Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.


Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.

Benoit Cortet

The strength of Rutgers’ partnership with New Jersey policymakers was on display in January when Governor Christie signed legislation that provides Rutgers with up to $25 million in economic growth tax credits to help build an athletics practice facility adjacent to the Rutgers Athletic Center. The bill was sponsored in the New Jersey Senate by Ray Lesniak RC’71 and Tom Kean Jr., the leader of the Republican caucus in the chamber. The bill was championed in the New Jersey General Assembly by John Wisniewski RC’84 and Patrick Diegnan. 

The bills passed in both houses by overwhelming margins—a tribute to the strength of the sponsors and to the growing support that Rutgers enjoys among elected officials. Continuing his support of Rutgers, Governor Christie signed the bill as the legislative session drew to a close; he could have just as easily let the bills die in the waning hours. Policymaker support for the bills was bolstered by close to 15,000 emails from alumni to members of the legislature and the governor.

The days of open hostility between the state and the university are a distant memory. The state-university relationship today is one of mutual respect and understanding. Last year, more than 250 appointed or elected officials visited Rutgers. President Barchi hosted nearly half of them at dinners, tailgate gatherings, and other events in his home and on the road. More than 100 officials spoke at conferences, appearing, for instance, at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, the Senator Ron Rice Lecture Series at Rutgers University–Newark, and the state’s Red Tape Review Commission held at Rutgers University–Camden. Dozens of legislators toured facilities like the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Honors College, both at Rutgers–New Brunswick.

The relationships are better because we’ve all tried to make things work. One of our goals has been to make Rutgers the first place that policymakers turn for answers and information. We’ve strived to have Rutgers viewed as a partner, not a problem.

Relationships take work. Today, Rutgers and our state partners are doing that work and building the relationship. May it long continue.