Posts filed under ‘Controversy’
“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
Tale of two Penn States: As the search for a new president continues, Inside Higher Ed published this piece, examining how Penn State might appear to a potential leader: “… candidates may be asking themselves which Penn State they see: one led in part by ‘the search committee that couldn’t shoot straight,’ or a solid academic and financial entity with a long history and a bright future.” Donald Heller, the former head of Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education, and an anonymous Penn State faculty member are quoted in the story.
Spanier v. Freeh: Attorneys for Louis Freeh and former Penn State president Graham Spanier are headed to court early next year. Back in July 2013, Spanier filed a defamation lawsuit in response to the Freeh report, which alleged Spanier helped cover up Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children. The argument goes to trial in the Centre County Courthouse on Jan. 9, 2014.
Master Key: Keegan-Michael Key, of Comedy Central’s hit show Key & Peele, is pretty much my best friend. And by “best friend,” I mean I interviewed him once. We chatted on the phone earlier this week (for an upcoming story in the magazine — stay tuned) and Key ’96g was not only hysterically funny, but also incredibly nice and easygoing—which helped calm my out-of-control, omg-I’m-talking-to-a-comedy-genius nerves. BFF status aside, this is good news: A Key & Peele movie, produced by comedy heavyweight Judd Apatow, is in the works. Now I’m just waiting on my invite to the premiere.
Think positive: So, last night’s men’s basketball game vs. Bucknell didn’t go so well. But let’s look on the bright side. More specifically, let’s look at this adorable photo of a miniature lion high-fiving the real deal, captured during the game by Onward State‘s Bobby Chen (@rysChen) and posted on Twitter this morning.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.
A sellout, in the good sense: If you don’t have tickets for the Nittany Lions’ Homecoming clash Oct. 12 against Michigan, well, you’re out of luck. Penn State announced Tuesday morning that the game is officially sold out.
Opener in jeopardy? The government shutdown has forced the service academies to suspend their varsity sports programs, so if the Congressional impasse continues, the first game for the men’s team in the Pegula Ice Arena, Oct. 11 vs. Army, may be canceled or postponed. The problem: The government funds travel for academy sports teams, so without a budget, they can’t travel.
Employee health-care update: The Centre Daily Times has the latest update on the health-care saga on campus: Anyone who completes the personal health screening, a requirement that rankled many faculty and staff, will receive a $100 bonus. If an employee and the employee’s spouse both complete the screening, the bonus rises to $150.
Inspirational words: I spent Tuesday evening with my news writing class listening to New York Times managing editor (that’s second in command) Dean Baquet speak at the first session of the Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers, one of the great programs sponsored by the College of Communications. Baquet was particularly inspirational; as I told a student who interviewed me after the speech, if you didn’t want to run out and commit great acts of journalism after that talk, you’re in the wrong major. I’d like to share one piece of Baquet’s advice that applies to everyone, no matter your major, profession, or age: “Take the job that will teach you something you don’t know.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
No football? No problem: So how’s Bill O’Brien going to spend the bye week? According to this video—which is well, well worth 48 seconds of your time—he’s going to be checking out County Cork vs. County Clare in the All-Ireland Senior Final Hurling Replay. Seriously, that’s what he said. O’Brien’s analysis: “I’m not sure who to cheer for, because my family comes from both areas.” OK, then. The Nittany Lion Shrine, as pictured on the Croke Park Classic Twitter feed, seems to be having an equally difficult time making up its mind.
Canners fanning out: The bye week isn’t the only reason campus will be quiet this weekend. It’s also the school year’s first Canning Weekend for THON, when students fan out across the state—and beyond—to solicit donations. Onward State weighs in not only with advice for canners, but with suggestions on how to spend the weekend if you’re one of the few people still left on campus.
Not over yet: Yes, the NCAA eased its sanctions on Penn State. But it also filed court documents Thursday asking that the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA, which is joined by some trustees, faculty, and former athletes, should be thrown out because the plaintiffs don’t have standing.
Critical acclaim for Key and Peele: The comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key ’96g and Jordan Peele got The New Yorker treatment this week because critic Emily Nussbaum went down the “rabbit hole” of Key and Peele sketches on YouTube and discovered what so many of us already knew—these guys are not just hilarious, but intelligently hilarious. “Like many of the best, most transgressive comics,” Nussbaum writes, “they treat human behavior as a form of drag, shape-shifting with aggressive fluidity.” (Note: Not sure the whole article is available to non-subscribers, but you can get the gist from the link.) If you’re not watching hurling or going canning, going down that rabbit hole could be a good weekend activity.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Column: A plea for respect and understanding among all who call themselves Penn Staters, and a reminder of our shared fate.
Sitting in my office on another perfect September day, I can look at the most recent issue of our magazine, and at the stories we’re writing and editing for the next one, and find constant reminders of the things that make this place great.
Working at The Penn Stater, we’re fortunate to meet and interact with a lot of the individuals whose intelligence, ingenuity, and hard work make that greatness possible. Just in the past few months, I’ve had the chance to interview faculty members whose research explains everything from the genetic influence on our voting habits to the science of zombified ants. I’ve met students who have established themselves as leaders on campus, in town, and beyond—smart, insightful young adults who are already doing important work. And of course, there are our fellow alumni. Literally every day, we hear about another alum—an artist, an educator, a public servant, or an entrepreneur—who is doing something important, unusual, or just plain cool. As writers and editors, we’re lucky to have such a rich vein of people, and stories, from which to choose.
It is this collective—of faculty and staff, of current students, and of more than half a million living alumni—who combine to make Penn State great. More than an institution, Penn State is a community, and like any community, every demographic contributes to the whole. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and we are weaker when those parts don’t function in unison. Right now, in too many ways, unity among Penn Staters seems increasingly hard to find.
There is room for constructive disagreement within a community—such critical discourse is vital. The problem is the increasingly combative, often disrespectful, and occasionally hateful tone of “debate” among various members of our community. It seems to have come to a head over the past week. (more…)
There’s one story about the university dominating the media this morning: The NCAA’s decision to ease the sanctions against Penn State, namely by restoring scholarships sooner than planned. Here are some worthwhile reads we’ve found:
Best detail: Most of the coverage has focused on reactions to the NCAA’s decision. But Mike Dawson ’02 is the only one who wrote about exactly what Penn State did that convinced Sen. George Mitchell to recommend to the NCAA that some scholarships be restored. (He’s got a particularly complete overall story, too.)
Behind the scenes: Don’t underestimate the role that the Big Ten, particularly its powerful commissioner, Jim Delany, played in this decision. This piece from Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated, who were covering a meeting of NCAA Division I athletic directors, provides some insight.
NCAA feeling pressure: Nationally, the story was less “Penn State gets scholarships back” and more “Embattled NCAA realizes it overreached.” Among the standout columns: Pat Forde of Yahoo, Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com, and Dana O’Neil ’90 of ESPN.com.
Victim advocates: Jeff Franz ’04 of the Harrisburg Patriot-News checked in with two advocates for abused children: Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and Cathleen Palm, of the Protect Our Children Committee. They agreed with the decision.
The other side: While most of the coverage has praised the decision, there are a few dissenters. One is Christine Brennan of USA Today, who’s been highly critical of Penn State since the story broke; another is Seth Gruen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The student perspective: Anna Orso, one of the Collegian‘s football writers, gives credit to Rod Erickson, whom she covered as an administration reporter, and Bill DiFillippo of Onward State analyzes the team’s scholarship and personnel situation through the 2016-17 season, when the full 85 scholarships will be restored.
Did we miss any pieces you found that are beautifully written? Particularly enlightening? Let us know in the comments.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
For the past year, since the Board of Trustees added a public comment session to its agenda, the drill has been the same. Speakers spoke. Trustees listened. When the speakers criticized the board for its handling of the Sandusky scandal, some portion of the audience clapped or cheered.
Friday’s public comment session, however, was different.
After the second speaker—a tandem of two faculty members, Maria Truglio and Brian Curran, who said that although Penn State had suspended the $100/month surcharge for employees who didn’t get a biometric screening and fill out an online health survey, they were still concerned about what happens next—board chair Keith Masser ’73 said that David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business, would respond to the comments.
This caused a stir. Not once since the board added a public comment agenda item—up to 10 speakers, each allotted three minutes—had trustees done anything but sit and listen. Twice, however, during Friday’s meeting, Masser directed someone to respond to the comments—Gray to the professors, and governance chair Keith Eckel to former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g, who was practically shouting by the end of his three minutes, during which he accused the board of not being transparent.
Masser had indicated he was considering doing this during Thursday’s meeting of the Outreach, Development, and Community Relations Committee. (more…)
From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.
A healthy decision: Penn State has reversed course on its plans to fine faculty and staff who don’t provide personal health information and submit to screenings as part of the university’s new wellness plan. The story had become national news in recent weeks as faculty members and outside health care experts weighed in; the university’s decision to suspend a $100 monthly fine for noncompliance with the plan made the front page of the Business section of Thursday’s New York Times.