Rutgers at A Crossroads

Tuition had been jumping ever higher. Investment in scholarship was dropping fast. Spending on bigtime sports was accelerating. That was Rutgers, here is the New York Times story, dated September 30, 1990. The parallels with today are powerful, right down to the ineffectualness of the university president (Lawrence then, McCormick now).

Here’s the fascinating bit. Richard McCormick (the son, not the esteemed university historian) then served as dean of the faculty of arts and science. Per the Times, McCormick was troubled by the halt in the improvement of the university’s academics:

“The financial difficulties at Rutgers came at a time when the institution seemed to be making significant strides in gaining the respect it so covets. Dr. McCormick said that the departments of political science, chemistry, psychology and computer science were on the brink of achieving the national prominence already enjoyed by its departments of English, history, philosophy, physics and astronomy, and mathematics, and that many others had well-developed plans in place to make the leap.

“‘This is the shame of it all,’ he said. ‘There are a number of departments that are in that position. They have every legitimate academic reason to make that jump in the early 90′s, but the dollars aren’t there.’”

That same McCormick now is president of the university and, well, Dick, the dollars to improve academics are there. All you have to do is shut down the spigot that is showering good money after bad on the sports programs. That is not happening. The exact opposite is.

Just as interesting is this question: why don’t we hear from this McCormick about how the lack of money is stifling Rutgers’ intellectual standing, at a time when peer universities (from the University of Connecticut to Maryland) are investing in their schools?

Maryland already is better than Rutgers. UConn will be in a couple years. So might Texas A & M! That is how dire this situation is, but, no, there are no moans from Old Queens, where for all we can tell perpetual sherry parties fill the days of these time-serving academic bureaucrats.

But Dick, Dick, Dick — might we have just one wee toast to better scholarship on the Banks?

Impossible, you say, no money for that?

Indeed Rutgers is at a crossroads, but it seems to be the road that goes nowhere.

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