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For Rutgers, basketball scandal again interrupts business as usual

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    Robert Barchi speaks at a previous meeting of the board of governors.
    Robert Barchi speaks at a previous meeting of the board of governors. - (Aaron Houston / NJBIZ)

    Rutgers University's board of governors tried to resume some of its normal business Thursday, but the fallout from the school's basketball scandal showed no signs of fading.

    President Robert Barchi announced at the board's meeting that Rutgers-Newark Law School Dean John Farmer Jr. was named the university's interim general counsel, one of several matters discussed in relation to the firing of men's basketball coach Mike Rice. The former state attorney general will replace John Wolf, who resigned earlier Thursday and was the latest official to lose his job in connection with the incident.

    "We're in a position right now where we definitely and tremendously need experienced and wise senior legal consultative support to me, personally, and to the university as we go through this difficult but necessary transition," Barchi told the board in New Brunswick. Farmer will serve in the post for 12 to 18 months, he said.

    Tim Pernetti

    The board meeting was the first since the scandal erupted early this month, stemming from videos that showed Rice verbally and physically abusing players during practice last year. The controversy also led to athletic director Tim Pernetti's resignation, while costing the jobs of other university employees who were involved in the decision to suspend Rice late last year, rather than fire him after the videos came to light.

    After Thursday's public session, board Vice Chairman Gerald Harvey outlined his expectations for an upcoming independent review of the incident.

    "I feel that the board of governors wants to learn what failures there were in the process, because if you look at it on the surface, all of the appropriate check boxes were taken," Harvey said. "A decision was made, and it was reported to the athletic committee with confidence with an apparent review and understanding of the facts. … And yet, the decision seems to have been a very poor decision."

    The future of board member Mark P. Hershhorn, who chairs the athletics committee, was also called into question Thursday after word surfaced that he also had seen the video in December. Harvey said Hershhorn was absent from the public session and his committee meeting after leaving early, though he said he was not told why.

    The vice chairman also said "no action has been taken with respect to Mr. Hershhorn" and declined to discuss whether Hershhorn would be removed from his post.

    Discussion of the scandal's aftermath was mixed in with other matters that have been before the board of governors in recent months, including the sweeping integration with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rowan University. The board voted Thursday to assume and refinance $469 million in UMDNJ debt, resulting in savings of potentially $43 million, while refinancing roughly $183 million in bonds owed by Rutgers.

    Barchi also announced Thursday that Rutgers would create a new Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. The department will be led by a new vice president, Jorge Schement, currently dean of the university's school of communication and information.

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    Joshua Burd

    Joshua Burd

    Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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