By David Cruz
If Rutgers President Robert Barchi thought his statement of support was going to quell the choppy waters around Athletic Director Designee Julie Hermann, critics were ready to inform him otherwise. Today, Sen. Loretta Weinberg weighed in, questioning Barchi’s ability to be truthful.
“This is about our state university, the place that is supposed to educate young people, the future generations. It’s supposed to educate them in honesty, ethics, as well as the basics of civics, government, public participation and these are just not good role models,” Weinberg said.
Hermann has been under fire after a letter surfaced alleging she abused players on the 1997 University of Tennessee volleyball team she coached and for her role in wrongful termination and sex discrimination suits filed by former employees at the universities of Louisville and Tennessee, where Hermann worked. This from a woman who was brought in to clean up the mess caused by the firing of Mike Rice, the basketball coach who was seen on video physically and verbally abusing his players. One member of the university’s search committee, though, says Rutgers knew about the two lawsuits, and was OK with them, because Hermann wasn’t personally accused of anything.
As far as the volleyball allegations, however Rutgers University Board of Governors member Candy Straight said, “The letter was unsigned and I believe the letter’s undated, and the other individuals that were involved have no knowledge of that letter.”
When asked if the letter is credible, Straight said, “I don’t know if it is or isn’t. I have no knowledge whether it is or is not, but we have three individuals who say that they have no knowledge of the letter.”
Gov. Chris Christie again reiterated his support for Barchi and the university’s leadership, but expressed no specific support for Hermann.
“I’ve never met her. I’ve never spoken to her. I wasn’t involved in her interviewing or her vetting in any way, so I hope at some point to meet her but I haven’t met her, so I can’t make any judgement in that regard,” Christie said.
The governor’s presumed opponent, Democratic Sen. Barbara Buono, said today that Christie’s desire to not micro-manage the university’s athletics program seemed terribly convenient for a man who’s expressed opinions on many things not specifically in his job description.
“This is a governor who had no problem stepping out and calling Rice an animal and yet he’s hands off when it comes to this situation. I question what his motivations are,” Buono said. “Are they to protect this president Barchi and the fact that he’s going to oversee a merger?”
With so much riding on the university’s merger and President Barchi’s critical role in it, observers are now starting to wonder aloud how much more of a distraction the university can afford.