Focus on LaRue

May 9, 2008

A reader pointed us to this pr write-up about Rutgers vp Jeannine LaRue in an internal organ, Rutgers Focus.

We’ve expressed skepticism about how LaRue, a onetime deputy chief of staff for Gov. Corzine with no prior ties to Rutgers or to higher education for that matter, might earn her $250,000 pay in a job post that had been vacant since 1997. We explored this topic here, here, and here. Basic thrust of the argument is that we were puzzled by Rutgers’ commitment of some $589,000 to fund an office that apparently had not been needed in a decade.

Of course there is no direct tie but it interested us when last week another Corzine deputy chief of staff, Javier Inclan, resigned. Mr. Inclan testified in a corruption trial about passing envelopes stuffed with cash to Hudson County pols and, well, you have to read this stuff to grasp the quality of Corzine’s hires.

Back to Ms. LaRue and the FOCUS article. Indeed, we are touched that she is raising two grandchildren. We are stupefied that she has 17,000 contacts in her BlackBerry. But most of all we finished the article still uncertain exactly what Ms. LaRue does to earn her keep.

By all means, anybody in the know, please do tell us.


Rueing LaRue

March 29, 2008

Friday’s post about onetime Corzine top aide Jeannine LaRue turned Rutgers vice president — with a delicious six-figure salary increase — caused at least one reader to spit on his keyboard. Wrote CreateNJ — from a Rutgers computer, incidentally: “How tacky…you put up the cartoon but talk about the tons of folks who wrote in refuting the cartoon and the fact that LaRue herself wrote a response which almost everybody…including folks who started the conversation…applauded her. I’m not a minority…but this is the most racist thing you guys have done…tacky….Btw…she is at Rutgers…has made her rounds with faculty, administrators, and deans…and is really rising to the challenge.”

Whoa, let’s have some applause. LaRue went on the payroll months ago and “she has made her rounds.” Some progress.

Frankly, we are clueless about what CreateNJ is trying to say in run-on thought after run-on thought. Probably all this inchoate mumbling was written in a moment of anger (tip: count to 10 before hitting “send,” it reduces embarrassment).

But we decided to review our thinking on LaRue — despite the Press of Atlantic City editorial denouncing her appointment.

And despite the op-ed written by onetime Rutgers board of trustees chairman Arthur Kamin who said, “one thing the state’s flagship teaching and research institution of higher education does not need is another lobbyist who was just hired at an unnecessary $250,000 annual salary.”

LaRue is lucky we are not the ones who grade her job performance. That’s because, in her first real test — the governor’s recent budget — she clearly came up short, at least in terms of persuading her presumed pal, Gov. Corzine. The Rutgers budget was cut 11.6%, whereas the across the board average cut for public higher education institutions was 10%

Rutgers fared worse than its public peers, despite LaRue’s past connections to Corzine.

As the Home News & Tribune wrote in an editorial, “the spending plan would be particularly hard on Rutgers University….All told, direct aid to Rutgers would plummet from $328.6 million in fiscal year 2008 to $290.6 million in fiscal year 2009, and that is a world of hurt.”

Of course it is unfair to put all this burden on LaRue — but right there is where her particular pedal should be hitting the metal. A highly paid Rutgers lobbyist ought to be getting the Rutgers case across in Trenton and, apparently, there is some static in her communications.

It’s not just us with questions about Ms. LaRue. As a Gannett newspaper reporter wrote, “Some have questioned some Rutgers appointments and lucrative salaries like that of Jeannine LaRue, who was hired as vice president of public affairs at a base salary of $250,000.”

We guess anytime a question is raised about how Rutgers spends its money, that must per se be “tacky” and “racist,” at least in the view of CreateNJ, writing on a Rutgers computer.

Incidentally, in a self-justifying wee note circulated by LaRue after her appointment triggered a flap, she noted, ” a friend of mine, CreateNJ”….

At least they have each other.

Indeed they do because who at is LaRue’s chief defender? You guessed it, CreateNJ.

She needs her defenders there, too. Noted Nbrefugee: “McCormick needs another useless employee as much as the average person needs herpes.”

But, curiously enough, we think we agree with CreateNJ about one thing. In a post that radiated frustration about all the anti-LaRue posts, CreateNJ wrote this: “Looking at the $1M investment for six years in a row to turn around the football team’s image as opposed to comments being made here about the University’s image at large, maybe they should have offered LaRue $1.2M instead of the measley $250K.” We think that is an attack on the continued waste of money on RU’s stumbling football presence (we admit to still not quite deciphering CreateNJ’s prose) — and, if so, bravo, CreateNJ. We are glad to agree with you about one thing.

Jeannine LaRue may be a waste of money…but we’ll take her in a heart-beat if we can shut down the ludicrous gusher of cash that props up Mulcahy’s follies. Write again, from that Rutgers computer, if you can offer us that deal.

Rejecting a McCormick Invitation

October 13, 2008

An alumnus shares how he responded to a recent invite from Richard McCormick.



Ms. Giardina,

Will there be an announcement that Rutgers has stopped the stupid, extravagant, unnecessary $100 million stadium expansion and will be terminating the position of Robert Mulcahy?

I would certainly come to that event but, frankly, until such announcements are made it will be very difficult for me to support Rutgers University.  I have supported Rutgers (to varying extents, depending on my ability) for many years but that is coming to a halt.  Between the millions Mulcahy has wasted (and didn’t he know he was being given a do-nothing job at Rutgers after he was booted out of NJSEA?) and the featherbedding in top positions with Corzine cast-offs and Trenton bloodsuckers (from LaRue to Bryant), it is difficult to see how one would want to pour more money into the open sewer that Rutgers has become.

Of course I nonetheless wish Doug Greenberg the very best in his position as Dean of SAS.  I don’t believe I knew him during our mutual time on the Banks but I have friends who did and they speak highly of him.  It is wonderful to see folks with real ties to Rutgers coming in as leaders and we can hope that Dean Greenberg will join the voices in speaking against the continued waste of many millions of dollars on “smalltime” football and men’s basketball.

Robert McGarvey (RC 1970)

On Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 9:31 AM, Allison Giardina <> wrote:



President McCormick asked me to follow-up with you regarding the invitation you received to attend a reception honoring Doug Greenberg on his appointment as the Executive Dean for the School of Arts and Sciences.  The reception will take place on Thursday, October 16, 2008 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the President’s Residence on the Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey.


Please let me know if you are able to attend.


Thank you!


Allison Giardina

Development Events Intern

Department of Donor Relations

Rutgers University Foundation

120 Albany St. Suite 201

New Brunswick, NJ 08901


McCormick 64, Rutgers Students 0

August 22, 2008

It’s official: Rutgers now ranks as the 64th university in the country, tied with Texas A & M and behind such powerhouse institutions of learning as Clemson, Pitt (#58), Georgia (#58), and Pepperdine (#56). That is per the newly released US News & World Report ratings.

That is a stunning five spot drop from the prior rankings. It also is a complete retreat from the Bloustein-era goal of making Rutgers “the Berkeley of the east” when, as recently as 1997, Rutgers ranked 45 in the nation.

Meantime, new rankings from Forbes peg Rutgers at a stomach-churning 469. That’s below Eastern Carolina, Azusa Pacific, and a pack of colleges you probably have never heard of. By Forbes’ reckoning, Rutgers is one of the nation’s worst colleges. Rutgers is ahead of the College of St. Benedict, tho.

The collapse of educational standards on the Banks in the Slick McCormick era is just about absolute, as the university and New Jersey’s taxpayers have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into football and the return on this investment is a bottom feeder football squad and a university that has fallen far from the top rank of publics. It’s a zero sum game. Put a dollar into football and it has to come from somewhere and that somewhere has been academics. The proof is how far Rutgers has sunk in the academic rankings.

Way to go Slick McCormick, you are well along your goal of transforming the once proud public Ivy into the Louisville of the north!

Just the other day Slick and Mulcahy III issued yet another of their self-serving press statements that concluded with this lovely thought, “Academics and athletics can reinforce each other, which is why Rutgers remains committed to excellence in both.”

Right. Call us when you see either. All we see is mounting mediocrity as the Trentonization of Rutgers moves into its final acts. Who needs top professors or students as long as there are plenty of jobs for political hangers-on? LaRue, Harris, Florio, et. al. — Arthur Kamin, onetime Rutgers Board of Trustee chair, has his finger pointed squarely at you. He writes:

Those jobs may be just the tip of the iceberg. The state and internal investigators should determine what other patronage positions exist, how they were filled and what political influence may have been used to secure employment for the bureaucrats looking to keep their state pensions and perks in force.

The probes of Mulcahy and the athletics department offer an opportunity for investigators to closely examine the political culture that has had a negative impact on Rutgers and other higher education institutions in New Jersey. The question is whether they’re up to the challenge.

Students in New Jersey: our advice is to go elsewhere to university. We no longer are comfortable recommending Rutgers to anybody who wants a collegiate learning experience. New Jersey’s budget crisis isn’t going away. Tuition will continue to go up at Rutgers, at the very time the university keeps cutting the academics to make up for dwindling state support. That is a perfect storm of scholastic ruination and you don’t need a Weatherman to know which way this ill wind blows.

A current student’s cry of anger

July 23, 2008

Today’s email brought this angry post, written by a current student who had just learned about the hidden $250,000 payment to football coach Greg Schiano. This is a very angry document. You have been warned.

It says a lot about the McCormick administration that, less than a week after it raised tuition at Rutgers 8.5% and promised further cost-saving measures, including “budget cuts in administrative, instructional and support units; continued efficiency gains on all three campuses; and deferrals of expenditures” (to quote from the university press release), we learn of a secret payment of $250,000 to football coach Greg Schiano.

Indeed, perhaps we should consider what exactly this latest outrage says about the current administration at Rutgers: It says that for Richard McCormick, the most basic concept of the ethical duties of a university president is utterly foreign. McCormick now has an established track record of repeated deception and dishonesty stretching back at least as far as his disastrous tenure as President of the University of Washington. The litany of falsehoods practiced by this man, from his affair cover-ups to his changing and contradictory explanations for dumping six of Rutgers’ oldest sports in 2006 (to name just two), restate, time and again, one basic point. This man is morally unfit for the position he holds. That yet more sleaze and deception bubble to the surface with each passing season should surprise nobody.

It says that to President McCormick and the inept Board of Governors, the squalid condition of the campus, the broken buildings and third-rate learning facilities that characterize one of the most expensive state universities in the nation is of secondary concern. This point is so blatant that it seems almost silly to bother raising it. Yet, let us reminds ourselves that this is an administration that freezes faculty hires, fires long-serving staff, cuts courses, closes libraries early, crowds classrooms, ignores air-conditioning problems, endlessly defers maintenance, and ramps up tuition at the very same time that it makes back door payments to Greg Schiano and grants him unlimited use of a helicopter. And spends $250,000 on Hyatt accommodation for the football team for home games. And sends athletic staff on junkets to Texas. And makes Richard McCormick the highest-paid university president in America this last financial year. And splurges tens of thousands on rings and trinkets for NJ lawmakers “celebrating” some minor bowl win. And these are but a few examples.

It says that the reasons Richard McCormick and Robert Mulcahy gave for cutting six of Rutgers oldest sports in 2006, including crew and fencing, were utterly untrue. “Any time you’re put in a position of denying opportunities for students, it’s a heartbreaking situation” was how Mulcahy cried his crocodile tears to the New York Times. Yet, after refusing funds from some of Rutgers’ most distinguished alumni to save these sports, Mulcahy has continued to spend money like a drunk sailor at a whorehouse. As the free helicopter and the endless salary increases and the $250,000 shell payment to Schiano demonstrates, money was never the problem when it came to slashing sports. These six sports were cut to fund the unceasing demands of the selfish and self-serving head coach of football. This petty little man now builds his gaudy palace of riches in the ruins of what once was a great university, and student life at Rutgers suffers so that his demands be met.

And it says that to Richard McCormick, Robert Mulcahy III, the utterly incompetent William Howard Jr. and the remaining mediocrities that comprise the Board of Governors, and to the State of New Jersey itself, students at Rutgers exist as little more than cash cows to be squeezed so that the disgusting feeding frenzy at the teat of nepotism and graft may continue. There is no money to replace missing library books or install working air-conditioners. There is no money to keep water out of classrooms when it rains. But there is money for secret payments of $250,000 to an overpaid football coach. There is another $250,000 to give Corzine’s former deputy chief of staff a cushy job. There is $6 million to spend on secret plans and construction crews for the stadium expansion before the Board of Governors had even voted to approve the project. There is $500,000 to pay Richard McCormick a bonus for bringing this university to its knees. There is money all right. But not a penny more for academics!

If, then, we learn any lessons from this latest outrage, it is that there is little, if any limit to the rot and corruption among those charged with running this university. McCormick, Mulcahy, Schiano, LaRue and the rest won’t go freely and leave behind the gusher of easy money, flowing like milk from the coffers they themselves control. Rutgers desperately needs help, from alumni and students, from faculty and staff. It needs to be returned to its historic mission and purpose: to provide the best education it possibly can. Right now, under the current leadership, it is failing both its students and the citizens of New Jersey.

Trenton to Rutgers: Drop Dead

July 1, 2008

The NJ budget was signed into law today by Jon “Seatbelt” Corzine and the news for Rutgers was all bad. Per Slick McCormick’s memo to members of the Rutgers community: “Direct state operating aid to Rutgers will be $293 million, a 10.8 percent decrease from the current year. Operating aid for all senior public colleges and universities will decrease by 10.4 percent. The percentage reduction for Rutgers is slightly higher due to the impact of a state budget penalty for enrolling non-New Jersey residents.”

This is all bad news for excellence in academics at Rutgers.

We won’t even mention how vice president Jeannine LaRue did in her job of persuading Trenton to adequately fund Rutgers. We haven’t changed our mind about what we’d posted on that topic in the past.

Per Slick McCormick, the budget also had bad news for the state’s best high school students: “appropriations for the Outstanding Scholars program will continue to be phased out.” That program offered financial rewards to top high schoolers who chose to pursue higher education at NJ schools, but Trenton in its wisdom has chosen to go Hannibal Lecter on outstanding scholars. One upshot is that New Jersey annually exports 20,000 first-year students to other states — the nation’s highest out-migration — and, sadly, the best high schoolers often are in those numbers. Trenton for its part is doing nothing to persuade those students to stay home.

On that note, re-read Jeff Kessler’s poignant 2006 Targum piece, written after the first Trenton assault on outstanding scholars — and know that now things are worse.  Trenton has in effect given the finger to NJ’s top high schoolers, their parents, and, really, to all the rest of us who might harbor hopes of bringing the best students to the Banks.

The message to New Jersey’s best high school students is starkly vivid: pack your bags and plan to head out of state. Trenton leaves you with no other choice. As far as Trenton is concerned, Rutgers gets a blank check to fund football — but as for books, forget about it! And if that doesn’t persuade you to go out of state….

She’s Not Heavy…But She Is

April 10, 2008

Turns out Jeannine LaRue — the onetime Corzine staffer recently appointed by Dick McCormick to fill a long vacant vice presidency at Rutgers — is even more expensive than we thought. Digging by onetime board of trustees chair Arthur Kamin, reported in the Home News & Tribune, turned up that the LaRue price-tag is more than double what we had feared: “a university spokeswoman disclosed that the current year’s budget to operate the new vice president for public affairs office is $588,577.” And that is to do a job that hadn’t been thought necessary for the decade the position lay vacant.

Even more curious, LaRue allegedly manages the university’s lobbyists, but she isn’t one, according to Kamin. And she will earn her paycheck doing exactly what?

Matters do get funny (in a ghoulish way) when a university spokesperson told Kamin about LaRue: “She also will be responsible for directing strategies for outreach and advocacy.”

Indeed, indeed…and we will be seeing evidence of these efforts when?

As Kamin writes, “[McCormick] must learn that he has to operate on a higher level than trying to ingratiate himself with the many politicians who see the state university as just one more patronage pit.”

Take a deep breath, and flip back to the “Funny” we originally posted about LaRue’s appointment.

At least this isn’t quite as wasteful as McCormick’s Kavanaugh Affair.

At least not yet.

Friday Funnies

March 28, 2008

Thank cartoonist Rob Tornoe for this Friday Funny

A little explanation might help elucidate the image. The woman in the sketch is Jeannine LaRue, onetime deputy chief of staff to Governor Corzine and now vice-president for public affairs for Rutgers. The appointment — wherein LaRue almost doubled her salary to $250,000 annually — was announced in December and was widely viewed as a quid pro quo for Corzine’s continued support for the reckless and cockamamie Rutgers Stadium expansion plan. Thus the text in the cartoon by Tornoe, the award-winning editorial cartoonist for The Press of Atlantic City; “Corzine’s check” refers to the $1 million contribution promised by the Governor.

Of course Rutgers president Dick McCormick has frequently — vociferously — denied that the state university is just another public trough where Trenton insiders swill. But, then again, he has never explained how he can reconcile that lofty statement of principle with the presence on the Rutgers-Camden payroll of NJ state senator Wayne Bryant, since indicted by the federal government for corruption and fraud.

Or with the presence on the payroll of Ms. LaRue, who assumed a post that had been vacant since 1997. As the Press of Atlantic City said in an editorial, “it’s hard to convince parents and students that state funding cuts may translate into higher tuitions when Rutgers University still has the money to hire people like Jeannine F. LaRue…to a $250,000-a-year lobbying job….Fact is, until Rutgers gets rid of this expensive political job – and pares down the rest of its stable of high-priced lobbyists and schmoozers – it shouldn’t raise tuition a dime.”

We guess this Friday’s laugh is on us.


That tidbit only leaves you wanting a real guffaw?

Writing on the Rivals message board, a poster named Rufanpops — who apparently read and thus quoted our advice to high school students to go out of state for their higher education unless they wanted to spend time at a football factory — tacked this up the other day (italics quote us, bold is Rufanpops):

“Unless your dream is to paint your body red, drink beer until you are comatose, and yell obscenities at opposing teams on football game days”

that was exactly what i wanted out of college….i wish that’s what was happening 10 years ago

As a stand-alone remark, that is pretty funny. But last week a poster with that same name (and who claims to work in the Rutgers ticket office) left a comment on this blog. His comment to end all comments: “i find it odd that you would claim that anything that you read on a rivals message board is fact.”