Paralyzed Rutgers Player Will Speak at Commencement

Rutgers graduation planning has become an embarrassment to the university. First, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak — but she backed out after protests from students and faculty. Then paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand said he had been invited to speak, then uninvited in favor of former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean.

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Eric LeGrand, Paralyzed Ex-Rutgers Football Player, ‘Hurt’ by Commencement Decision

UPDATE: Rutgers has released a statement from president Robert Barchi:

“Eric LeGrand will speak at our Commencement and personally receive his degree from me as a representative of the Class of 2014.

It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate.

ORIGINAL: Eric LeGrand is a football player from Middlesex County in New Jersey who played defensive tackle for Rutgers. In 2010, he was paralyzed from the neck down while playing for the Scarlet Knights. He’s since gone on to become a motivational speaker while continuing his rehabilitation.

On Saturday, he says, he was offered a chance to become Rutgers’ commencement speaker. The university had selected Condoleezza Rice to give the commencement speech, but after protests from students and professors — she worked in the Bush administration during the Iraq War, two unpopular things on college campuses — Rice pulled out of the speech.

So Rutgers needed a replacement, and it selected Eric LeGrand. On Monday, he called to confirm the situation. And he says the school decided to go in a different direction.

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Rutgers Profs Protest Condi Rice As Graduation Speaker

At NewsWorks, Chris Satullo notes that profs at Rutgers’ New Brunswick and Newark campuses are protesting the decision to host Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush’s national security advisor and secretary of state, as this year’s commencement speaker.

H. Bruce Franklin, an English prof on the Newark campus, put this point pungently (maybe a little too pungently): “What we’re doing is awarding an honorary degree and having a commencement speech from someone who is a war criminal.”

Mr. Franklin and I could probably agree that during the Iraq War the United States did things that violated our constitutional values, as well as Christian morals and common sense. And, yes, Condi Rice was in high office while that went on.

Unhappy that Rice is speaking?  Arrange a teach-in on the conduct of the Iraq and Afghanistan war; come up with a plan for a dignified protest at commencement, something that  will make the point without spoiling the day for grads and their families.

Rice is still expected to speak at the May 18 ceremony in Piscataway.

The 2013 Rutgers/LEAP Alfredo Santiago Endowed Scholarship Fundraising Gala

From left: Chef Michele Pastorello, Quinton Aaron, actor from The Blind Side, Sara Manzano-Díaz, director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, LEAP founder and board chair, and the honorable Nelson Diaz.

From left: Chef Michele Pastorello, Quinton Aaron, actor from The Blind Side, Sara Manzano-Díaz, director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, LEAP founder and board chair, and the honorable Nelson Diaz.

On Friday, December 13th, at the Curtis Center, the Rutgers/LEAP Alfredo Santiago Endowed Scholarship held its fundraising gala. The gala is an annual event that raises money to support graduates of LEAP Academy University Charter School who are attending Rutgers University. The scholarship was established in 1999 by CLC Director Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago in loving memory of her husband Alfredo Santiago and with the goal of increasing the number of children in Camden who attend college. Each year the gala raises thousands of dollars for the scholarship through corporate and individual donations, ticket sales and proceeds from a silent auction.

More of HughE Dillon’s photos after the jump »

Rutgers-Camden Law School Penalized

Rutgers-Camden Law School, which already suffers from a bit of reputational lag, won’t be looking much better after today’s news. The school has been fined $25,000 for admitting students who take tests other than the LSAT to get in.

Between 2006 and 2012, the law school admitted dozens of students who took tests other than the LSAT. In 2009, the bar association sent a memo to all accredited law schools clarifying its policy requiring the LSAT, except with prior arrangement.

But Rutgers-Camden continued to admit students who did well on other tests…Over the six years, students accepted with non-LSAT tests made up an average of 6.7 percent of the first-year class, the bar association said.

The school says it did so in part to accommodate applicants who applied after it was too late to take the LSATs. [Inquirer]

Does Rutgers Dean Jacquelyn Litt Hate Lesbians?

That’s what former Rutgers employee—and current lesbian—Laura Federico, alleges in a suit against the university:

Laura Federico, who is a lesbian, claims she was fired from her public relations job last year because Douglass Residential College Dean Jacquelyn Litt doesn’t like lesbians and felt ‘women who had men behind them were stronger and better employees.’

The Home News Tribune reports Rutgers in court papers denies Litt harassed Federico. The school says she was let go because she failed to meet deadlines and that her work needed revisions and reworking.

So Federico either got fired for being a lesbian or lazy (or possibly both), but with each party copping to a different story, this one’s seems likely to go to court.

Of course, that may not be good for Rutgers: This incident is simply the most recent in a string of abusive staff events, including the firing of men’s basketball coach Mike Rice and the alleged mental abuse new AD Julie Hermann inflicted on players as a coach in the ’90s. [NBC]

Rutgers’ Mike Rice Still Coaching…12-Year-Old Girls

Since being fired from Rutgers for verbally and physically abusing his players, Mike Rice has kept busy coaching his daughter’s AAU team of 12-year-old girls. Brian Geltzeiler, a basketball blogger, had the report:

SNY TV confirmed that Rice was indeed coaching the team, and has been doing so in the three years he’s been at Rutgers. An unnamed source “close to the team” said the “report is a gross misrepresentation of the facts,” and that “the team’s parents are fully behind Coach Rice and his instruction of their daughters.”

Add Extortion To The List Of Troubles At Rutgers University

AP reports that the former Rutgers University assistant basketball coach—the one who leaked the video of then-head-coach Mike Rice cursing and abusing his players—is now under investigation for extortion.  Eric Murdock, who provided the tape to university officials and ESPN, had lost his job with the university, had previously lost his job on the Rutgers staff. He and his attorney demanded a nearly $1 million settlement over the termination; that settlement never occurred, and the tapes went public. Now investigators want to know if wrongdoing was involved.

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