Reforming gen eds: One of the interesting initiatives going on here is a look at general education requirements to, as Kevin Horne of Onward State puts it, increase “the rigor, meaning and scope” of options. Among the suggestions: fewer credits concentrated in a themed area. The Onward State story is worth a read, as is this blog post by Christopher Long, associate dean of The College of Liberal Arts, who chairs one of seven task forces looking at the issue.
Help for caregivers: Here’s the takeaway from the latest study by distinguished professor Steven Zarit: Caregivers for family members with dementia need to take care of themselves, and one way to do that is to put their loved ones in adult day care. The study showed that doing so increases the level of a beneficial stress hormone, DHEA-S, which in turn controls cortisol and results in better-long term health. That’s important because the caregivers have a higher risk of illness. This is among the study, Zarit says, to show the biological benefits to having help.
Watch your portion size: New research from Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional science and author of the popular Volumetrics diet, shows that when cereal flakes are smaller, people pour less into their bowls–but still consume more calories. “People have a really hard time judging appropriate portions,” she says in this news release. Now I’m worrying about my breakfast cereal of choice—Cheerios, which are awfully tiny.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Arnelle withdraws from BOT race: The Board of Trustees office posted the official bios and position statements submitted by the 31 candidates for the three alumni seats on the board on Tuesday afternoon. One prominent name is missing: Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, a trustee since 1969, has withdrawn from the race. That long tenure has made Arnelle part of the establishment, but when he joined the board, it was as a force for change. Mitchell Wilston of Onward State recently recounted Arnelle’s undergraduate career as a football and basketball star—and the first black student body president at “a major white university.” Wilston then focuses on how Arnelle advocated for civil rights on campus after graduation, including snippets from his famous speech about his “love-wait affair” with the university: “Let no one doubt that I love this Pennsylvania State University deeply, but freedom is dearer to me.” It’s a great read, and a great Penn State history lesson.
Scandal updates: The Sandusky-scandal related news continues: The top story in today’s Centre Daily Times was about a judge ruling that Penn State must release the names of some people interviewed for the Freeh report in response to a lawsuit by Victim 6, and as I was compiling this blog post, the CDT posted this story, based on emails obtained by Ryan Bagwell ’02 in a Freedom of Information Request, that Louis Freeh was chosen to lead the investigation over former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. Busy week for the CDT’s Penn State reporter, my friend Mike Dawson ’02.
Remembering Sean Smith: I’ve been catching up on podcasts this week, and walking to work yesterday I listened to this fascinating piece from On The Media about Sean Smith, a Penn State World Campus student who was killed in the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Smith, an information management specialist with the U.S. Foreign Service, was a prominent figure—a diplomat, basically—in an online game called EVE Online. Alex Goldman interviewed one of Smith’s best friends, who runs the game, and provides a fascinating profile of Smith and his corner of the Internet. Click here to listen to the podcast and here to read the transcript. It’s worth your time to learn a little about someone who’s usually, as the story puts it, referred to only as one of three other Americans who died that day with the U.S. ambassador.
The official biographies and position statements provided by alumni candidates for the Board of Trustees are now available on the board’s website.
There’s one notable name who’s out of the running—Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, who has served on the board since 1969, notified the board office that he has withdrawn from the field. Arnelle’s name still appears on the ballot to keep the ballot numbers of the other candidates consistent, the board office staff said. But voters will be unable to vote for him. When the the electronic ballots are issued April 10, there will be no box to check next to his name.
That leaves 31 candidates in the running for three alumni seats.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Gift of life: Cheryl Green was a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore when her kidneys failed and she went into cardiac arrest. Two years later she received a transplant with the kidney of her mom, who was 51 at the time. Today, 37 years later, Green is still living with her mother’s kidney, as recounted in this feature from Lancaster Online. “I have an 88-year-old kidney in me,” Green says. “People said it wouldn’t last.”
Another day, another honor for John Urschel: Penn State’s offensive lineman/math genius is a semifinalist for the Sullivan Award, which the AAU awards annually to the nation’s top amateur athlete. Past award winners include everyone from Wilma Rudolph to Bruce Jenner to Tim Tebow. Fan voting counts in choosing the finalists, so click here to cast yours. Voting ends March 23.
Video of the day: Our friends at Onward State, who alerted us to this video, described it as “Dude Writes a Song About David Taylor.” And, yes, that’s true, but Mark Bader’s karaoke version of “Piano Man,” apparently titled “Magicman” in honor of the four-time Big Ten champ’s Twitter handle and nickname, is really so much more. It’s got shutouts to everything from Ed Ruth’s cradle to Cael Sanderson’s bald head, to everyone from Nico Megaludis to the team’s sports information director, Pat Donghia. Taylor gets the best lyric, though: “He’s slick and he’s sleek/And he wrestles complete/except for he never does throws.” Funny and accurate. You’ve really got to see this and hear this to believe it, so click here. Just don’t have the volume on your computer up too high.
Dottie Sandusky speaks: The Today show interviewed Dottie Sandusky, who says her husband did not sexually abuse young boys in their basement. She also showed interviewer Matt Lauer around the basement. If you want to watch, here the link to the seven-minute segment that aired Wednesday morning, and here’s the link to the full 50-minute interview posted later in the morning. The interview is receiving some criticism online, notably from Jennifer Storm ’02, executive director of Pennsylvania’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program and an abuse survivor herself. She tweeted, “It’s morally reprehensible that @todayshow takes its victims to crime scene where many young men were sexually abused by Sandusky” and “sexual assault victims deserve to be believed & once cases are concluded left alone to heal, not be revictimized by @todayshow.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
For the second day in a row, I find myself wrapping up the Board of Trustees meeting by starting at the end.
Just as board chair Keith Masser ’73 was preparing to adjourn the Friday’s meeting, Al Clemens ’59 jumped in to read a statement. He got right to the point, announcing that he was resigning from the board.
Clemens, a gubernatorial appointee, joined the board in 1995 and was the only one of the four trustees remaining as plaintiffs in the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA who was on the board when the Sandusky scandal broke. As a result, he is the only one of the trustees who was found to have standing to sue on the claim of defamation.
He said the board didn’t have much information or time to discuss the issues when it voted quickly on Nov. 9, 2011, to fire Joe Paterno: “I will always regret that my name is attached to that rush to injustice.”
He indicated, as well, that hiring Louis Freeh and accepting his conclusions “without review” was another mistake and that he joined the Paterno family’s lawsuit in an attempt to “reverse the misguided sanctions that were designed to punish a football program without blemish.”
He also said his resignation was in keeping with his belief in term limits; the current limit is 12 years, but members including Clemens were grandfathered in when that change was made. He has served for 19 years.
Clemens’ term on the board actually expired in 2012, according to the trustees’ website; staff from the trustees office said that there’s often a long lag between when a governor-appointed trustee’s term expires and when the governor nominates a replacement. Gov. Tom Corbett announced in late February that he was nominating Cliff Benson ’71 and Todd Rucci ’92 to fill the seats of Clemens and Ira Lubert ’73. Those nominations must still be confirmed by the state senate.
Lubert’s term technically ended in 2013, as did the term of vice chair Paul Silvis ’06g, for whom a replacement has not been announced. The terms of two other governor appointees, student Peter Khoury and Mark Dambly ’80, expire in 2014.
Also noteworthy from the meeting:
Alumni election changes pass: All alumni who have email addresses on file with the university will receive ballots in the upcoming alumni trustee election. Trustees unanimously passed a motion to change the procedure in the university’s charter; previously, only alumni who are Alumni Association members or have donated to the university in the past two years automatically received ballots, although any alum could request one.
After the issue was debated and unanimously passed in the January governance committee meeting, Penn State sent postcards to 186,610 alumni without email addresses on file, governance chair Keith Eckel said Thursday during the committee meeting. The cost: $82,000.
Eckel said Thursday that only 400 of the cards had been returned and noted that while he thought reaching out to alumni was the right thing to do, the “somewhat disappointing” rate of return meant that the gesture likely doesn’t need to be repeated. At Friday’s meeting, he said he’d been told that the number of returned postcards had increased to 700.
The alumni election starts April 10, and alumni still have time to return the cards. All of these changes are taking place after the nomination process for alumni trustees, which ran from mid-January to late February. In the future, all alums with email addresses on file will receive both a nomination form and an election ballot.
Public comment: After several meetings in which the number of speakers during the public comment session shrunk, nine speakers were announced for Friday’s meeting, although only seven showed up to speak. Also in contrast to recent meetings, when speakers covered a variety of issues, most criticized how the board has handled to the Sandusky scandal.
Ceil Massella, an alumna and wife of football letterman Brian, told the board, “Just as I always think of the shooting when think of Kent State, this university will always be associated with Sandusky’s guilt unless the record is set straight.”
Evan Smith ’11 asked the board, “What are you personally doing with your position of power to help serve the Penn State family? How are you helping us fight this battle of public perception?”
Several speakers also reiterated their belief that the board owes an apology to the family of Joe Paterno.
Facts and figures: President Rod Erickson said applications for 2014-15 baccalaureate admission have increased by 9,000 over last year—19 percent at University Park and 8 percent at the commonwealth campuses. Out-of-state applications are up 26 percent, and international applications are up 18 percent. Minority applications he said, are running 16 percent of last year.
He also said that the quality of applicants is higher: Their average SAT score is 20 percent greater than last year’s.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Perhaps in this case, the best place to start is the end.
Two hours into the Board of Trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee meeting Thursday afternoon in Hershey, chair Keith Eckel decided the group needed another session before its next scheduled meeting in May. The board’s governance consultant, Holly Gregory, agreed and pushed for a substantial chunk of time to find some consensus on what reforms to pursue—and to understand why those reforms are needed.
“We need to drill down,” Gregory said. “I’m still really, really challenged because I need to make sure we have a sense of what we are trying to move on. And it’s difficult to come up with ideas of what we’re going to do when we don’t know what we’re trying to achieve. That was my hope. I have some sense of that on the size (of the board) issue, but we haven’t had the time to go down as deep as I’d like.”
Then she added, “I’m supposed to help facilitate. Not come up with my own reform proposal. I can easily come up with one based on what I’ve heard, but that really isn’t the task as I understand that.”
The committee members and Penn State staff pulled out their calendars and started tossing out suggestions. None worked. (Perhaps a suggestion from the media seats—why not do a Doodle poll?—would have helped.) These are busy people, people with calendars full of other board meetings, vacations, grandchildren. The upcoming celebration of Penn State’s capital campaign took up a few days, as did the ag trustees election and the counting of alumni election votes. At one point, Anthony Lubrano ’82, one of the board’s most vocal critics, even after joining it, noted a week he was unavailable, prompting Jim Broadhurst ’64, an executive committee member and former board chair who has served since 1998, to quip, “Might be a good week to have it, then.”
Everyone laughed, even Lubrano, who said, “I gave you a softball, Jim—if you couldn’t hit that one …”
Consensus was almost impossible to find. They tentatively settled on May 7, the day before the officially scheduled governance committee meeting, and according to attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78, responding to a question from Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, that meeting should be open to the public.
It’s no secret, of course, that Penn State’s board is divided and that proceeding on the next part of governance reform, which involves the size and composition of the board, plus qualifications for trustees, was going to be difficult. That’s why the governance committee said it hired Gregory, to help members find the right path.
The board’s stated intent is to vote on a reform package in the fall. But the trustees entered Thursday’s meeting, their first public discussion on reform with Gregory, having not yet determined which data they needed or which universities they wanted to use as benchmarks. After a lengthy back-and-forth, that was settled. (And if they want more data, they are welcome to check out a feature from our July/August 2012 issue in which we compared the size and composition of Penn State’s board to those of other Big Ten, land-grant, and Pennsylvania universities.)
Even a potential reform that has widespread support—the addition of a permanent student trustee, necessary because there’s no guarantee of student representation, only a tradition that a student is of the six trustees appointed by the governor—required a sustained, sometimes contentious, discussion.
The issue has some urgency because the current student trustee, Peter Khoury, is graduating in May, and the board realized that unless it acts, it could be without a student representative when tuition is set at its July meeting. Eckel said Gov. Tom Corbett has assured that he will select Khoury’s successor in plenty of time to have the selection ratified by the state senate, but the committee wanted a back-up plan in case that doesn’t work.
The plan: for the committee to vote on the permanent student trustee reform immediately, but bring the item to the full board for the necessary approval only if the process in place now hasn’t moved forward by the next meeting. There’s a chance that the full board will not vote on this in May. But this action separated the student trustee from the rest of the reform package, which does not yet exist.
The student trustee position involves three changes: The size of the board would increase from 32 members to 33 (both numbers include non-voting trustees) because the governor would still have six appointments. The board itself would select the student trustee, but the University Park Undergraduate Association, the Graduate Student Association, and the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments would recommend that student. And the student trustee term would be two years, not three, to make it less likely that students would have to choose a freshman.
Barbara Doran ’75 suggested that Khoury stay on, that he could still represent student interests as an extremely recent graduate. (His term doesn’t officially expire until November; he has agreed to resign to make way for a student-chosen trustee.) The committee’s student representative, Molly Droelle, the president of CCSG, said that is unacceptable to students: “That’s a very strong point for us.”
Vice president for administration Tom Poole told the committee that the governor makes his decision after student organizations recommend one or two candidates and the state secretary of education (also a trustee) interviews the candidates. Richard Dandrea ’77 noted that the board could decide to make the student trustee position permanent but officially designate that trustee as one of the governor’s appointees.
“Not in the eyes of the students,” Droelle said. “That’s not the proposal.”
“I know that’s in the eyes of the students,” Dandrea said. “I like your vigorous advocacy. I’ll write your recommendation for law school. But I’m just saying, that’s another alternative we should consider.”
That idea was discussed but never brought forth for official consideration.
Lubrano objected to the item because it was separated from other potential reforms and because while the issue of the student trustee has been discussed generally in committee, he hadn’t seen this official proposal until the meeting. He insisted on a roll call vote, and the proposal passed 8-1, with his dissent.
“It’s imprudent to move forward with one part without talking about the whole,” he said.
Dealing with that whole, however, is proving difficult. And the proverbial devil, it became clear as the meeting progressed, is not only in the details, but in the overall philosophies of board members.
Board reform became a hot topic after the Sandusky scandal, when the board was criticized for its actions, particularly not knowing that Jerry Sandusky was under investigation before he was charged, the decision to fire Joe Paterno and how it was carried out, and the handling of the Freeh report. Alumni trustee Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62, who was on the board in 2011 and is not running for re-election, addressed that issue head-on late in Thursday’s meeting.
She referenced a report by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges from the late 2000s that cited Penn State’s board as a model of good governance because of the diversity of constituencies represented on the board (alumni, agriculture, business, state officials) and the diversity of ways in which they are chosen (direct election, self-selection, appointees).
“I don’t want to lose sight of that,” she said. “And also, since eight years ago … there’s been a steady evolution toward board reform that means every member of this board is more included and feels more engaged. Really, it’s been a revolution.
“And I think what we are doing here today is on a continuum. I just don’t want us to lose sight of that. Just because we had a terrible thing happen, suddenly we have this terrible system. I don’t believe that.”
Doran, a private wealth manager at Morgan Stanley who was elected by the alumni post-scandal, answered by citing the nation’s financial crisis of 2008. “Most of the banks concerned were very well run, had risk management systems, everything looked good—and then fell apart when they failed the ultimate stress test. … A stress came (to Penn State), and it hurt us. Wall Street has been undergoing massive reform. I think that’s where we are now. We need to continue to look at how to improve.”
Alexander, one of two voting members of the board with a higher education background, responded, “I don’t like the idea of Penn State being compared to those financial institutions.”
Replied Doran, “It’s out there.”
The back-and-forth called back to how Gregory began her section of the meeting, which was billed on the agenda as “facilitated discussion of governance considerations with consultant.”
She said: “We need to ask, ‘Is change likely to have a positive result on board effectiveness?’ And also, perception matters here—you govern in public, and having the support of the community is critically important. … I think we have to deal with both issues.”
Those issues have many parts. I’m planning to flesh out some of them in future posts.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
James Franklin, Coming Soon to a Town Near You: The Coaches Caravan returns in May, headlined by James Franklin, who will visit 17 area locales—13 in Pennsylvania, plus forays into Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and New York City. Among the in-state stops on the tour, which is jointly sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Nittany Lion Club: four Penn State campuses and one event at Franklin’s alma mater, East Stroudsburg. More details on tickets will be coming later this month, but you can click here for the dates and clear your schedule now.
Running strong: Fresh off winning the Big Ten indoor track championship over the weekend, sophomore Kiah Seymour has been named the conference’s Track Athlete of the Championships, and coach Beth Alford-Sullivan earned the conference’s Coach of the Year award for the indoor season. Seymour won the 400 meters and anchored the winning 4×400-meter relay, and she finished second in the 200 meters. Get the full scoop here.
ICYMI on Mike McQueary: ESPN The Magazine on Tuesday published “The Whistleblower’s Last Stand,” a story about Mike McQueary ’97, who will be a central figure in the upcoming trial of Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g, and Tim Curley ’76, ’78g. If you’ve not yet read it, it’s certainly worth the time.
RIP, EP: Ellen Perry, another of the women who spearheaded the development of Penn State women’s athletics, died Tuesday. She spent 36 years at Penn State, arriving in 1966 as the first coach of the women’s swimming team and retiring in 2002 as associate athletic director and senior woman administrator. Known by everyone as “EP,” Perry was one of those people who had boatloads of knowledge and expertise, but imparted it with a light touch. This Centre Daily Times story quotes Perry from a story about her retirement, and I particularly loved how she basically summed up her life philosophy: “Believe in the goal you’re trying to make and complete and go at it with a well-intended heart. A happy heart works much better than an angry heart.”