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Rutgers Prez Gives Merger Guarantee [AUDIO]

The deadline to seal the deal on the Rutgers-University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) merger is right around the corner.

Andy Marlin/Getty Images
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

Though Rutgers has gotten sidetracked of late, while embroiled in a controversy over its fired basketball coach, the school’s president claims to be beyond confident that the deadline will be met.

“You can have my guarantee that we in fact are going to get there on time and on target,” says Rutgers President Robert Barchi who testified yesterday before the Assembly Budget Committee. “This is, in fact, the biggest undertaking of this type that’s ever been done in higher education.”

There is still much to do says Barchi and he admits that some of the regulations in the reorganization plan don’t make sense to him, but he says he’ll do whatever the law tells him to do.

“When we started last November, December with our planning we had about 4,600 discreet issues that had to be resolved and had to be decided and had to be negotiated,” explains Barchi. “We are down somewhere under 2,000 now with a clear line of sight to a July 1 closing.”

Dems Don’t Share Barchi’s Confidence

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vinnie Prieto says even after hearing Barchi’s testimony there are still too many questions left unanswered.

“This reorganization plan is a great opportunity for our state, but it almost seems like it’s being slapped together by the Christie administration without much thought or planning,” says Prieto. “That was definitely not the Legislature’s expectation. The law called for separate budget line-times for each of the three Rutgers campuses in Newark, New Brunswick and Camden, as well as the School of Biomedical and Health Services, but we have none.”

Christie Backs Barchi

Governor Chris Christie is confident that Barchi hasn’t allowed the basketball program issue to distract him from working on the merger.

“I think Bob is appropriately and his staff is appropriately focused on it and have been appropriately focused on it,” said Christie at a State House press conference earlier this month. “This is the largest merger in higher education history. Rutgers is about a $2.2 billion institution. UMDNJ is about a $1.7 billion institution. This is practically a merger of equals from a balance sheet perspective.”

The merger is a huge undertaking admits Christie and he feels the deadline to finalize it will be met.

“I have absolute confidence in Bob Barchi and I believe it’s one of the reasons the (Rutgers) Board of Governors hired him in the first place was to be able to appropriately and effectively manage this merger,” explains Christie who says it’s time to move on from the basketball program scandal. “Let’s get on to issues that are going to be about Rutgers future.”

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