A guest blog:
“A shameless cheerleader for the high-stakes football program”: this is how America’s best-known and most important newspaper describes the President of Rutgers. For myself and my close alum friends, this was a profoundly cheering piece of writing. It demonstrated, as did the equally savage Bergen Record editorial of the same day, that the attempts from Old Queens to spin and dissemble the litany of disasters surrounding the football program has fallen on its face. Quite simply, people aren’t buying it.
If you want a snapshot of how low the McCormick administration has sunk in its desperate attempts to prop up football, consider this passage from the President’s recent letter to the university community: “We are doing all we can to build on that [football] success. As that is happening, we may make missteps…” Let’s think this through. Richard McCormick is here trying to pass off a deliberate and organized campaign of concealed payments and secret contracts – undertaken to deceive the very students and taxpayers that pay McCormick’s bloated salary – as a “misstep”, something “accidental”, a simple mistake. This Orwellian term, reminiscent of that popular political term for lying, to “misspeak”, belongs in Madison Avenue or a Pentagon press release. It is the very role of a university – the vital role – to draw attention to such attempts to pervert language, not to itself sink to the level of a sleazy PR firm. But that’s what Old Queens is run like these days.
To develop this point, let’s take for an example McCormick’s returned “bonus”. The mind boggles as to what “undisclosed” performance goals he was being rewarded for. More faculty layoffs? Reducing campus mail delivery to once a day? Taking the deferred maintenance account over $500 million into the red? Anyway, it is symptomatic of the gang of thieves who run Rutgers these days, that when the university is cutting spending to the bone, the mediocre chair of the Board of Governors could write the following to an already-overpaid president:
“The Board believes that even in austere times university staff and faculty should be appropriately compensated for their good work.”
In short: “screw the students and the taxpayer, you’ve done our bidding, now we look after you”. And here we come to the heart of the corruption of football at Rutgers. Richard McCormick, having obeyed the wishes of his masters by advancing football at all costs, is given a pat on the head in the form of an outlandish bonus he neither deserves nor needs. Richard McCormick, having lied his way into his position, only to be found out, now survives in his position by carrying water for the football-obsessed booster on the Board of Governors. He conceals, obfuscates, lies, and deceives in the cause of “big-time” football, and BoG chair William Howard (who was once described to me by a senior Rutgers administrator as “out of his depth if he was managing a Starbucks store”) gives the lackey some more candy. This quid-pro-quo between BoG boosters and weak presidents is why the Board of Governors stood by the hapless Lawrence through those long, awful years of Rutgers’ decline in the 1990s, and it’s why they are standing by the scurrilous McCormick now. Even as the depth of damage he’s done to Rutgers becomes apparent with each new editorial. It’s this spin – that President McCormick shows “real leadership”, that football injects “pride” into a crumbling university, that the football program is being run “responsibly,” and on and on – that needs to be challenged, cut through and rejected by those who care about Rutgers, who have a stake in its continued excellence. That the press and public are beginning to wake up and ask “just what is going on at Rutgers”, is, for someone like myself, incredibly hopeful and heartening. And for the dissemblers and the spinners, the mediocrities-in-charge, such as Al Gamper, William Howard, Robert Mulcahy, and Richard McCormick, it must be the scariest thing in the world. And I suspect that, for them, it’s going to keep getting scarier.
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