Posts filed under ‘Controversy’
A kinder, gentler State Patty’s Day: The combined efforts of the university, State College authorities, local businesses, and many student groups seem to be working, as the fallout from this year’s State Patty’s Day festivities was largely minimized. For the third year running, crime was down in the borough, with State College police saying it was “similar to a football weekend.” As late-winter traditions go, it was nice to see the student-run Day of Service back for a fourth year.
Three for all: The women’s basketball team on Saturday claimed its third straight Big Ten championship, beating Michigan 77-62. The Lady Lions’ terrific senior class went out in style in its last regular-season home game, with Ariel Edwards, Talia East, Maggie Lucas, and Dara Taylor all posting double digits in the win.
And speaking of champs: The Penn State women edged Michigan over the weekend to claim the program’s third Big Ten Indoor championship. And Shane Ryan, just a sophomore, set the Penn State and Big Ten record in the 100 freestyle to earn Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships. He’s the first Nittany Lion so honored.
All aboard: Thirty-two alumni will vie for three open seats in this year’s Board of Trustees election. Our Lori Shontz ’91, ’13g has the scoop, including details about the Alumni Association voting guide, which we’ll publish within the next month.
Right said TED: The fourth annual TEDxPSU event was held Sunday at Schwab Auditorium. Onward State has the highlights.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Get better soon, Sue: Thinking this morning of Sue Paterno ’62, who was injured in a fall Thursday. A family spokesman says she’s been hospitalized for observation and that her “attitude and resolve are great.” Here’s to SuePa being back on her feet soon.
That time of year again: Saturday is State Patty’s Day, and there’s been plenty of talk and activity leading up to the infamous annual event. The facts: many local landlords are banning parties on their properties, State College police are proactively discouraging large gatherings, and 34 of 35 downtown establishments that serve alcohol have agreed to stay dry for the day, with those businesses compensated by the university.
As for opinions, well, there is no shortage of those, including many who feel town and campus authorities are overreacting. More compelling, I’d argue, are these takes from Dennis Shea, associate dean in Health & Human Development, and an EMS worker who has worked the holiday as part of local ambulance crews. Both lay out just how ugly and dangerous State Patty’s Day has been at its worst. Here’s wishing everyone in town and on campus a fun, and safe, weekend.
Winning words: Congrats to Anna Orso on winning the 2014 Hearst Foundation sports writing award. A Penn State senior and Daily Collegian alumna currently writing for PennLive.com, Orso won for a story on college football recruiting published in the College of Communications’ in-house publication. It’s her second win in the national college journalism competition.
The stages are set: If you’re near Philly or Pittsburgh next weekend, Penn State musical theatre students are headed your way. The Alumni Association is sponsoring a traveling showcase of current Penn State theatre standouts in King of Prussia on Friday, March 7, and in Pittsburgh on Saturday, March 8. Tickets are just $10 for Alumni Association members. Should be a fun night out.
Hot hoops: The Nittany Lions swept their season series with No. 22 Ohio State on Thursday, posting a 65-63 win over the visiting Buckeyes. It was a great atmosphere for Senior Night at the BJC. And speaking of great seniors, Lady Lion star Maggie Lucas has been named a semifinalist for the Naismith National Player of the Year award.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
President-elect Eric Barron seems to like automotive analogies. He rattled off two when he spoke to the Board of Trustees on Monday afternoon, immediately after being named Penn State’s 18th president:
Auto Analogy No. 1: When Barron was learning to drive, his father told him to lift up his head and look not at the hood ornament, but down the road: “You will discover it is much easier to get where you are trying to go.” Barron found that the tip resulted in “a much better driving experience” and also turned out to be a good life philosophy. “Our job, all of our job, is to see down the road, sense the future, and ensure that this great institution is at the forefront of success and achievement.” (more…)
This was old school. A two-hour Board of Trustees meeting. No contentious votes. Only one participant in the public comment session. An uncontested election for board chair.
The media covering the meeting joked that we didn’t have much to write about.
Partially, of course, that’s because there’s more discussion and fleshing out of ideas during the committee meetings, held the day before the full board meeting. Flat out, there’s just more to write about from those. Partially that’s because the major issue confronting the board these days is governance reform, and that’s something they talked about in an executive session yesterday with governance consultant Holly Gregory.
And it’s not like nothing happened. Here’s a quick rundown:
—Masser re-elected board chair: This is a short term, just six months, because the board previously voted to change its annual meeting—at which officers are elected for one-year terms—from January to July. Just this once, the board needed to have a stopgap election to fill the six months from January to July. Incumbent Keith Masser ’73 was unanimously voted in. Also voted in were the other board officers, Penn State staffers. Vice chair Paul Silvis ’06g was elected in July to fill a vacant spot, so he already had six months remaining in his term.
—Executive committee spots filled: The three trustees put forth by the governance committee—Kathleen Casey ’88, Donald Cotner ’71, and Richard Dandrea ’77—to join the executive committee as at-large members were approved. There was no discussion, and no one nominated anyone else.
—Public comment: The number of speakers at public comment continued to dwindle with only one—Wendy Silverwood, whose anger at the Freeh report and trustees was palpable and who asked the board to marginalize the Freeh report and apologize to those harmed by it, including the Paterno family, lettermen, and Penn State community. She also suggested that Louis Freeh speak this spring at the third annual conference sponsored by the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being. He could be part of a panel, she said, with some of the people quoted in the Paterno family’s report—former attorney general Dick Thornburgh, Jim Clemente, and two doctors.
“The Freeh report missed a critical opportunity to educate the public on the identification of child sexual victimization and instead used the platform created by this scandal to sensationalize the blaming of Joe Paterno,” she said. “This was a terrible disservice not only to Penn Staters, but also to all parents, grandparents, and children in our state.”
—Network for Child Protection and Well-Being: Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Institute, presented an informational report on the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being (which is housed in her institute). She built off an introduction from provost and executive vice president Nicholas Jones, who noted other examples of Penn State’s commitment to children, including the Children, Youth, and Families Consortium that was started in 1998. But when the Sandusky scandal broke, Penn State had “less than a handful” of experts in child maltreatment, and the university immediately began to remedy the situation. It made a cluster hire of 12 faculty to beef up what the center could do.
—Application numbers rising: In his report to the board, president Rod Erickson said that undergraduate applications are up 19 percent at University Park and 7 percent at other campuses. The university has also received a record number of applications to the Schreyer Honors College: 3,277 students have applied for 300 spots.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Holly Gregory wanted to clear up one thing right off the bat. The lawyer hired to facilitate the Board of Trustees’ discussion about the more difficult parts of governance reform—the size of the board, the constituencies represented on the board, the qualifications needed to serve on the board, etc.—opened the trustees’ retreat Thursday afternoon with, as she put it, a disclosure:
She’s not a Penn State graduate.
That was a soft opening, to be sure. But as Gregory continued, she laid out her philosophy of good governance and how she sees her consulting role. She explained the focus of her law practice—working with boards of directors and trustees, at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and said that includes other universities.
She acknowledged the progress Penn State has already made in governance reform, but she added, “There are a number of areas where observers have continued to call for change. We have to listen.”
When governance committee chair Keith Eckel announced the hiring of Gregory in November, he stressed that he was looking for not for an expert in the field, but a facilitator, someone who could guide the board—which is divided—in what he has called the ongoing and continuous work of determining how best to govern the university.
He reiterated that Thursday, when he introduced Gregory and opened the retreat:
“The right model for Penn State will be the Penn State model,” he said. “It is within every one of our hands, the ability to shape that. Holly is the expert, and I have great confidence in her ability. But perhaps her most important talent is one of facilitation.
“There may be differences among us, but I am convinced there is one thing that unites all of us, and that is that we want the best for Penn State. Our viewpoints may differ in what that definition is, but we want the best for Penn State. And this effort is to create and in many cases reaffirm processes we may already have as the best Penn State model.”
And Gregory immediately picked up one of Eckel’s main themes: “Governance is a work in progress,” she said. “It never really ends. You never really say you’re done. You continually need to think about how this board functions and operates and the rules it has in place to guide it.”
The first part of the retreat was open to the public; by my count, 12 people—including me, four other reporters, and two Penn State public information staffers—attended the session, which lasted for about 40 minutes. The trustees were in one room; we watched a video hookup from the room next door that showed whoever was addressing the trustees. The rest of the retreat took place in a closed executive session.
Among the points that Gregory made in the public portion of the retreat:
—Fiduciary duty: As a lawyer, she sees fiduciary duty as the underpinning of everything a trustee does. “Not as an ending,” she said, “but as a starting point.”
—Disagreements are OK: Tensions in “key relationships” at an institution that has undergone a crisis are not unusual. “In fact,” she said, “they are the norm.” Gregory called herself “agnostic” on the Sandusky scandal and aftermath and stressed that “disagreement isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s something to be valued.”
—Speaking with “one voice:” That said, she also stressed how important it is that the board speaks publicly with one voice. They key, she said, is to figure out a way to get the “benefits of vigorous debate”—meaning, in private—“without causing harm to the university.”
—Three duties of trustees: She laid out three duties that should guide trustees: obedience, meaning that everything the trustees do should be tied directly to the university’s mission as described in the charter and bylaws; care, meaning to put in the time needed to fully understand issues and to do due diligence; and loyalty, meaning avoiding conflicts of interests—or identifying ones that can’t be avoided and protecting the university’s reputation. “After all,” Gregory said, “that’s one of a university’s primary assets.”
She continued: “The good news is that perfection is not required. These duties, they expect a very, very high standard from trustees. But the law recognizes that the board, acting in real time and in response to real emerging issues, will not always make the best decision. You’re going to get it wrong. You’re going to make mistakes sometimes. As long as you’re acting with reasonable and prudent care, you as trustees will not be held liable.”
—A culture to strive for: Gregory characterized the culture the board should strive to meet with these phrases: Mindful of fiduciary duties. Future-focused: anticipatory, not reactive. Revitalizing, not entrenched. Diverse and inclusive.
She ended with this: “I can’t emphasize enough the value that comes from having the opportunity to debate a variety of viewpoints.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Two of the running jokes around the office involve me: (1) Every time I go on vacation, big Penn State news breaks and (2) Every time it’s my turn to do The Daily, there are scandal and/or legal-related updates. I was wine tasting in Sonoma when when Bill O’Brien left to coach the Houston Texans, and today, my first day back on Daily Duty, there’s so much scandal-related news that there’s barely any coverage of what’s probably the most interesting part of it—the judge’s decision in the NCAA lawsuit, released late afternoon Tuesday. I hate to be a cliche, but I guess there is a pattern.
Paterno lawsuit going forward: More than two months after retired Potter County judge John Leete heard arguments as to whether the lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the Paterno family along with some faculty, trustees, former lettermen, and former coaches should go forward, he released his decision—a nuanced, detailed 25-page document that I had to read twice before I began to fully understand it. The upshot is this: the legality of the consent decree (breach of contract) will not be litigated unless Penn State itself joins the lawsuit because Leete ruled that the university is an “indispensable” party, but other parts of the lawsuit, including several defamation claims and a civil conspiracy claim, will go forward. Wrote Leete: “Penn State’s absence does not require dismissal of the entire Complaint. Plaintiffs’ tort claims stand on a different footing than the contract claims because they do not require rulings affecting Penn State’s rights in any significant way.”
I don’t know anyone who thinks that Penn State is suddenly going to change its mind and sue the NCAA, so don’t expect any movement on the consent decree. But this decision does mean that the discovery phase will begin, and that means that subpoenas could be forthcoming. In a statement, Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers called the decision a “significant victory” and added, “With this ruling the bright light of legal discovery will finally shine on the facts and records of all parties involved.”
Coverage of this has been scant so far, but my friend Mike Dawson ’02 of the Centre Daily Times did a nice job, getting NCAA reaction, as well, and Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann has some quickie analysis on his Twitter feed (you have to scan down and expand to see the conversations). Among McCann’s observations: “My instinct is NCAA now pursues settlement w/Paterno family, but I could see family saying no deal unless NCAA publicly says sorry.”
Sandusky pension hearing: Jerry Sandusky ’67, ’71g testified via video link for about three hours Tuesday in an attempt to get his Penn State pension restored. He lost it because of a state law that allows for the forfeiture of pensions for people convicted of certain crimes, but he is maintaining that he was not a Penn State employee when the crimes occurred. Mike Dawson ’02, who had a really busy day, has the strongest story, which details how much of the testimony weirdly recounted Sandusky’s performance as a defensive coordinator.
Spanier v. Freeh: As if that weren’t enough legal news, there was another hearing Tuesday morning about whether Graham Spanier needs to file more than an intent to sue Louis Freeh for defamation. Spanier’s attorney contends that’s enough given that the criminal case is proceeding. Freeh’s attorneys said more details about the potential lawsuit are required.
No coach yet: And, yeah, the search for Penn State’s next football coach continues. The Patriot-News has a ton of coverage, ranging from an interview with Bill O’Brien’s right-hand guy, Jim Bernhardt, by Audrey Snyder ’12 to David Jones’ column on why Penn State needs stability in its next coach. For the latest rumors and hand-wringing, of course, go to Twitter.
RIP Mary Jo Haverbeck: Like all of my friends and colleagues who cover Penn State sports and/or women’s sports, I’m mourning the death of Mary Jo Haverbeck ’76g, retired associate sports information director and the first woman inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Hall of Fame. Mary Jo worked behind the scenes, but she’s one of the main reasons that Penn State’s women’s sports teams became so prominent, as Centre Daily Times sports editor Walt Moody points out in a lovely tribute to Mary Jo. I’m one of the many, many people Mary Jo went out of her way to mentor, and I can’t say enough how much she taught me and what a nice person she was. I’ll try, though, in another blog post within a day or two.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Legal update: Here’s the short story: Tuesday’s pretrial hearing produced no clarity on whether Cynthia Baldwin ’66, ’74g, Penn State’s former general counsel, will be able to testify in the trial of Graham Spanier, Tim Curley ’76, ’78g, and Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g. The judge said that rather than hear testimony from Baldwin, he will make his ruling based on the documents. You can see links to some of those documents here in a Patriot-News story. The basic issue is whether Baldwin violated attorney-client privilege when she testified to the grand jury and, therefore, whether her testimony is admissible in court. But the question is complicated. This Centre Daily Times story, based on additional documents, explains that Penn State waived attorney-client privilege, allowing Baldwin to testify. If you’ve got the time and have been following this case closely, the documents are really worth your time to check out.
Behind the scenes of Lunar Lion: If you read our November/December cover story or any of the other coverage, you know a little about Lunar Lion, its goal to land a spacecraft on the moon by 2015, and the giant university effort involved in the project. Those stories went big. Here’s one that goes small and shows what Lunar Lion is doing on a micro scale. Bobby Chen of Onward State tells the story of Philip Chow, a sophomore who is leading the procurement of parts for the effort. Yeah, a sophomore. Buying parts for a mission to the moon. In between classes. That’s likely unprecedented, and it’s a great story. Full disclosure: Bobby originally wrote this for my news writing class.
O’Brien watch: If you’re still obsessing over Bill O’Brien’s potential NFL opportunities, Dave Jones of the Patriot-News breaks down his options here.
Relax, says Mike the Mailman: According to Mike the Mailman—and, really, who do you trust more?—you’ve got until Saturday, Dec. 21, to get packages mailed in time to get there by Christmas. At least, that’s the case at Mike’s post office. Christian Heilman has the video story for Penn State’s Centre County Report. If you want faster service, Christian says, there’s a solution—bring cookies. Again, at least at Mike’s post office.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
“Academic Heisman” to Urschel: What else is there to say about John Urschel? The “mathematician/guard,” as the headline on this USA Today story called him, received a particularly prestigious honor Tuesday night—the William V. Campbell trophy, given to college football’s top scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation. (If you need a refresher, one of the earlier long profiles about Urschel, by Frank Bodani of the York Daily Record, is good reading.) Steven J. Hatchell, president and CEO of the National Football Foundation, said that Urschel “represents everything that is right about college football.” At this point, let’s just hear from Urschel ’12, ’13g himself: Click here for this acceptance speech. It is, of course, terrific.
Workin’ on the railroad: I’m not a huge fan of Google alerts, but I will admit that when they work, they are amazing. I did not know that Penn State Altoona is the only university in the country offering a four-year degree in rail transportation engineering until I read this piece from Progressive Railroading, which details the program and why it’s important: “Penn State launched the degree three years ago at the urging of railroad and transit executives who noted the need for more education and training designed for future railroaders.” Three years ago, the program enrolled its first nine students, and with a little word of mouth, they’ve got 19 more freshmen and sophomores.
Health care back in the news: The Faculty Senate met Tuesday, and the hot topic was Penn State’s health care program, which received national attention this fall, first because it used sticks rather than carrots to spur employees toward healthy habits, then because of the controversy over whether employees were required to disclose too much personal information. That program was modified, and the university has appointed a committee to examine the issue, but the Faculty Senate still isn’t thrilled with how the committee is constituted.
Nearing the end: President Rod Erickson seems to be doing a series of end-of-semester interviews; he spoke with with Christian Heilman of the Centre County Report, and an interview with him is the top story in today’s Collegian. He says his final semester as president will be “bittersweet.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Underdogs? 24-point underdogs? I’ll admit it: I was one of the doubters. I was the lector at Saturday night Mass, and I never dreamed that when I came out of church, the Nittany Lions would be on the verge of defeating No. 15 Wisconsin. I missed the entire second half, so I had a lot of catching up to do when I got home. Here’s what I did: watched this video from the locker room, this video of Bill O’Brien’s news conference, read this piece by Dave Jones of The Patriot-News about freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who completed 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns and is racking up all kinds of recognition, and checked out John McGonigal’s game story in the Collegian.
Looking to the future: Can’t wait for next football season? Get ready now by checking out this analysis by Mark Wogenrich ’90 of The Morning Call and this New York Times story about the future of the Big Ten, which adds Maryland and Rutgers—and a new division configuration—next season.
In other sports: The men’s soccer team lost 2-0 to New Mexico in the Sweet 16, but it finished the season with a 13-6-2 record and with a long road trip—nearly 5,000 miles in the air, 600 on the road in the NCAA tournament. … The women’s volleyball team finished its regular season with a four-set victory over long-time nemesis Nebraska in a match-up of two Top 10 programs in Lincoln, and it will, as usual, open the NCAA tournament at home, 7:30 p.m. Friday against LIU Brooklyn. … The men’s basketball team advanced to the final of the Barclays Center Classic but fell to Ole Miss, 79-76, despite 23 points from D.J. Newbill. … Tournament MVP Maggie Lucas led the women’s basketball team to the championship of the Junkajoo Jam in the Bahamas, where the players also scored some quality time with some friendly dolphins.
Legal update: A couple of months ago, former president Graham Spanier requested “a bill of particulars,” regarding the charges he is facing in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. The prosecution answered last week, and although most of Spanier’s requests were denied, the lawyers did provide a list of what they called Spanier’s false statements in his April 2011 testimony before a grand jury investigating Jerry Sandusky ’67, ’71g. Charlie Thompson of The Patriot-News does a nice job here summarizing the legalese. Next up in the case against Spanier, Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g, and Tim Curley ’76, ’78g: a hearing on several pre-trial matters, including the defense’s motion to quash the testimony of former university council Cynthia Baldwin ’66, ’74g, is scheduled for the week of Dec. 16.
“Mom away from home:” That’s what the two-time national champion Lionettes dance team members call Sue Cacciotti Sherburne ’95g, ’09g, their director, who’s also assistant director of the Morgan Academic Support System for athletes. Chris Rosenblum of the Centre Daily Times writes that Sherburne “gives the Lionettes tools for moving through life as well as they do through space.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
When the agenda for Board of Trustees’ governance and long-range planning meeting on Thursday moved to new business, Anthony Lubrano ’82 was ready with his issue. He’s already been on record criticizing the search process for Penn State’s new president, saying the Trustee Presidential Selection Council does not include enough trustees who represent alumni.
This time, Lubrano proposed having a discussion about the issue, possibly as a prelude toward changing the makeup of the selection council, which interviews finalists for the position. He said that the full board should be able to meet with the finalists before voting, rather than relying on the 13-member selection council to make a recommendation for the entire board.
Governance chair Keith Eckel, a member of the selection council, said he had no problems with the process, which is the same as has been used for previous Penn State presidential searches. (Refresher: The Presidential Search and Screen Committee, composed mostly of faculty, students, and alumni, did the initial work in conjunction with executive search firm Isaacson Miller and recommended finalists to the Trustee Presidential Selection Council, which then recommends a candidate to the full board.) Said Eckel: “The process works.”
Responded Lubrano: “It’s a valid concern. You say to 18 members of the board: ‘Here’s a person, you can vote up or down.’ This is the most important role we play as trustees, and now you’re saying to trust us. Trust us.”
That exchange kicked the discussion to a broader level, touching on not only how the presidential search works, but how the board itself works.
First, trustee Carl Shaffer asked Lubrano why he hadn’t raised these concerns when the board passed a resolution establishing the search process in November 2012; Lubrano said he had, privately, and that at the time, the composition of the selection council wasn’t known. Only later, Lubrano said, did it become clear that selection council had only one member who was elected to the board by alumni: Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62.
This prompted a forceful response from Eckel:
“When I see the committee and the board, I see a member of the Board of Trustees. I don’t see someone elected by the ag society. I don’t see someone elected by the alumni. I don’t see somebody from business and industry. I see trustees. All equal in their ability and right to serve …”
Vice chair Paul Silvis ’06g, a guest at the committee meeting, interjected: “And passion to serve, too.”
Eckel agreed, then continued, referencing not only the selection council, but the board’s six standing committees, and the seventh standing committee to be voted on Friday, the compensation committee. “I have absolute confidence in the selection process where we put people on committees,” he said. “I serve on two committees (governance and legal), and tomorrow we will hear reports from four others, soon to be five others. I have confidence in the work of those individuals. … You have to have confidence in the people you’re working with.”
Said Lubrano: “I think the confidence has been eroded over the last two years pretty significantly. To not acknowledge that is to put your head in the sand.”
In the end, Lubrano declined to introduce a motion that would change the makeup of the selection council, which is continuing its work after its reported top choice, the president of SUNY’s Upstate Medical School, was found to have been padding his salary.
Eckel then opened the meeting, as has become his custom since becoming the chair of the committee in July, with a chance for the public to comment. The first speaker was trustee emeritus Ted Junker ’60, who said he’d served on the committees that chose both Joab Thomas and Graham Spanier, and he addressed another comment of Lubrano, about socializing with the spouse of the presidential finalists. The committee did meet with Thomas and his wife, Marly, but did not meet with Spanier’s wife, Sandra ’76g, ’81g.
The next to speak was Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g, who called herself disappointed in the discussion.
“I think it is reality for us to acknowledge that there are differences of opinions on the board and that they reflect differences of opinions within the community,” she said. “The hiring of the president really requires genuine consensus. We want the next president to succeed. This is really important, opening up a new era at Penn State. We want to form and create the next Penn State out of the ashes of what’s happened here. You proceed without the opinions of the trustees who disagree with the majority, just because they’re the minority. Minorities are important.”
Pope added that just because the process worked in the past doesn’t mean that it has to be used now, and said that as a university professor herself, she knows that some universities have found ways to open the presidential search process more. “Even if you don’t want to be open with the entire community,” she said, “you need to be open to the whole board.”
Eckel stressed that trustees are not disenfranchised—everyone gets a vote on the new president. “And the idea that minorities were excluded from the process is wrong. They were part of the vote that approved the resolutions saying a candidate will be presented to the full board.”
Said Lubrano: “Today, that vote would be very different.”
The meeting was jam-packed with discussion on weighty issues, one of which I’ve already written about (potential changes to the election of alumni trustees) and others of which I’ll explore in later blogs and the magazine. Here are a couple of additional noteworthy items:
—Eckel announced the hiring of Holly Gregory as its consultant to help the board think through additional changes in its governance structure.
—Silvis reported on a meeting that he and Eckel had with state senators John Yudichak ’93, ’04g and Jake Corman ’93, who say they will introduce a bill to reform the Board of Trustees. Silvis said the words “patience” and “participation” came up frequently, and he said the legislators don’t want this to be a confrontational process, but one in which the legislature works with the board. He explained the mindset this way: “Measure twice, measure 10 times, cut once. Because the changes we make in governance are going to be with us for 25 years or longer.”
The presentation prompted Shaffer to ask how much jurisdiction the Pennsylvania state legislature has over the board: “How far can this go? Can they pass a law about our budget? I’m a little concerned about the slippery slope.”
University counsel Stephen Dunham described the relationship between the legislature and the four state-related universities, Penn State among them, as “complicated and unique.” He said he couldn’t answer Shaffer’s question in the abstract: “The lawyer’s proper answer is, it depends on the facts. What area it is, how extensive it is, the history, the charter, the non-profit law. There are lots of issues to look at.”
—Members of the committee met with students who are interested in governance issues and who made a case for a designated student trustee, a case that Eckel called impressive. Eckel also noted that faculty and the Alumni Association would like to have designated seats on the board.
—Liz Grove ’84 asked the committee why the conflict-of-interest statements, which the board voted into its bylaws at its May meeting, are not yet public. Frank Guadagnino ’78, a Reed Smith attorney hired by Penn State to consult on governance issues, said the board office distributed two questionnaires to the trustees, one which is the equivalent of the IRS Form 990, the other to disclose “actual and potential” conflicts of interests. He said they’ve received all but two forms, and that the goal is to make information public on the university’s website by the end of the year.
Lori Shontz, senior editor