By Michael Hill
Rutgers University faculty says it’s tremendously important that President Robert Barchi has made his 21-page investigative report public.
“That’s tremendously important in terms of restoring the reputation of the university. Also, we called for President Barchi to reaffirm academic freedom. He did that,” said American Association of University Professors President David Hughes.
The freedom of even part-time professors to assign grades.
The report found that Head Football Coach Kyle Flood violated university policy last spring by contacting a part-time professor to influence a grade for now former cornerback Nadir Bardwell — one of more than a half dozen current or former former players now arrested and charged in the last two weeks with several separate crimes.
Barchi found Flood knew or should have known he was crossing the line. His report states Flood wrote, “I am sending it from my personal email to your personal email to ensure there will be no public vetting of the correspondence.”
Flood was warned it was improper to meet with the professor. But to fly under the radar, “Coach Flood told the professor that he purposefully didn’t wear any Rutgers apparel or insignia so he wouldn’t be recognized in public.”
“It seems pretty clear that he knew that he was breaking the rules,” said Hughes.
President Barchi has suspended Flood for three games and fined him $50,000.
In a statement, Flood says, “As the head coach, when I recruit players, my responsibility to them and their families is to do all I can to make sure they leave Rutgers with a degree and are prepared for a successful life off the football field. Moving forward, I will make sure I adhere to all University policies.”
Seton Hall University Sports Psychology Adjunct Professor Bob Podhurst says Flood’s actions raise a red flag.
“It shows winning has pre-empted any appearance of academic performance and it’s just unacceptable,” he said.
Rutgers students say enough.
“It’s not just an issue of Flood being fired, I think it’s an issue of the fact that we put the athletics program on such a pedestal. You know, I’m a humanities major and I’ve had several classes cancelled because they’re not funded properly,” said Sivan Rosenthal.
Greg Briskin wonders about the perception of students’ grades and degrees.
“I mean it’s kind of like the wild west sometimes, you know. With not that much enforcement or just poor enforcement, so they might say what’s this degree really worth,” he said.
One question for the faculty here is whether the state’s biggest university will use this opportunity as a teaching moment.
“We saw that the coach actually did persuade the part-time lecturer to begin changing that grade, right? And it was only because some third party who remains anonymous blew the whistle. The structural problem is that the part-time lecturer herself didn’t feel confident and protected enough to blow the whistle on the coach. And what’s going to change that?” said Hughes.
Rutgers plays Penn State this weekend with an assistant coach at the helm and knowing the NCAA has yet to chime in on the head coach stepping out of bounds.