Should Rutgers President and Athletic Director Resign After Coach Rice Scandal

Barchi and Pernetti

Rutgers faculty, government officials, members of the public (and DiversityInc readers) are demanding answers to the Rutgers University basketball scandal involving physical abuse and homophobic slursand some are asking for the resignation of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and Rutgers President Dr. Robert Barchi.

Basketball Coach Mike Rice was fired yesterday after video of his actions surfaced. But when Pernetti first saw the video in November, he gave Rice a slap on the wrist and allowed him to continue coaching the men’s basketball team. Because he was not fired at the time and completed the season, Rice will be paid a $100,000 bonus.

The controversy surfaced Tuesday night after ESPN aired video that showcased Rice in a rage, kicking and shoving students, throwing basketballs at their heads from close range, and using hateful, homophobic slurs like “f—-t” to degrade them. Pernetti admittedly saw the video, and similar clips, in November, as did internal and external counsel. Some reports said Barchi also had seen any video, but a Rutgers statement yesterday implied he was aware of Rice’s actions but never saw the video until Tuesday. In November, Rice was suspended for three games, fined $50,000 and required to receive anger-management counseling.

DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti, a member of the Rutgers Board of Trustees and of the Rutgers Board of Governors Standing Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, said he was never informed about Rice’s anti-gay slurs or the fact that the video existed. Visconti says he had been told there was a disciplinary issue, which was addressed with the suspension.

Where’s the Accountability for Leadership

“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” said Pernetti. “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December, and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”

Although Dr. Barchi said he did not see the video until this week, he is under scrutiny for not taking a more proactive role when Pernetti approached him about the need for disciplinary action against Rice. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

Barchi never asked to see the video. … It wasn’t until late Tuesday that Barchi finally watched a DVD of the excerpts with Pernetti on the Piscataway campus. Amid growing outrage and calls from the governor to fire the embattled coach, the university president finally changed his mind about Rice, according to interviews with Rutgers officials.

Many are calling for the resignation of Pernetti, including DiversityInc readers, who responded to our initial coverage in “Why Did Rutgers Wait to Fire Coach After Anti-Gay and Abusive Actions” For example:

  • Due to their failures, university President Dr. Robert Barchi and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti should now be firedespecially Pernetti.
  • Pernetti stating “Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community” is insufficient. He should not be given that opportunity to work to rebuild trusthe failed in his insufficient response to the long term misbehavior of his subordinate.
  • I would guess that if Barchi and Pernetti had heard the coach use the n-word or the c-word to demean the school’s student players instead of antigay f-word pejorative the coach actually used, likely a fine, a three-day suspension, and an anger management class wouldn’t have even been considered adequate at all. I don’t see the difference between using a racist pejoratives, sexist pejorative, and anti-gay pejoratives: all pejoratives demean not only those who the terms are used against, but also demean known minority populations. Use of pejoratives by people drawing salary from the university shouldn’t be tolerated at all by the university’s management.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he was “deeply disturbed” by Rice’s actions and expects Rutgers’ administration to provide a full explanation “as to why Mr. Rice was not dismissed sooner and how exactly that decision was made. If answers aren’t forthcoming, we are prepared to do what’s needed to get them for the people of New Jersey.”

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