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Rutgers President to be Asked About Scandal Severances

TRENTON, N.J. — Rutgers President Robert Barchi is scheduled to appear Thursday before an Assembly budget panel, where he’ll be asked about six- and seven-figure payouts given to three university officials ousted during a basketball coaching scandal.

Basketball coach Mike Rice, athletic director Tim Pernetti and university lawyer John Wolf received severances worth $420,000 to $1.2 million. Rice was fired after a video of him throwing balls at players and hurling gay slurs aired on ESPN. The athletic director and lawyer resigned.

“It’s going to come up,” Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “When we give state dollars to a university, we want to make sure they are doing things properly.”

Barchi is being called before the panel to answer questions about $487 million in state aid to Rutgers in Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The panel is planning a separate hearing on the Rutgers scandal.

Assemblyman Al Coutinho of Newark said Barchi will be asked to explain why the university’s Newark and Camden campuses have not gotten their own budgets despite a law signed last year requiring fiscal autonomy. The higher education restructuring act, which gives Rutgers a coveted medical school and links Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University in South Jersey, won over critics in Newark particularly with the promise that the campus would get its own appropriation and the freedom to develop a budget separate from the flagship New Brunswick campus.

“The current Rutgers budget makes no separate appropriation directly to Camden or directly to Newark,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who said the urban campuses have been fiscally shortchanged “for decades.”

“There’s a lot of underlying sentiment on both campuses that the central administration wants to move ahead with business as usual that is just not acceptable,” the speaker said.

Coutinho, who is a member of the budget panel, also expressed concerns that Rutgers is about $75 million short of the amount needed to execute the merger by July 1, which is the deadline under the law. The deal breaks up the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, distributing much of it to Rutgers and giving the School of Osteopathic Medicine to Rowan.

Also in question is the future of UMDNJ’s money-losing teaching hospital, University Hospital in Newark, which would continue to operate as a nonprofit. It is the state’s largest charity care provider.

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