent increase in the operating budget from $2 billion to $3 billion with the integration of the academic units of the UMDNJ that are coming to Rutgers. He said the university has set a target of mid fall to have nearly concrete information regarding the debt and financial issues involved in the integration of the two institutions.
To meet the upcoming challenges, Barchi announced changes to the senior management that include:
- Establishing the position of a senior vice president for finance, separating those duties from the position of senior vice president for administration, which Bruce Fehn will continue to hold.
- Appointing Richard Edwards as executive vice president for academic affairs, a position he held on an interim basis.
- Launching a national search to fill the positions of chancellor in Newark and chancellor for biomedical and health sciences. Edwards will take on the responsibilities of the New Brunswick chancellor for one year and Wendell Pritchett will retain the chancellor position in Camden.
- Filling provost positions from within the
The president said the university is getting ready to work on its first strategic plan in 15 years and asked students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to start thinking about ideas. This blueprint will play a key role as the university begins to work on a new facilities master plan.
“With all the changes coming up it is time that we as a community understand where we are going, what we want to do, what we want to look like, and that we understand what our priorities are across the entire university,’’ Barchi said, calling for immediate action.
“I am an old guy,’’ he joked. “I don’t have a lot of time here. We have to get this moving. We have to get this done.’’
While most of Barchi’s comments focused on what’s to come, he also highlighted ongoing projects, including a new residence hall in Camden that illustrates the university’s commitment to the campus and the 1,500-bed Livingston Apartments completed this fall. He also commended the 8-megawatt solar array that will provide more than 60 percent of the energy needs on the Livingston Campus and cut electricity costs when it comes online in January.
“When we have to compete for the best and brightest students, not only in New Jersey but around the country, facilities really matter,’’ Barchi said. “How we look really matters and I think that our facilities must be second to none.’’
As he took questions from the audience, Barchi also tried to set aside concerns that parts of the university would be over shadowed by the integration with UMDMJ.
“What we have to do is make sure we don’t lose sight that we have a great university,’’ Barchi said. “We have outstanding arts and sciences, we have departments like philosophy that are top in the English speaking world ... we cannot let any of those schools slip. We have to make sure we pay attention to the rest of the university while we make sure we don’t let this integration drag us down.’’
But he added that he doesn’t put much stock in metrics and rankings such as U.S. News and World Report. “What is important is being on a trajectory of improvement,’’ Barchi said.
“We are not here to have US News and World Report tell us what a good university is,” Barchi said. “What we need to do is be the best that we can be ... it is about being better than we are, and it is a constant process.’’