Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Barchi, Senate President Hold Closed Meeting

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Barchi, Senate President Hold Closed Meeting

Article excerpt

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi -- beset by criticism over his handling of a series of crises involving the university's athletic department -- met behind closed doors with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney in Trenton on Friday

Neither man would comment on the substance of the meeting, which came at the end of a difficult week for the university as it continues to face questions about the integrity of the process it followed in selecting its new athletic director, Julie Hermann.

Barchi left Sweeney's office on the second floor of the State House at 3 p.m., telling a reporter he was late for a meeting and did not have time to comment.

Sweeney did not emerge to speak to reporters and instead issued a statement about 40 minutes later, saying he met with Barchi "to discuss the current state of affairs at Rutgers University, particularly in the athletic department."

"As has always been my policy, I do not discuss private conversations," said Sweeney, the state's top Democrat. "That being said, President Barchi and I engaged in a good conversation, and I appreciated his candor."

Hermann, a longtime athletics administrator at the University of Louisville, was introduced on May 15 as a figure who would lead the Rutgers athletic department beyond a tumultuous period that included the dismissal of its men's basketball coach, Mike Rice, for abusing players, and the forced resignation of her predecessor for failing to adequately respond to the abuse allegations. She is due to start on June 17 at an annual salary of $450,000.

This week, however, reports surfaced that Hermann herself had been accused of verbally abusing players when she was a volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee in the mid-1990s. A search firm that Rutgers has agreed to pay $70,000 apparently did not turn up evidence of the abuse allegations, which Hermann has denied and said she does not recall.

Sweeney's meeting with Barchi came hours after Rutgers issued a statement that attempted to put a positive spin on news that Moody's Investors Service had downgraded the university's bond rating, citing Rutgers' pending absorption of most of the debt-laden University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. …

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