Dear Mr. Swalagin:

Last September I wrote to the University Senate in response to the Report and Recommendations on Charge S-0708 on Student Charter Trustee Nominations and Elections, as adopted by the University Senate on May 2, 2008. At that time, I indicated that my administration would take these recommendations under advisement, pending an examination by the Office of the Secretary of the University and Rutgers Office of General Counsel. These offices have also reviewed the recommendations under Senate Charge S-0401 as adopted in October 2005. Both offices have now advised me that changing the number of student members on the Boards of Governors and Trustees, as well as changing the terms or voting rights associated with those appointments, would require legislative amendment of Rutgers, The State University Law enacted in 1956 (N.J.S.A. 18A:65-1 et seq.), which is also known as the “Rutgers Act of 1956,” as well as consent of the Board of Trustees.
In addition, significant issues relating to the public nature of the University and its ability to receive state funds and to issue tax-exempt bonds are put at risk by the proposal to add three voting student members to the Board of Governors. The Rutgers Act of 1956 provides for six public members of the Board of Governors to be appointed by the Governor and five “private” members to be appointed by the Board of Trustees, thereby assuring the public nature of the University and its eligibility to receive state funds and issue tax-exempt bonds. If any additional “private” members are added to the Board of Governors, as would be the case if one, two, or three student representatives are added via selection by the Faculty Senate, the nonpublic membership of the Board would be in the majority, endangering the public status of the University and its consequent benefits.
It is important to note that the composition of the Board of Governors is one of the key components of the Rutgers Act of 1956, in that it represents the continued input of the Board of Trustees in the University’s governance structure. This input, and other powers of the Board of Trustees, were agreed to by the State in exchange for the Board of Trustees’ agreement to change the fundamental nature of Rutgers from a private to a public institution of higher education and to dedicate the Board of Trustees’ resources (e.g., real estate holdings, endowment funds, personnel, etc.) to enable the establishment of Rutgers as a state university. In fact, the Rutgers Act of 1956 is a legislative contract, which cannot be modified by the State in its essential provisions without the consent of the Board of Trustees.
Changing the terms of student members of the Board of Trustees would also require a statutory change and consent of the Board of Trustees.  Given the possible seriously detrimental ramifications that could be associated with reopening the Act of 1956 for public debate at this time, the potential harm that could come to the university’s governance structure by such a reexamination outweighs the benefits of changing the Rutgers Act of 1956. Therefore, I do not believe it is currently feasible to propose changes to the number of student members or the length of their terms.
It is my understanding that Vice President Blimling and his staff have been working with students and the Secretary’s Office to improve the processes for nominating and selecting student representatives to our governing boards and for encouraging their continued participation throughout their terms. I believe that we can strengthen the influence and effectiveness of students at Rutgers within the bounds of the existing legislation and governance structure.
Sincerely yours,
Richard L. McCormick
copy:    Philip Furmanski, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
            Jonathan Alger, Senior Vice President and General Counsel
            Gregory Blimling, Vice President for Student Affairs
            Leslie Fehrenbach, Secretary of the University