NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - The call from faculty members and politicians to oust top Rutgers University administrators grew louder Thursday, a day after men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for mistreating players, shoving them and berating them with gay slurs.
More than 50 faculty members signed a letter calling for the dismissal of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and an explanation from President Robert Barchi for why he didn’t fire Rice last year when he learned of a video showing Rice’s behavior during practices.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney also called for Pernetti to step down or be fired. He said Pernetti deserves credit for getting Rutgers into the Big Ten conference but mishandled this situation.
“This incident will continue to hang over Rutgers like a dark cloud for weeks, months and perhaps years to come,” the Democrat said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the number of faculty members calling for Barchi to step down more than doubled Thursday to 28.
The letter calling for Barchi’s resignation was sent to the university’s governing boards on Wednesday. In it, the faculty members cite Barchi’s “inexcusable handling of coach Mike Rice’s homophobic and misogynist abuse” of players, his “pattern of insensitivity and arrogance toward issues of diversity” and the “lack of transparency that he has exhibited in his relations” with faculty, staff and students.
It’s unclear what effect the calls might have on the president or the athletic director. Neither was willing to be interviewed by The Associated Press. Barchi also skipped a town hall meeting he’d been scheduled to attend Thursday at Rutgers‘ Newark campus and declined to comment when he left his office. Members of the university’s two governing boards have been mum.
Barchi, a neuroscience researcher before he became a university administrator, was hired a year ago and took office Sept. 1 to lead the university, which has 58,000 students and 13,000 faculty members on three campuses. He had been president of Thomas Jefferson University, a Philadelphia health sciences university, and before that was an administrator at the University of Pennsylvania.
He was brought to Rutgers as the university takes over two medical schools that are part of the separate University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The ongoing reconfiguration of the state’s higher education system is intended to expand Rutgers‘ life-science research prowess, and Barchi was chosen largely to oversee that.
He had never been an administrator, though, at a school with athletic scholarships.
Over the past decade, Rutgers‘ athletic program has grown increasingly ambitious and expensive, largely as the university’s football team transformed from an also-ran to a power in the Big East conference. The school’s teams are set next year to join the more prestigious Big Ten, a move engineered largely by Pernetti, a former TV sports executive.
Shortly after Barchi took office, he told reporters that high-profile sports teams are an important way to increase the university’s visibility but that he wanted to gradually reduce the university’s operating subsidy for sports, currently about $8 million per year, while continuing to pay for scholarships for athletes at a cost of about $10 million annually.
Barchi said in a statement Wednesday that Pernetti told him last year about the video of Rice made by a former basketball program employee, but he said he did not watch the video until Tuesday, the day it was made public. A university spokesman declined to comment on why Barchi didn’t watch the video last year.
In December, after the university consulted lawyers and commissioned an independent report on Rice’s actions, Barchi said he agreed to suspend the coach for three games, fine him and order him to anger management counseling.
He said that when he saw the video, he realized that Rice needed to be removed.