NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The administration of Rutgers University President Robert Barchi reached a new low on the night of March 26, when a mysterious man protecting the President shoved and restrained the editor of this newspaper.
While attempting to ask Barchi a question about a recent business deal that likely made him hundreds of thousands of dollars, this reporter was checked by the forearm of a man who proceeded to hold him against a chair while Barchi exited the building.
The incident played out after a student government meeting where the President fielded questions from more than 20 students. At his request, the press was not allowed to ask questions during the event.
It became obvious that a man who had been seated among students was actually a bodyguard, or at least an associate of Barchi, after he forced himself between the President and this reporter, quickly knocking the journalist off-balance and holding him down in front of dozens of students.
"I did not actually see the event at the meeting. I did however see the video," said Kristine Baffo, President of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA). "I would like to send my sincerest apology that this happened to you during the RUSA meeting."
Questions about Barchi's sizable private-sector income had gone unanswered in the hours leading up to the his scheduled remarks.
This reporter was intending to ask Barchi face-to-face just how much he made when Covance Inc., of which he owned several thousand shares, was sold to Labcorp last month.
According to SEC filings, Barchi had somewhere between 2,173 and 19,494 shares of the stock in Covance, which was ultimately worth $75.76 per share, as well as roughly one-quarter the number of shares in Labcorp that he originally held in Covance.
The Labcorp shares were worth about $117 at the time of the deal, and that number rose to as high as $128 this past week.
Covance, Inc. has done business with Rutgers University, as does VWR International, another company where Barchi earns a six-figure salary serving on its board. According to public records, he made $226,295 in compensation for his service at Covance, including stock, during 2014.
At the student government meeting, Barchi fielded questions from more than twenty students, exhausting the supply of questions shortly after 9pm.
But, New Brunswick Today, whose editor is a 2009 university alumnus and was therefore not permitted to ask questions during the "Town Hall," approached Barchi on his way out the door, extending a hand for a shake.
"Hey, Mr. President. Charles Kratovil," said this reporter, who began asking a simple question.
It was then that the mystery man objected, forearm-checking this reporter and shoving him onto a chair in front of the crowded room.
During the brief fracas, which only lasted a few seconds, this reporter was restrained by the man, who a spokesperson for Rutgers later said was not a law enforcement officer.
While the man held down this reporter, Barchi escaped, walking away from a question about the Covance deal: "Can you tell me how much money you made off the sale of Covance, President Barchi?"
"Stop pushing me sir!" this reporter said as the man who had assaulted him left the room, tailing Barchi.
"Can you tell me who that was who pushed me?" this reporter asked another member of the President's entourage who stayed behind. She responded, "I don't think he pushed you."
"I'm sorry," she said seconds later.
"Tell the goon squad to lay off, please," responded this reporter.
"He's not a police officer," said the woman.
It's not the first time Barchi has refused to answer questions on his way out that door of the Student Activities Center, but it's the first time his people turned violent.
On his way out of a student government meeting on November 20, President Barchi dodged a question about the chaotic situation that erupted around the university on Halloween night.
"Hey Mr. President. Good to see you. Can you just tell me a little bit about what happened on Halloween?" asked this reporter.
"No," responded the President.
"No?" asked this reporter.
"I don't have time to answer any questions," said Barchi, while leaving through one of the building's emergency exits.
Stay tuned to New Brunswick Today for more coverage of Barchi's private-sector side jobs and the altercation involving the mystery man.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.