By Patricia Alex, Staff Writer, The Record.
Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi on Friday said things are on the upswing and predicted bigger-than-expected payouts from the school’s participation in the Big Ten athletic conference — even as he was forced to again defend his controversial pick for athletic director.
Barchi’s annual State of the University address in New Brunswick came on the heels of news reports that Athletic Director Julie Hermann had made a tasteless remark about the Penn State sexual abuse scandal during a staff meeting last year.
Barchi seemed unconcerned about the remarks, saying they were “off the cuff.” He expressed confidence in Hermann’s leadership, which has been marked by some high-profile verbal miscues since her arrival last year.
As Barchi spoke, about 50 members of unions representing nearly 20,000 Rutgers faculty and staff who are without a contract protested outside on College Avenue. The groups said they are coming off a three-year salary freeze that was coupled with increases in the amounts paid for medical insurance premiums.
Adrienne Eaton, of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the group has been offered raises of 1 percent for each of the next two years, followed by 1.25 percent in the third year.
“A lot of people are questioning [Rutgers’] priorities,” said Nat Bender, communications director with the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey. He said academics are suffering as resources are channeled to athletics.