Perspectives: RU Reader Response Column

April 19, 2013

By Steve Adubato, Ph.D. for NJTV

Overwhelming response to last week’s column on the ongoing crisis at Rutgers.

John from Green Brook is a 1988 Rutgers graduate of University College and said he was appalled at how the scandal played out: “I have learned that the only way to communicate is proactively, honestly, openly and with empathy…The university cannot reverse its actions since November, but it would be well served to look at the entire episode and conduct a complete post-mortem to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid this public relations debacle from happening again.”

You’re right, John. However, with ongoing media accounts that continue to expose more examples of leadership lapses at RU, such an internal investigation will be conducted with a heavy cloud hanging over it.

Jon Semcer from Bloomfield wrote about President Robert Barchi’s failure to follow up when then athletic director Tim Pernetti came to him about the coach Rice situation. Said Semcer, “The AD was not coming to the president about a ticket taker or member of the maintenance staff. It was his head basketball coach…As president I would want to know and see the evidence…We are not talking about hours of meetings. One has to view the tapes for less than 5 minutes and the conclusion is clear — fire the coach!”

You’re right, John, and President Barchi, to his credit, admits his own leadership failure in not looking at the tape. However, what is so striking is that so few other leaders at Rutgers who were in a position to raise red flags either on the board or in the administration insisted on seeing the tape and acting on it.

That’s what makes this scandal so mind boggling.

Joan Maio from Mendham is a 1977 graduate of Rutgers College and said, “I’m upset with this situation at Rutgers…But it’s time to move on…What purpose did your column serve?…You want to talk about being embarrassed and appalled? Me too…I am embarrassed and appalled that a fellow Rutgers alumnus and faculty member would choose to use an unfortunate and isolated incident to further smear the reputation of Rutgers in his column. Please have some consideration for those who have passed through those hallowed halls, the current student body, and those who are contemplating spending their upcoming college years there.”

Joan, I appreciate your criticism, however, I respectfully disagree that this incident is isolated or that it’s those of us in the media who are embarrassing Rutgers. The leadership of the University have done that all on their own.

Richard O’Reilly, Rutgers College class of ’79, from North Brunswick said, “There was poor advice all around and not just from the lawyers, but from HR and media/public affairs at RU. Where was the Board of Governors?…I think the investigation was just to determine if Rutgers HAD to fire Rice, not just if it COULD have. My wife and I are Rutgers College graduates of ’79. I have been an equity analyst for 30 years. If this were a public company, the uproar from shareholders would force out the CEO and changes in the board of directors.”

Not much to add here, Richard.

Joe O. from Hillsborough wrote, “This may have been an isolated incident at some point, but the mishandling made it a crisis. Further, with all the resources available to Rutgers, arrogant leadership never convened a competent group, which should have included representatives of legal, human resources, media, management consultants, etc. Any reasonable person can see Rice’s behavior was grounds for dismissal when it first surfaced…”

You nailed it, Joe. Rice’s behavior was bad enough, but Rutgers could have stopped this scandal dead in its tracks and they didn’t. They let it become a runaway train and now the train is way off course and the RU leadership has no idea how to get it back on track.