The Queen's College, Rutgers College and Rutgers University Board of Trustees

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The Board of Trustees was established by the charter of Queens College in 1766. Members of the Reformed Dutch Church requested the establishment of this college in order to educate and prepare young men for the ministry. The charter was granted through William Franklin, Esquire, Governor of the Province of New Jersey. The Board of Trustees had the responsibility for the direction of all college activities. Its duties included granting and conferring honorary degrees, nominating and appointing as well as dismissing faculty, nominating and electing new board members, purchasing and holding land, and making financial transactions as necessary on behalf of the College. The number of members was not to exceed forty-one and not above one-third at any time were to be ordained ministers. The president was to be a member of the Reformed Dutch Church, elected by the Trustees.

The exercises of the College were suspended between 1795 and 1807. In 1807, the Board of Trustees reached an agreement with the General Synod of the Reformed Dutch Church allowing the Trustees, many who were ministers themselves, to solicit funds in churches of their denomination on the condition that most of the money raised would go towards establishing a professorship in theology. This agreement was the beginning of a long, but not always tranquil relationship between the College and the Church. In 1816, the Board of Trustees closed the College again due to financial problems. They allowed the General Synod to use the College Building for its theological seminary. Problems arose with this arrangement because the Trustees still had control of the "professoral fund" along with two scholarship funds which were to benefit theological students. In 1823, the Trustees sold the College Building and lot to the General Synod in order to pay off debts. The College reopened in 1825, after the signing of a Covenant between the Trustees and the Reformed Dutch Church. This agreement left much of the power of the College in the hands of the General Synod. The College was combined with the theological seminary and took on a stronger religious orientation. Also, at this time, the name of the College was changed from Queens College to Rutgers College, named after Colonel Henry Rutgers, an active member of the Reformed Church in New York City and benefactor of the College.

In 1839, another conflict with the Church led to a new agreement between the Trustees and the Church. In the outcome, the Synod recognized the Trustees as an independent body. As a result, the Trustees were given all of the authority for the administration of the college. More debate flared up later, in 1848, revealing hostility of the General Synod toward the College. Nothing formally resulted from this tension; however, some of the Trustees began to sense that complete separation from the Church would be necessary.

In 1864, the Trustees bought back the College Building and the property which it had conveyed to the Synod. This agreement came with conditions dictated by the Synod. The President of the College and three-fourths of the Board of Trustees were to be members of the Reformed Dutch Church. Previously, this kind of requirement applied only to the President, not to the other Board members. Also, in 1864, the Board of Trustees accepted a land grant under the Morrill Act, establishing the Rutgers Scientific School. The Trustees did not have as much authority over the Scientific School's operations as they had over the rest of the College.

With the expansion of Rutgers College, the Board adopted new rules and a new structure of organization. In 1869, the President of the College was authorized to serve as the President of the Board of Trustees when the Governor of New Jersey was not present at meetings. Five standing committees were established, replacing sundry ad hoc special committees. In 1882, the Trustees adopted a plan which allowed the Alumni Association to nominate candidates to serve on the Board for limited terms. Five members were to be alumni or elected by the Alumni Association. In 1892, the Synod agreed to a request made by the Trustees that the proportion of the members required to be communicants of the Reformed Dutch Church be reduced from three-fourths to two-thirds. In 1909, this requirement was eliminated altogether. The rule remained, however, that the president be a member of the Church.

A legislature bill in 1917 declared the Rutgers Scientific School as the State Agricultural College. In developing its relationship with the State, the Board of Trustees remained cautious about relinquishing any authority while it was anxious to receive the aid in the form of public funds. Also in 1917, the Trustees resolved that residence clubs and fraternities could not be established without the Board's permission.

The New Jersey College for Women (NJC), established in 1918 as a department of the State University of New Jersey, became the responsibility of the Board of Trustees. In 1919, the management of the Woman's College was divided between the Trustees and other officials. A Board of Managers consisting of the President of Rutgers College (ex-officio), the Dean of the College for Women (ex-officio), and ten members, five from the Board of Trustees and five being women interested in the higher education of women, provided oversight responsibilities for the College. An amendment to the charter in 1920 made Rutgers a non-sectarian institution. The College of Agriculture was formally created by the Board of Trustees in 1921. A Managing Committee for the College of Agriculture served in a similar capacity as the committee created for the New Jersey College for Women. This committee was given control of property, expenditures, and personnel but was subject to the general direction of the Board of Trustees of Rutgers College.

The Trustees authorized the name of Rutgers College to be changed to Rutgers University in 1924. As the University began to grow, the Trustees started delegating responsibilities to specially created advisory committees of the individual college. These committees reported back to the Trustees.

In 1926, at President John M. Thomas' first official meeting with the Trustees, the standing committees of the Board were reorganized and an Executive Committee was created. This committee consisted of the President of Rutgers University and seven members of the Board. The Executive Committee had responsibilities in all matters related to the management of the University and held general advisory powers. With the establishment of this committee, the full Board of Trustees no longer dealt with matters related to personnel or curricula.

In 1927, an amendment of the charter increased the number of state ex-officio Trustees to include: the Chancellor, the President of the Senate, the President of the State Board of Education, and the Commissioner of Education during their respective terms of office. This increased the connection between Rutgers and state educational agencies but also set up a new struggle for control of the University. In 1927, the New Jersey College of Pharmacy was integrated into Rutgers as approved by the Board of Trustees. In 1932, the charter was amended again allowing for the election of five women to the Board. Four were actually elected at that time.

The State University Act of 1945 designated the State College for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, the Agricultural Experiment Station, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, the New Jersey College for Women and other educational departments maintained by the Board of Trustees as the State University of New Jersey. This allowed the State to participate in the management of the University through ex-officio and public trustees.

In 1946 the University of Newark, which included the former Newark Institute of Arts and Sciences and the Mercer Beasley Law School, became part of Rutgers University. In 1950, the Trustees absorbed the College of South Jersey, in Camden. Around 1952, in an attempt to regain some of the power lost to the Executive Committee, the Board hired a professional management firm to study the administrative procedures of the Board. The Trustees listened to this firm's proposal and adopted a new plan of organization. They planned to meet seven times a year rather than quarterly, allowing the Executive Committee administrative powers only in the intervals between meetings and the president would be chairperson of the Board. However, this arrangement proved to be ineffective.

In 1956, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill transferring the authority of the Board of Trustees to a Board of Governors. The managing corporate body was changed from the "Trustees of Rutgers College in New Jersey" to "Rutgers, the State University." Within the Board of Governors, the Trustees were represented by a minority, as the new board consisted of eleven members, six appointed by the governor and five by the Trustees, from among their membership. The President of the University and the Commissioner of Education served as ex-officio members. The new board controlled all University activities; it determined policy along with the educational and the financial needs of the University. The Board of Trustees functioned largely as an advisory board. It did retain control of certain funds and properties; however, the Board of Governors had ultimate control of these. During this period, the makeup of the Board of Trustees also changed. The state officials serving as ex-officio members were replaced by state appointed members of the Board of Governors. The size of the Board decreased, by reducing the number of "charter" members from fifteen to thirteen. Finally, the Trustees no longer served for indefinite terms, but instead, terms were limited.

The authority exercised by the Board of Trustees for 190 years was transferred to a new publicly controlled Board of Governors, as Rutgers University moved farther along to fulfill its role as Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

From the guide to the Inventory to the Records of the Queen's College, Rutgers College and Rutgers University Board of Trustees: Manuscript Minutes, Enclosures, and Subject Files, 1778-1956, (Rutgers University Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives.)

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College and universities

Corporate Body

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