Gov. Christie Speaks Out on Latest Rutgers Scandal [VIDEO/AUDIO]
Embattled Rutgers University is embroiled in yet another controversy.
Newly-hired Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Hermann is under fire for allegedly calling members of the University of Tennessee volleyball team, "whores" and "alcoholics." A new report says Hermann was also involved in a discrimination lawsuit while at Louisville.
Last night on Townsquare Media's monthly 'Ask the Governor' program, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie voiced strong support for the hierarchy at Rutgers.
"I don't know Julie Hermann," says Christie. "I've never met Julie Hermann. I've never spoken to Julie Hermann. I wasn't involved in her recruiting or her vetting or anything else as I should not be. I'm the governor of New Jersey. I'm not the recruiter for Rutgers University. My point on all of this is, let Rutgers handle this."
In the Louisville lawsuit, Hermann was a witness and not a defendant says Christie. He says to be a subject of a lawsuit you have to be sued. The governor says Hermann should be defended in areas where she needs to be defended.
Rutgers President, Bob Barchi and the school's General Counsel, John Farmer have Christie's total backing.
"I have absolute confidence in Bob Barchi," insists Christie. "I think he's the right man for the job and he has my complete confidence and support."
Asked by the show's host, News Director Eric Scott if he's comfortable with Hermann as Rutgers athletic director, Christie said, "It's not my call."
Earlier this week, the Star-Ledger reported that all 15 members of the University of Tennessee volleyball team that Hermann coached in 1996 wrote a letter to the university complaining that Hermann humiliated them and mentally abused them.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Hermann was involved in a discrimination lawsuit at Louisville, where an assistant track coach said she was fired for complaining about discriminatory treatment.
"Let's not engage in the character assassination that's going on here," says Christie. "I understand that there are some people that feel differently about it. It doesn't matter. What matters is what did the administration at Rutgers believe?"
The hiring of Hermann came after former basketball coach Mike Rice was fired in April for physically and verbally abusing players and former athletic director Tim Pernetti was forced to resign for his handling of the problem. The university's top in-house lawyer and an assistant basketball coach also resigned during the fallout.
"One of the primary reasons for using a search firm is that they're supposed to completely vet a candidate for a senior management position, so I'm a little mystified as to why this comes from the press and not the search committee," says Susan Schurman, dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers, who was on the search committee that looked into Hermann. Schuman says she was out of the country for much of the process.
While denying any wrongdoing at Tennessee, Hermann admits she made mistakes. She says she has matured and believes she is qualified to lead Rutgers.
The Democrat running against Christie in this year's gubernatorial race, State Senator Barbara Buono is fed up with the scandals at Rutgers.
"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," says Buono. "If the Board of Governors will not take action then Governor Christie has a responsibility to take the appropriate action to ensure that this taxpayer funded institution does not continue to fall even further off course."