Earlier this morning, Steve Politi of the New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote a scathing takedown of Rutgers University, based on the idea that the school has totally mishandled its commencement speaker hiring. Condoleezza Rice was the original choice to tell the new graduates about how wonderful life after college is, before they’d go home and realize that all that student loan debt was going to have to be deferred for two years until they accepted jobs that they were embarrassingly overqualified for, but then she bailed when some students protested her presence at Rutgers. That’s when Rutgers turned to former Scarlet Knights football player and inspiration to so many people, Eric LeGrand, to replace Rice.
According to LeGrand’s account, as written by Politi, Rutgers President Robert Barchi’s Chief of Staff reached out to LeGrand to ask him to step in, so he could not only share some words with his fellow graduates, but also receive his degree in person. But then, a strange and sh*tty thing happened on the way to the ceremony. Rutgers never called LeGrand back, and former Governor Tom Kean was announced as the commencement speaker yesterday. That’s when Politi – and many, many other writers – sunk their teeth into this one.
“I was like, ‘Wow, thank you for offering,’” LeGrand told NJ.com. “He goes, ‘Yeah, absolutely. Talk it over with your family this weekend. Let’s touch base again Monday.’ I was all amped all weekend. I was like, ‘This is perfect. I’m going to have to give a speech to everybody.’”
Then Monday came, and this time, it was athletic director Julie Hermann delivering the news: Rutgers had gone in a different direction “for political reasons.” Former Gov. Tom Kean was announced as the choice Monday afternoon, and LeGrand was left stunned and hurt.
And just when you thought Rutgers couldn’t screw something up any worse, just when you thought the leadership incompetence could not climb any higher, it insults the inspirational kid in the wheelchair.
It pulls the old bait and switch on the one human being who, more than anyone I’ve ever met, lives, eats and breathes Rutgers in the most unvarnished, positive way.
“I just want an explanation,” LeGrand said. “I wish somebody would have given me a call tonight and explained to me why. Then I can understand, but don’t just leave me hanging.” (Via the Star-Ledger)
I don’t typically waste my time with things like “researching” and “fact-checking” because daddy’s gotta hit the tanning salon to keep this skin a shade of Florida gold, am I right? But when it comes to columnists covering certain schools, I always like to check for a reputation, and I’ve been led to believe by some that Politi is one of those guys who likes to write negative things about Rutgers whenever he can. Whether that’s true or not is locked up inside the guy’s head, but I think we can all admit that LeGrand deserves to be treated with the same transparency as anyone else, and if the President of Rutgers asked him to be the commencement speaker, then he should nut up and explain why he’s not.
And it seems that Barchi did just that – or at least his media relations person did – because LeGrand is scheduled to be one of the speakers at the school’s commencement ceremony, and he’s going to be joined by 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.
Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community. We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion even more memorable. (Via Rutgers)
A scandal avoided by a lightning fast PR team that smelled a sh*tstorm on the horizon? Or an honest mistake that was exploited by a so-called journalist with a vengeance? We may never know, but at least some protesters were successful in making sure politicians will think twice about ever speaking at Rutgers.