Julie Hermann: Is Rutgers University's Athletics Department Asking For More Scandal?

Rutgers University’s Athletic Department is rife with scandal — and according to its recent hire, Julie Hermann, it might be asking for more.

Rutgers' most recent scandal happened last December when an employee leaked a video of now-former Rutgers Basketball coach Mike Rice hitting and kicking players, while yelling anti-gay slurs at them during practice. Rice was immediately fired, fined, and ordered to attend intensive anger management counseling due to his abusive language and conduct.

Shamed by the scandal, the school's wildly popular and beloved Athletics Director, Tim Pernetti also resigned, saying that his instinct in November was to fire Rice, and he was ashamed that he hadn’t acted on it. After a long search for an adequate replacement, Julie Hermann — former director of Athletics and the University of Louisville and former head coach of the University of Tennessee’s Women’s Volleyball team — will replace him as the new Athletics Director for Rutgers University.

But Julie Hermann is still reeling from some scandals of her own.

First, the minute she was appointed several women from the University of Tennessee's Women’s Volleyball team whom she coached spoke out about her abusive language — not great for someone tasked with redeeming a school reeling from a scandal of an abusive coach.

Secondly, and more seriously, in 2008, while Hermann was serving as the senior athletics administrator at the University of Louisville, Mary Banker, the assistant track and field coach, came to her with a complaint of sexist "discriminatory treatment" from the head coach. After three weeks of reviewing the case, Banker — the assistant coach who complained — was fired, while the behavior of the head coach was never addressed or punished.

Almost immediately, Banker filed a lawsuit with the University — claiming that she had been subjected to discriminatory treatment due to her sex, such as being asked to set up party tables and make food arrangements for recruiting lunches. She also complained that the head coach referred to student athletes in a manner that was derogatory towards women, and that she had been terminated the minute she voiced these concerns.

According to Banker's lawyer, Hermann called Banker into her office and condemned her for having complained to the Human Resources Department, and said, "I don’t know how I am going to restore trust in you amongst staff now."

Trust? Isn't she the one that was being discriminated against?

But one has to wonder, now that the water is under the bridge with Mary Baker’s case — and some time has passed since the Rutgers scandal — is Julie Hermann, a woman who, along with being a notoriously tough coach herself, terminated an employee complaining of sexual discrimination rather than addressing a problem, really the right person to better Rutgers's recovering reputation? 

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Anna Lekas Miller

Anna Lekas Miller is a Lebanese-American Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on the Middle East, National Security and Arab America. She has lived in and written from the West Bank.

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