They first saw the video Nov. 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving, inside an office in Piscataway, N.J., but it was hardly the first time that senior Rutgers officials had heard of the troubling behavior of Mike Rice, the men’s basketball coach.
Interviews with university officials, former players and members of the board, as well as reviews of internal documents and legal records, show that when the most senior Rutgers officials were confronted with explicit details about Mr. Rice’s behavior toward his players and his staff, they ignored them or issued relatively light penalties.
The interviews and documents reveal a culture in which the university was far more concerned with protecting itself from legal action than with protecting its students from an abusive coach.
University officials focused on the technical issue of whether Mr. Rice had created a hostile work environment, a potential legal justification for his firing, while paying less attention to the larger question of whether Rutgers should employ an authority figure who hurled slurs at and physically provoked its students.
The university had hired outside counsel to investigate the men’s basketball program and determine Rutgers’s legal options. Lawyers with the firm Connell Foley of Roseland, N.J., interviewed coaches, players and administrators. They reviewed text messages, secret recordings and dozens of hours of video, noting the vulgar terms Mr. Rice used to address players.
But the primary goal of the report, which was completed in January and made public Friday, was not to determine whether Mr. Rice had abused his players, or whether he was a suitable authority figure for a group of young men. Instead, it focused largely on whether Mr. Rice created a hostile work environment, which could have resulted in future lawsuits, and whether Mr. Murdock was wrongfully terminated.
UPDATE: A powerful critique of the Academic Power-Elite, by two Rutgers professors, in today's Chronicle of Higher Ed.
Public universities are not corporations. They are not sports franchises. They are not dysfunctional families in which the powerful can abuse the less powerful by enforcing silence.Read it.
As faculty members, we were deeply dismayed to learn that some Rutgers University administrators had known for months about Mike Rice Jr. and his assistant coach’s physical and verbal abuse of student athletes, yet remained silent. Homophobic slurs and physical abuse teach students a deformed version of athletic masculinity.
Administrators forgot that “Rutgers” is not a sports logo, but an avenue of upward mobility for students from a wide range of backgrounds. Unfortunately, this is not an aberration.