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Op-Ed: Rutgers-Camden Merger Would Destroy Law School's Legacy

A proud graduate urges that plan to combine with Rowan University be rejected.

The Barer Report of the UMDNJ advisory committee to "integrate" Rutgers Law School into an expanded Rowan University has understandably created a firestorm of controversy. It came out of the wild blue yonder, with little if any input from the stakeholders and the many others who would be directly affected.

It also comes at a time when the state, with all of its structural fiscal problems, is curtailing public funding for our colleges and universities. The recommendation seems to have been made in a vacuum.

For starters, it would wipe out the alma mater of three generations of proud and loyal graduates of the Camden campus of Rutgers Law School. How many of these graduates, who in most instances are either current or prospective financial contributors, are going to walk away from any such commitment to the law school? I suggest the vast majority.

I do not know how much in resources will be saved by such an "integration" or whether it will measurably contribute to the growth of Rowan University. However, I am fairly sure of one thing. In the long run such a move would be a major setback for the state and higher education in particular. It is really little more than placing the law school's endowment and ongoing fundraising effort on suicide watch.

Rutgers Law School has earned an enviable reputation as one of our finest and most respected law schools. Placement in that league did not happen overnight, and it is a status that money cannot buy. It is the result of decades of hard work in nourishing a brand that has come to be identified with the highest of academic standards, not only in the United States, but also throughout the world.

Graduates of Rutgers-Camden for over half a century have truly made a difference in their communities, and their success stories continue to build upon that remarkable heritage. To destroy that legacy would be singularly tragic.

I write as one of three generations of proud graduates of Rutgers Law School, Camden. I was a member of the Class of 1958; our son William J. Hughes Jr. graduated in 1993 and our oldest grandson Barry K. Sullivan graduated in 2011. We just cannot comprehend this seemingly thoughtless recommendation to eliminate our law school.

I am reminded of the rather famous quip from Bert Lance, the former director of the Office of Management and the Budget under President Jimmy Carter. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

This misguided and shortsighted recommendation should be rejected.

William J. Hughes graduated from Rutgers Law School, Camden, in 1958, was the congressman from the 2nd District, NJ, from 1975 to 1995 and U.S. ambassador to Panama from 1995 to 1998. He makes his home in Ocean City, NJ.

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