By Jonathan Lai, Inquirer Staff Writer
A memo issued Wednesday questions the legality of a bill that New Jersey’s Senate president has introduced to expand the number of political appointees to Rutgers University’s main governing board.
The bill “may be held to be an impairment of the 1956 legislative contract between Rutgers and the state, implicating the contract clause of the constitution,” reads the memo, which lawmakers requested from the Office of Legislative Services.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) has sponsored the bill, saying it would help the Rutgers University board of governors better reflect the university after an expansion to include health science units, such as two medical schools. The bill would increase the board by four members, to 19; 12 would be political appointees.
The board was recently increased to 15 from 11 members as part of the expansion.
“It could be maintained that . . . the unilateral change in the board’s membership at this time is not reasonable and necessary to serve an important public interest,” the memo reads.
Critics say the bill would set a precedent of political interference. The memo says the political appointments, without Rutgers’ approval, could be unconstitutional.