Penn State president Eric Barron addressed the media for about 20 minutes this afternoon, talking about the agreement that repeals the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State. Here are a few of his comments:
—”I’m pleased we can close this chapter,” he said, “and look ahead to the important challenges and opportunities that face Penn State.”
—In addressing “a few key details” of the agreement, he mentioned that the $60 million fine imposed on Penn State “remains in the state of Pennsylvania, first and foremost.” Of that, $48 million goes to the Commonwealth, and the other $12 million “will remain at Penn State, to create an endowment, which is a long-term investment in [programs] … to help eradicate child abuse.”
—Asked about the fate of the Paterno statue, and other calls for Penn State to honor Joe Paterno’s career, Barron said: “Those who know me know that I prefer not to talk about things that will be a topic of discussion [publicly] … before chatting with lots of people. [But] there will be a time and place.”
—Asked what becomes of the Big Ten sanctions, including the sharing of football bowl revenues, Barron pointed out that the Big Ten is a party to the Athletics Integrity Agreement that will be renegotiated under the terms of the settlement. “I will discuss it with my fellow presidents,” Barron said. “They’re expecting that discussion to occur.”
—Barron was asked if, with the 2012 consent decree now erased, this might be a good time for academia to take a fresh look at the NCAA and its powers. “Hindsight is a fascinating thing,” Barron began. “I’ve talked to many of my fellow presidents, and did so to my ACC representative when I was at Florida State, suggesting that the NCAA moved too quickly. At the same time, they came to their decisions with the best possible motive—of not wanting to have such things occur, and with the notion that they had a responsibility to look … at institutional control. I see little purpose in trying to fault them.”
—He was asked to talk about how much communication there was with the Board of Trustees in the negotiations with state officials and the NCAA. He wouldn’t say much, except that “I hear frequently from my trustees, and that’s a good thing … but negotiation of details is first and foremost with the attorneys. … Then, when you have a sense of what agreement is possible, that’s the best time to bring it to the board. Then they can make the best possible decision. And, as you can see, the vote was unanimous.” He added that the negotiations were going on “right up to that moment,” presumably meaning right up until the start of the trustees’ meeting this afternoon.
—Asked again about the Paterno statue, he said: “Same answer. [I’m a] boring guy. There’ll be a good time and place.”
—In November, President Barron said he was committed to personally reviewing the Freeh Report. At today’s news conference he said today’s events don’t change that plan. “I am very appreciative that we’ve hit a tremendous milestone today, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” he said, “but I don’t think my responsibilities change.”
—Asked if he had a message for students who might be inclined to celebrate today’s news, he referred to the spontaneous—but peaceful—rally that took place when Penn State’s bowl eligibility was restored last fall. “Our students acted with a high level of enthusiasm but with a great deal of respect,” Barron said, “and although I think I told you I was always worried about such an activity, I was very pleased by their behavior. And I’m hoping from every inch of my body that I can be equally proud today. This is something to be very happy about; this is not something that should promote destructive behavior in any way, shape, or form.”
Tina Hay, editor
Keith Masser ’73 stuck to the script when he opened the Penn State Board of Trustees meeting today, saying he had some good news to report: that Penn State’s World Campus scored a No. 1 ranking in the U.S. News rankings of online programs.
But a few moments later, President Eric Barron took the podium and announced the day’s truly big news: that Penn State, the NCAA, and state officials had reached a tentative agreement to roll back the sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. And not long after that, the trustees voted unanimously to approve the agreement.
The NCAA issued a news release spelling out the terms of the agreement, the major points being that (1) 112 vacated wins—111 belonging to Joe Paterno, and one to Tom Bradley ’78—are restored (or, to quote a tweet by Charles Thompson of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, “And move over Bobby Bowden!”), and (2) the $60 million in fine money stays in Pennsylvania.
But State Sen. Jake Corman ’93, in a Harrisburg news conference, was more blunt: “The consent decree is hereby repealed,” he said, and “all remaining sanctions against Penn State are voided.” You can read a news release from Corman’s office here.
The trustees’ vote on the settlement was quick, with no discussion or debate before the roll-call vote, and the vote was unanimous.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who invited reporters to an impromptu news conference in the hallway outside the meeting—while the meeting was still in progress, with President Barron giving a report—said that the agreement isn’t perfect, but is still a win overall.
A point of contention with some in the Penn State community had been the possibility that, in order to see a rollback of the sanctions, the university would have to acknowledge that the NCAA had the right to impose the sanctions in the first place. The wording of the agreement appears to be very carefully phrased in that regard; it says that “Penn State acknowledges the NCAA’s legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter.”
The restoration of Paterno’s wins has already prompted calls to return the Paterno statue to its spot outside Beaver Stadium. Corman, asked about it at his news conference, said it’s a decision for Penn State to make, but added, “In my personal opinion,” it should be put back. Lubrano also called for the university to return the Paterno statue, suggesting Homecoming might be a good target date.
The Paterno family issued a statement calling today “a great victory for everyone who has fought for the truth in the Sandusky tragedy.” The advocacy group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship was less pleased, thanking Sen. Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord but adding, “Unfortunately, we cannot support an agreement that does not require the NCAA to acknowledge its wrongdoing.”
Penn State has posted a news release about today’s settlement announcement, with comments from President Barron and Chair Masser. Barron, Masser, and attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78 will speak with the media after today’s meeting.
Tina Hay, editor
If we were really going to do Meya Bizer justice, we would have found someone for her to tackle.
Alumni Association members will find Bizer on page 23 of our Jan/Feb 2015 issue, where she’s the lead story in our sports section. She’s a senior and star on Penn State’s powerhouse women’s rugby team, winners of the last three national collegiate championships and nine titles overall. The consensus college player of the year in each of the past two seasons, she’s also the youngest member of the U.S. women’s national rugby team.
But about that photo on page 23: There’s Bizer in full stride, pitching a perfect pass at (or, hopefully, just above) our photographer’s camera. Bizer is an all-around talent, so we might accurately have shown her displaying all sorts of rugby skills. But if we’d really wanted to capture what sets her apart, we would have convinced some poor, unwitting soul to let Bizer use them as a tackling dummy.
We could have volunteered ourselves, of course. But we know better.
The hit against West Chester, around the :55 mark? You can feel that one through your screen.
With form that Nittany Lion linebackers might envy, Bizer has become the biggest hitter in her sport. The gridiron comparison is intentional: Bizer went out for football in middle school, was the placekicker on her high school team and even earned a scholarship to play for the University of St. Mary, a tiny college in Kansas. But along the way she fell in love with rugby, ultimately transferring to Penn State for a chance to be a part of the Lions’ burgeoning dynasty.
Bizer was her typically dominant self last month as Penn State hammered rival Norwich to win the USA Rugby Division I fall championship. The Lions are heavy favorites for a 10th national title this spring, and while Bizer isn’t the only reason—the Penn State roster is loaded with talent—she’s probably the biggest. Certainly, she’s the most impactful.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
I’ve been thinking a lot about yesterday’s historic announcement that the U.S. and Cuba are taking steps to normalize relations. It’s huge news, on so many levels—not the least of which is tourism.
For decades, the U.S. prohibited its citizens from traveling to Cuba except under certain circumstances, such as academic research. (Penn State Hemingway scholar Sandy Spanier ’76g, ’81g and telecommunications expert John Spicer Nichols have who’ve been to Cuba many times, for example.) More recently, the U.S. government began allowing citizens to visit under specially licensed “people to people cultural exchanges.” I went on one such exchange in 2012 via the Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and the Alumni Association has offered several trips under a similar umbrella. Our former senior editor Lori Shontz ’01, ’13g went on one such Penn State trip and wrote about it here.
Basically, the people-to-people trips have a heavy emphasis on understanding the culture—on my trip, for example, we visited a dance school and a boxing academy, and interacted a lot with Cuban photographers. On other trips you might visit a school, an orphanage, or a tobacco farm. (I remember that on our trip there was talk of visiting a cockfight, and when some of us grimaced at the thought, the Santa Fe Photo Workshops guy chastised us, saying, “You’re here to experience, and photograph, what is uniquely Cuban.” He was right—but, nevertheless, I was glad when the cockfight plans fell through.)
Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t exactly throw the doors wide open for U.S. tourists. It’s not like you’ll be able to book a flight from Dulles to Havana on USAirways anytime soon. People-to-people cultural exchanges are still the only legal way to get there. But a few things will change: For one, you’ll soon be able to take your credit cards and ATM card with you. Currently, U.S. travelers have to figure out how much money they’ll need for everything—hotel, meals, taxis, admission fees, you name it—and take that amount in cash. That’s because U.S.-issued ATM and credit cards won’t work in Cuba; just one example of the embargo. That’s changing—although Cuba is still a pretty cash-oriented society anyway.
Another change is that Cuban cigars and Cuban rum will soon be legal in the U.S. Not that anyone will be selling them in retail stores, but people who visit Cuba can now bring back up to $100 in alcohol and/or tobacco products.
The backstory leading up to yesterday’s announcement is interesting, and familiar to anyone who’s already visited Cuba. We heard a lot when we were down there about the five-decade history of the embargo, about Fidel Castro, about the prospects that Fidel’s brother Raul might take less of a hard line with the U.S., about what everyday life for Cubans is like under communism. There was talk even back then that President Obama would move to normalize relations in his second term. We also heard a lot about Alan Gross, whose imprisonment in Cuba has been a huge bone of contention with the U.S.—and likewise about the “Cuban Five,” whose imprisonment in the U.S. has been a huge bone of contention with Cuba. Yesterday, Gross and the remaining three of the Cuban Five were all released.
Cuba estimates that 100,000 U.S. citizens already visit the island nation every year, and that number is sure to go up as the restrictions are eased. It’ll surely skyrocket if the travel embargo is eventually lifted completely. And I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. There’s something very special and unspoiled about Cuba, and hordes of U.S. tourists could easily change that. It makes me want to go back—and soon, before the place is changed forever. Whatever the case, it seems certain that a new era is about to begin.
Tina Hay, editor
‘Tis the season for deep-pitched brass instruments, apparently.
Last Thursday I went to see the Penn State Trombone Choir do its annual Christmas concert in Eisenhower Chapel. The next day, the Alumni Association had its annual holiday party, and the entertainment turned out to be … the Penn State Trombone Choir! (Or a subset of it, anyway.) Then, on Saturday, I saw a notice on Facebook about something called TubaChristmas, a free performance to take place that afternoon in the Business Building Atrium on campus, so I figured, “Why not?”
Turns out that TubaChristmas happens all over the world every year, and has been going on since 1974. There’s been a TubaChristmas at University Park since the 1980s, I think, and this year marked the 13th TubaChristmas at Penn State Behrend. Basically, all local tuba and euphonium players (a euphonium is similar to a tuba, only smaller) are invited to join in a program of Christmas carols arranged specifically for those instruments. Here’s a short clip of them playing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in the Business Building on Saturday:
The woman conducting the 35-some players is Velvet Brown of the Penn State School of Music faculty. We profiled her in the magazine some years back. Since Saturday, I’ve discovered that she conducts the Penn State Tuba/Euphonium Studio in other specialty concerts during the year, like OctTUBAFest and TUBAWEEN. Who knew?
Saturday’s performance included not only Penn State students but also people from the community—there was at least one 11-year-old and one 14-year-old among the musicians, and the prize for the oldest performer went to a guy who’s 78.
Below are a few photos from Saturday’s concert.
Tina Hay, editor
I’ve heard so much about the Penn State Trombone Choir’s annual Christmas concert, and this year I finally decided to show up. What a great experience: about two dozen Penn State trombone students wearing an assortment of Christmas attire (including pajamas, in some cases) and playing Christmas music over lunch hour in Eisenhower Chapel. The set list ranged from lovely versions of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Gesu Bambino” to funny stuff like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” The annual highlight of the concert is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (you can watch a YouTube video of the 2009 version here).
Instead of Mark Lusk, the director of the Penn State Trombone Studio, Santa Claus himself conducted the concert.
The audience was mostly little kids—the concert is a popular field trip for local day-care centers—and, as you might expect, some of the children were delighted, while others cried nonstop. Not sure if they were reacting to Santa or the trombone music or what.
Below is a slide show of some images from today’s performance.
In a busy and often contentious five-hour meeting Friday afternoon at the Penn Stater Hotel, the Board of Trustees ended months of heated debate by adopting a proposal to expand the board’s membership to 36 voting members. The board also voted to postpone action on a proposal to join a lawsuit against the NCAA—news that was tempered Saturday by the announcement that President Eric Barron will personally conduct a review of the Freeh Report.
The governance changes passed on a 16-9 vote, with the nine alumni-elected trustees voting against expanding the board. Under the approved proposal, the board will now include 38 trustees, 36 of whom will have voting rights. The new additions will include a student trustee, an academic trustee nominated by the Faculty Senate, and the immediate past president of the Alumni Association. In addition, there will be three at-large trustees elected by the board. All new trustees will begin their terms in July 2015.
Opponents of the board argued that a larger board would be too complex to function efficiently. Alumni trustee Al Lord ’67 was representative of his fellow elected board members when he said, “I find it hard to believe that a 30 to 40 member board will be effective. That certainly has not been the case.” The addition of the Alumni Association seat was particularly contentious for some, with Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g among those arguing that the seat created a potential conflict of interest. Alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82 also argued the board should heed the request of state senators Jake Corman ’93 and John Yudichak ’93, ’04g to hold off on reforming the board until the recently elected gubernatorial administration was in office.
The majority cited the board makeup of peer institutions, some of which have dozens more members than Penn State’s, as proof that there was nothing inherently problematic in increasing the membership. Business and industry trustee Rick Dandrea ’77 said, “I think our board functions well on a wide range of issues. We have disagreements on a very few important issues. On this issue, our board function is not what it should be because we have a majority and minority agenda. I don’t think it has anything to do with size.”
After the vote, board chair Keith Masser ’73 called the expanded board “a more comprehensive reflection of the Penn State community.”
Given the established voting lines on the board, it was the expected outcome from a long and increasingly tense afternoon session. Citing threats made toward some board members, the university increased security for the meeting; visitors passed through a metal detector, and as many as two dozen officers from the State College and Penn State police departments were visible in the conference room, in the hallway outside, and outside the hotel entrances. Masser opened the meeting with a reference to outbursts at the board’s Oct. 28 special meeting, when three audience members were removed from the room, and reminded the standing-room crowd that “members of the public are here as observers, not as participants.”
Some of those observers got their chance to participate at the public comment segment, and about half of the 10 listed speakers used their time to upbraid the appointed trustees involved in the dismissal of Joe Paterno and the acceptance of the Freeh Report. That session followed a proposal from Lubrano that Penn State join Sen. Corman’s lawsuit against the NCAA. That proposal, inspired by the release of emails last week highlighting apparent conflicts in the NCAA’s handling of sanctions in the wake of the Freeh Report, was voted down, 14-10, but not before alumni trustee Bob Jubelirer ’59, ’62g argued that “with all that’s going on, to kick it down the road to January, I think we’re making a terrible, terrible mistake.” Gubernatorial appointee Kathleen Casey ’88 countered that the board would be better served by having more time to consider the resolution and revisit it at the next scheduled meeting in January.
On Saturday, President Barron added an unexpected twist with the announcement that he would “conduct a thorough review of the Freeh Report and supporting materials produced during the course of the investigation.” Barron’s statement offered no timetable for the review, but noted that he “assured the board I would move with all deliberate speed.”
Barron’s scheduled address Friday focused on student engagement, a topic he addressed last week in an open forum with students at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. Barron highlighted the many reasons that more engaged students—those who study abroad, intern, take leadership roles, and have the opportunity for one-on-one engagement with faculty—have better GPAs and make stronger candidates for internships and jobs. His proposals for improving the environment for student engagement ranged from the creation of an engaged student medal to greater funding for international experiences. He noted, “Just going in and out of class is no way to go through this university.”
Executive VP and Provost Nicholas Jones address trends in faculty makeup, particularly the decades-long rise in non-tenure-track faculty. While acknowledging concerns about about the decline in tenure-track professors, Jones highlighted a number of non-track instructors whose work has been honored for teaching and research awards.
University scholarship was also highlighted Friday, with presentations from Schreyer Honors College Dean Chris Brady, Eberly College of Science Dean Daniel Larson (highlighting the Millennium Scholars Program) and Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. Welch focused on the Paterno Fellows program, and her presentation included clips from a 2009 video of Joe and Sue Paterno ’62 explaining their inspiration for the program they endowed.
You can find information on additional items from Friday’s agenda here.
Ryan Jones, senior editor