Rutgers University announced Wednesday that its president, Robert Barchi, has agreed to stay on for at least two more years at the governing board’s request, a move that was met with frustration by some faculty union representatives and praise from some alumni.
Barchi, who has been at the helm since 2012, oversaw the state university’s integration with the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, a multimillion-dollar merger. He also led Rutgers in joining the Big Ten Athletic Conference, a group of similarly sized research institutions, and the conference’s academic consortium.
“Bob Barchi has been a remarkable leader for Rutgers,” Sandy J. Stewart, chair of the Rutgers University Board of Governors, said in a statement.
But he has also had to deal with a series of scandals in the athletic department during his tenure. Most recently, lawmakers pressed Barchi for an explanation behind $11.5 million the university spent in the last decade in settlements and contract buyouts.
And faculty union representatives said the decision by the Board of Governors comes at a bad time — nearly 20,000 unionized employees have been working without a contract since July 1.
“It’s a slap in the face to the 20,000 employees who are working without a contract,” said Rebecca Givan, treasurer of the AAUP-AFT, representing 7,700 of those employees. “The board of governors has decided to reward Barchi in spite of ongoing scandals, and hardworking employees aren’t getting respect at the bargaining table.”
The union and university representatives have been meeting twice monthly since July to negotiate a new contract.
Barchi will continue making an annual base salary of $705,305, with an opportunity to collect up to $176,326 in lump sum payment based on performance.
A university spokesperson said his employment terms are “open-ended” and he’s agreed to stay on for two years, including this academic year.
He oversaw the development of a university-wide strategic plan, the first at Rutgers in nearly 20 years, and a corresponding physical master plan.
“We are confident that under his leadership, Rutgers will continue to attract world-class faculty, a highly gifted student body and an outstanding staff as one of the most diverse and innovative institutions of higher learning in the nation,” Stewart said.
Donna Thornton, the vice president of the alumni association, said Barchi has had a “great relationship” with university alumni.
This fall an alumni center opened on the Rutgers-New Brunswick and Newark campuses. A center has been open on the Camden campus for two years, Thornton said.
“Having these places dedicated for alumni really speaks to university’s commitment of engaging with alumni and showing appreciation for the important part they play in the university community,” Thornton said.
Barchi, Rutgers’ 20th president, launched an Honors College at Rutgers-New Brunswick. During his tenure, the university completed its first billion-dollar capital campaign, and annual giving to the university has more than doubled, the university said.
“Leading Rutgers has presented challenges both large and small,” Barchi said in a statement. “Together with a gifted faculty, a vibrant student body, a massive alumni association and a deeply talented and committed staff, we’ve met those challenges and discovered new opportunities.”
“I’m looking forward to making even more progress and achieving even greater things in the coming years,” he said.
Barchi will provide a university report at the University Senate meeting on Friday.
In August, Rutgers’ flagship campus in New Brunswick welcomed its largest incoming class ever, with more than 7,000 first-year students.
Just last week, Rutgers officials unveiled the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Building at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, touting the $115 million endeavor as the launch of a new era in research and education.
A neuroscientist and neurologist, Barchi formerly served for eight years as president of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He had previously been provost and chief academic officer at the University of Pennsylvania, a top Ivy League research university.
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