By Ray Gnagey
Photo Credit: Rutgers Newark Athletics
Mark Griffin, Athletic Director of Rutgers University in Newark was at the center of an internal investigation, for allegedly making controversial statements at a Dec. 2013 coaches meeting. According to several sources, Griffin made two offhand remarks, one reportedly homophobic in nature, and another racial.
Kevin Morris, Head Coach of RU-N’s Women’s Basketball team, told The Observer what he remembers as Griffin’s “exact words” at the meeting:
“‘Listen we’re getting our mascot ready,” Morris recalled Griffin saying. “‘It should be ready for September. So we’re still working on it—and don’t worry, it won’t be gay.’”
Morris, who is currently on leave, said Griffin had admitted to making the comments when the investigation began. According to him, Griffin told the Human Resources Department at Rutgers-New Brunswick that when he made the alleged ‘Gay’ remark, he hadn’t meant it in a homophobic context, rather he intended it to mean: ‘Happy.’
“[Griffin] admitted to both of the statements,” Morris said. “He admitted to the other one where he said: ‘Listen the laundry room’s going to be closed for the Summer, so if you need to get your laundry done, you can take it down the corner to the Chinaman.’ He admitted to that one too. And he said: ‘Well, I didn’t mean like racially. I think there is a Chinese guy that owns a Laundromat in Newark. That’s what I meant. Take it to him.’”
An unnamed source familiar with the story heard that Griffin had in fact made the alleged remarks, citing the talk they had heard circulating among the coaching staff.
“I heard it from the coaching staff and I heard that [Griffin’s] boss, Gerald Massenburg, talked to faculty and that they agreed that they backed up what Mark Griffin was saying,” they said. “Obviously, I’m not comfortable with anyone of a high power or anyone of regular status making such comments. Here at Rutgers-Newark, we thrive on things like [diversity]. We’re the number one diverse campus, and to hear your Athletic Director made those comments, those things don’t sit well.”
They mentioned that players, as well as members of RU-N’s coaching staff were brought in over the summer to talk to the Human Resources Department as part of the investigation.
“[Griffin] was under investigation this summer,” they said. “Some of the coaching staff and some of the players had to meet with human resources. This was probably nine weeks ago. So they’ve been informed on everything that has been going on. And no one has done anything. So if anything they’re trying to sweep it under the rug and trying to not make a big deal about it.”
An additional source familiar with the situation, said that it was nothing new and that they had heard Griffin say “abrasive” comments before in their personal interactions with him.
“I’ve been around [Griffin] enough to know the way he speaks,” they said. “It’s been about two years since I’ve been around him where those types of comments would come out. If you hang around the man for five minutes you’ll see for yourself how abrasive he is—kind of obnoxious, I guess.”
“I don’t dislike him at all, he’s just kind of tough to deal with at times,” they added. “It’s hard to explain. I don’t know what makes him that way.”
When confronted about the comments he allegedly made at the Dec. 13 coaches meeting, Griffin insisted that he’d never made the remarks. He did, however, confirm that there had been an investigation.
“I’ve never made any kind of claims like that or comments like that and the University investigated stuff like that and they’re going to complete their report hopefully any day now. I can tell you there isn’t any truth to any of that stuff. And I personally find [the accusations] extremely offensive.”
“I got nothing to hide,” he added. “My goal and the University’s goal is what’s in the best interest of the student athletes and our institution as a whole. And I think we’ve done better than our due diligence to make sure we’ve got a good program and the student athletes are getting the best we can provide.”
Kevin East, Head Coach of RU-N’s Men’s Soccer Team, backed up the Athletic Director, saying that he’d known Griffin since before he’d ever been slated to coach at RU-N. “I’ve never heard him say anything like that,” East said. “I don’t really recall [the comments.] And honestly I’m not even sure I was at [the Dec. 13] meeting. Some of them I haven’t been to.”
East did confirm however, that there had been an investigation into the Athletic Director’s behavior.
“My understanding is they made an internal investigation and that everything was cleared,” he said.
Provost Todd Clear told The Observer that Griffin was under investigation, but any issue has since been resolved. “He is not [under litigation], the process which was filed with regard to him has been resolved by the university,” he said.
Senior Vice Chancellor Peter Englot, echoed similar statements when asked about Griffin. “This is a personnel matter, we are restricted from being able to talk about it. What I can say is that there is, as I believe you all know, an official look into the situation and any corrective actions have been taken,” he said. “We’ve had an official inquiry into the situation, and it has been addressed and anything else is a matter of personnel issues and we’re not free to talk about it.”
According to several sources, Griffin admitted to using the alleged comments to Gerald Massenburg, Assistant Chancellor for Student Life at R-N, in a meeting back in August.
When asked about Griffin’s remarks, Massenburg was unable to confirm or deny any of the allegations.
“All personnel matters are confidential,” he said.
Lisa Grosskreutz, Director of Employment Equity at Rutgers-New Brunswick, gave a similar statement, when asked of Griffin’s situation.
“I have no comment,” Grosskreutz said. “Our investigations are confidential. Basically to protect the person who’s complained as well as the respondent.”
Morris says that he and his attorney are in the process of filing a lawsuit against Griffin, citing a “hostile work environment” as one of the key reasons.
“I’ve been there 13 years and I can’t work for this guy anymore.” Morris said. “I’m not suing him because he’s making racial remarks. I’m going after him because of contract issues and that type of thing.”
“Any other school would fire this guy.” Morris added, “[Rutgers doesn’t] take action. They’re trying to cover it up. This guy needs to go. He is a disaster. He is so crazy.”
© Copyright 2014