University Community
Robert A. Altenkirch
December 11, 2003
Update on Research University Restructuring
As I have reported to you over the past several months, the Review, Planning and Implementation Steering Committee of the Governor's Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training has been meeting to discuss the proposed restructuring of New Jersey's public research universities, which would comprise three semi-autonomous universities, a "University of New Jersey-North," a "University of New Jersey-Central," and a "University of New Jersey-South," within a "University of New Jersey System" of public research universities not unlike the University of California.

Yesterday, the Steering Committee met to consider working drafts of the three University Plans and the System Plan. These drafts were themselves largely drawn from the seven prior drafts that had been developed by the Steering Committee and its various committees and task forces, which I shared with the NJIT community on October 27, 2003. (The prior drafts are posted on the NJIT website under Presidential News. I know that many of you have followed this process with interest, and I want to share with you a number of observations pertaining to yesterday's meeting.

As you know, NJIT takes its responsibilities to our university community and our State very seriously. I'd like to thank the many of you who put considerable time and effort into the reconfiguration discussions. This was an important effort because of the implications for NJIT, higher education in New Jersey, and the potential for change. Along the way, we were careful not to pre-judge the restructuring effort until we had plans for the restructuring, if only preliminary, in hand, and, as a result, our views were expressed constructively and spoke to facts known at the time.

At this late stage in the review process, a great many issues, challenges, and questions remain. These include such fundamental issues as organizational governance and structure, costs and funding, and the specific rationale for such a major undertaking.

Since the beginning of this process, we at NJIT have shared the Governor's vision for the future place and impact of public research universities in New Jersey, and we continue to do so. There is no question that what we do and how well we do it can make a substantial difference for the economic vitality of the State. We appreciate the time and effort that Roy Vagelos and others have dedicated to this discussion over the last year and a few months.

For a university of our size, just getting to this point in the process in good faith has drawn upon considerable resources, most importantly the time and attention of many staff and faculty. While other parties to this process may need more time to assimilate information, respond to the discussion to date, and search for the wherewithal to implement the vision of the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training, we, as this discussion draws to a close, will be turning our full attention to the business of teaching, research, service, economic development and implementation of NJIT strategic plans to move our university forward to the next level of achievement. NJIT has demonstrated agility and an ability to plan for its own growth and success continuously since our founding. We will move ahead aggressively in that tradition, building appropriate relationships with other institutions of higher education that are synergistic and mutually beneficial and consistent with the vision of the Governor's Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training.

While time consuming, the dialogue in which we have been a major participant over the past 14 months has had constructive elements. We have all had the opportunity to consider key issues facing New Jersey higher education and to review strategies being employed with considerable success in other states and regions. There is logic in leveraging existing higher education strengths in Newark in the applied physical, biological and biomedical sciences, as we have said before. This leveraging can be facilitated, for example, in partnership with the University of Medicine and Dentistry, to develop new technologies, support the state's health-related industries, and impact the local and state economy. There are many ways to be a participant in continuing to advance Newark and New Jersey to where they need to be, and NJIT intends to play a major role in moving the debate significantly forward. The New Year promises to be exciting and challenging.

I wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season.