“The one thing the Governor lacks is common courtesy,” says Rutgers-Camden Law School student and former US Navy Seal William Brown.
The 34-year-old was physically escorted by police from a town hall meeting Thursday in Florence Township after engaging in a heated shouting match with Governor Christie over the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University.
Calling Brown an “idiot” as an after-thought, the Governor shot back in true Chris Christie-style, "Let me tell you something after you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end is going to be thrown in jail, idiot."
The Democrat ran for Assembly in Laurel last year and was unsuccessful. Brown said he knew he would lose in a GOP town, but wanted to bring attention to issues that were not being addressed, and in the process said he wanted to set an example for other Iraq war veterans.
Brown testified before the Rutgers Board of Governors last month, arguing the Christie proposal to re-brand the South Jersey campus under the Rowan name, according to the Star Ledger, would rob students of opportunities afforded by Rutgers’ reputation.
“I really think it is a disserve to southern Jersey that we are going to lose a great university and one of the things that is true is that Rutgers is always going to be the state University and so what will happen is those who can go up to North Jersey or go to Philadelphia or somewhere else, they will, instead of going right here. And that’s just the truth,” Brown told reporters outside Roebling Volunteer Fire Company No. 3 in Burlington County.
Inside the meeting, Christie explained those students who are currently in Rutgers-Camden will graduate with a Rutgers degree, just like Brown.
But Brown says it isn’t about his degree, it’s about keeping the Rutgers name in South Jersey.
Brown, who spent three deployments overseas, says the Governor’s plan is not a “merger,” but a “takeover”.
“And then when someone questions him about it, he tries to bulldoze them,” said Brown.
When Brown interrupted the Governor, Christie put him in his place, "You know, I tried to be patient with the guy. Every time I tried to answer, he started yelling over me again. Damn, man. I'm the Governor. Could you just shut up for a second?"
Talk of a Rutgers-Camden and Rowan merger is nothing new. In January, an advisory committee to Governor Christie called for the Camden campus of Rutgers to be merged into Rowan in Glassboro in Gloucester County, along with its satellite campus in Camden.
The panel’s conclusion also affects the Newark-based University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
“We have missed opportunities and failed to identify long term strategies for our institutions to grow,” Christie said at a Statehouse press conference in January. “We cannot compete in this state with good but not great educational institutions at any level,” according to the Gloucester County Times.
The Rowan merger is endorsed by a handful of South Jersey leaders, however according to a recent poll taken last month, less than a quarter of New Jersey voters support Governor Christie’s plan to combine Rutgers-Camden into Rowan University, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released on February 15th.
The poll states that 57 percent of registered voters disapprove of the proposal, which would result in Rutgers losing its satellite campus in Camden to Rowan, including the law and business schools there; 22 percent approve of the move, and 21 percent of voters say they are unsure.