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Bullying? Round Two At Rutgers?

As Rutgers scrambled this spring in the midst of the player abuse scandal and the wake of the Mike Rice era, they have fallen further down the rabbit hole of controversy with the hiring of Julie Hermann as the new Rutgers Athletics Director.

According to FORBES*, the firestorm picks up again as fifteen of her former volleyball players from the University of Tennessee write to the Star Ledger claiming that “Hermann called them whores, alcoholics and learning disabled…” Other reports state that her assistant coach was awarded $150,000 in a pregnancy discrimination law suit filed against Julie Hermann.

As the story is still developing, what should we take away from this spiraling controversy?

1: Leadership! Leadership remains a constant in any abuse, harassment, or discrimination issue in an organization. If the leader models abuse and bullying in any form, accepts it, or even tacitly ignores it, then bullying, abuse and harassment will flourish. In this case, the ball has been dropped yet again as someone in leadership should have known Hermann’s background before leading Rutgers into chapter two of a player abuse scandal.

2: 360 evaluations are critical. Whether for current leadership, or future leadership, the 360 evaluation collects information on administrators, and allows an organization and search committees to make well-informed decisions before hiring an administrator who may not be right for their organizational culture. A recent study by Hollis recommends, “conduct a thorough vetting process and avoid the post-and-pray approach. Each leader should have a record of good behavior, turnover, complaints or accolades…”

3: The queen bee syndrome is confirmed. At first it might seem Rutgers took a bold move in hiring its first woman Athletic Director. However, as reported in Bully in the Ivory Tower, women can be just as bad or worse than men when it comes to bullying. Bullying is about power, who has it and how they weld it. To be successful at times, women can adopt the bullying tactics of the organization around them to appear just as strong and viable.

4: In the absence of legislation that prevents bullying, organizations should have policies and procedures in place to stem bullying in the hiring process, and to eliminate it throughout an organization. Discrimination and harassment are illegal; and behavior associated with them is susceptible to lawsuits. Still, bullying is legal in the workplace in all fifty states, and therefore, organizations need to be vigilant to curtail such behavior which leads to dissention and controversy.

As an alum, former Rutgers player and former athletics administrator, of course I am troubled by the reports of this Memorial Day weekend regarding the hiring of Julie Hermann.

Perhaps she is a reformed bully; perhaps these stories are untrue or at the very least outdated. Nonetheless, it goes back to my previous comments about Mike Rice and the player abuse scandal. Athletics is a win at all costs culture. Saying “pretty please” has never been a way to win games. While I had previously stated that Rutgers Athletics got its hand caught in the cookie jar regarding ill-treatment of players, apparently there is plenty of heat in that kitchen for everyone. The stories following Hermann to Rutgers only confirm that bullying is an equal opportunity phenomenon in athletics, and a silent practice all too many coaches, administrations and players endure in amateur sports.

Read more posts by Leah Hollis, Ed.D.. Leah is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.

* Source: Forbes.com.