|Dear AAUP-BHSNJ Faculty,|
For over 50 years, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School have stood proudly as independent schools with important missions for their students, patients, and communities. Sadly, despite widespread opposition from faculty in both schools, staff, residents, and community members, the RBHS Chancellor Strom is pushing the Rutgers Board of Governors to approve a single merged medical school at its meeting this Monday. You can read the resolution here. Chancellor Strom is attempting to force this merger, despite the University Senate (the body charged with approving such arrangements) not giving its approval. (see Ad Hoc report page 6) However, after spending a $1 million on consultants (but not obtaining a report which articulates any clear benefits), the Chancellor has remained undeterred. This is certainly an affront to our faculty, the Senate and any notion of shared governance.
We are opposed to the merger for the following reasons:
The Chancellor has been fond of saying that both medical schools would be “co-equal”. However, over the last few years, 95% of the mission support funding (about $45 million per year) from RWJBH has gone to RWJMS. Almost none has gone to NJMS. Save for a few exceptions, there have been no major chairs recruited at NJMS, As such, we know such “co-equal promises” to be a farce. It is also not clear what future dean will want to share resources and power with a “co-dean” at another school.
NJMS recently returned to “full accreditation” status. It though was on “warning status” for over a year and half, with few faculty members knowing the particulars as to how it received such a mark, or that it was on warning status at all. The Chancellor has said that no similar schools in the country have merged in this manner. It is risky to now launch a new endeavor to create a single accreditation when we are barely hanging on to our recent progress.
Reduction in Faculty and Greater Class Sizes/Greater Workload
Departments are already losing a great deal of faculty to turnover, lack of support, and other issues. The merger may be used as an excuse to reduce “redundancies” and go after faculty, staff and others that don’t fit the lofty mega-school vision. Both schools currently have a class size of approximately 180 students, so a merged school might have 350-400 students, which could be literally the largest school in the country. By comparison, of the 153 medical schools the mean class size is 143. This could negatively impact our already poor faculty-to-student ratios. Additionally, a new combined curriculum would have to created. There is no clear budget of timeline, funds or infrastructure in place to do this. Travel between campuses will be equally time-consuming. Merging without all these issues worked out will only exacerbate underlying problems and hurt both institutions as whole.
To quote the Mach Ad Hoc Senate report, “There is a draft plan for Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accreditation approval of a merged medical school…the reality of an unprecedented two-equal school merger for the LCME appears to be a risk and may negatively impact workloads for the deans and faculty. There are great concerns for students, as there is insufficient information available concerning residency placements.” The effect on residency placements should be abundantly clear before embarking on any merger.
Neglecting University Hospital, and Respective Communities
The merger resolution commits to “under the Rutgers School of Medicine, NJMS shall remain in the City of Newark, New Jersey, and University Hospital Newark shall remain the principal teaching hospital of NJMS” and “the Rutgers School of Medicine, RWJMS shall remain in the City of New Brunswick, New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital shall continue to be the principal teaching hospital of RWJMS, subject to associated contractual agreements. ” Either hospital can be negatively impacted if its teaching faculty are redirected to another hospital or hospitals. University Hospital in Newark is particularly vulnerable in that it is not a member of the ever expanding RWJBH network. Losing residents and attendings due to changes in “associated contractual agreements” would be highly detrimental.
There are a number of entities that plan on opposing the merger. These include faculty council leadership, student council leadership, resident and staff unions, elected officials, civil rights organizations, and many others. If you are interested in signing up to speak at the virtual Board of Governors meeting on Monday at 11am, you may contact email@example.com and ask to speak to Agenda Item 9.A. If you are turned down as a speaker, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will direct you on how to email your concerns directly to board members.
Diomedes Tsitouras, Executive Director