It was only a matter of time before this happened, but the Rutgers situation has now officially become a full-out political debating point for no reason at all other than to serve as a political debate.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) said on Tuesday he has “absolute confidence” in Rutgers president Robert Barchi. Barchi has been on the receiving end of plenty of criticism for his handling and management of Rutgers following the removal of men’s basketball coach Mike Rice and athletics director Tim Pernetti following an issue concerning abuse of players. Rutgers is also being slammed for their appointment of new athletics director Julie Hermann, the first woman to serve as AD in the Big Ten (Rutgers joins the Big Ten in 2014). Hermann herself has a checkered past with cases of possible abuse, which for some reason was not picked up by those handling the search for a new AD at Rutgers.
Senator Barbara Buono (D) is expected to be the top candidate opposing Christie in the race for New Jersey governor, and she is standing firmly opposed to the leadership of Barchi at Rutgers, which makes this whole situation now a political game.
“As an alumnus, and as a New Jersey taxpayer, I have lost all confidence in President Barchi’s ability to effectively guide our state university,” Buono said, according to this Associated Press report. I am not a New Jersey resident, but living in the Philadelphia area I will be sure to see plenty of political ads with the two going back and forth. I am curious if this issue will lead to any ads or not. I would guess it would be a risky move for Buono to include Rutgers in any advertisements, because if she happened to win she may need to have a good relationship with the state’s largest university at some point.
Hermann does not begin her post as AD until mid-June, and has no intention of stepping down.