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Rowan/Rutgers-Camden Board Addresses Procedural Issues at First Meeting

“The five Rutgers appointees to our Rutgers-Camden Board of Directors were staunch supporters of this Campus in 2012 when Gov. Christie . . . threatened to sever it from the rest of Rutgers University,” emailed Andrew Shankman, who co-founded the ad-hoc Save Rutgers-Camden group when the campus was in peril.

Presiding over the Rutgers-Camden board of Ddirectors is Gerald Harvey, a Camden advocate who also chairs the Board of Governors until his term expires on June 31, 2014. In June 2012, Harvey, an Ocean County resident who grew up in Moorestown and Cherry Hill, led the governors in to join with the board of trustees to oppose the proposed RUC separation from Rutgers and subsequent merger with Rowan. That resolution marked a turning point in negotiations with lawmakers because it was the first time the board of governors had taken a position and worked with the more vocal trustees to present a unified front in vowing to take legal action to defend the Camden campus.

Testifying before the Assembly Higher Education Committee that same week, Harvey asserted, “We are firm in our resolve that our principles will be adhered to.”

Speaking to reporters after the inaugural directors’ meeting earlier this year, Harvey said, “I (have been) regarded as a stealth Camden person. I was married in Moorestown; my father’s buried in Moorestown. People who know me know how much I care about Camden’s success.”

Other members appointed by the board of governors are trustee governor and recent trustee chair Dudley Rivers, who co-chaired a task force to negotiate with lawmakers and representatives from the governor’s office pushing for the merger. Also named to the board was Anthony DePetris, an RUC alumnus who once chaired the board of trustees and now serves as governor. Rounding out Rutgers appointees to the Camden board of directors are alumni Mortensen and George Rears, who both served on the board of trustees while merger deliberations were taking place.

Two spaces on the board of directors remain unfilled. Although Christie appointed, and the Senate approved, two Democrats -- Mayor Redd and former Camden Assemblywoman Nilsa-Cruz Perez -- his office did not respond to an email asking when he anticipated naming his final two picks.

Cruz-Perez, like Redd, is regarded as a staunch Norcross loyalist -- a fact that concerns RUC defenders. In 2012, Redd signed a public declaration issued by Norcross ally Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) that excoriated then-U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for asking the secretary of education to review the merger plans. Norcross himself issued a similar criticism that same day.

After February’s meeting, Redd, who received her undergraduate degree from RUC, said, “It’s an honor to serve this board as a lifelong resident of Camden and a graduate of Rutgers-Camden.” But Shankman remains skeptical. He emailed, “Obviously, unlike our Rutgers-appointed board members, the publicly appointed members will need to earn the trust (of RUC supporters) and prove to us through their actions that they have taken the needs of Rutgers-Camden to heart."

In February, the directors unanimously and without any debate elected Redd and Mortensen to serve on the joint Rowan-Rutgers board of governors, alongside the Rowan and Christie appointees -- Bruner, who’s Gloucester County administrator; Davis, Barnabas Health executive vice president for corporate affairs; and Graziano, TD Bank Group executive.

George Norcross declined to comment for this story.

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