Posts filed under ‘Controversy’
Board of Trustees Report: Barron Addresses Affordability of College; Lord Wants Freeh Report ‘Finished’
The Board of Trustees meeting began with what seemed, at times, like a graduate-level seminar in finance and statistics. President Eric Barron, addressing the board for the first time, dispensed with the usual presidential address highlighting various accomplishments of students and faculty and instead presented a 25-minute talk about the issues of access and affordability in higher education, complete with 22 pages of bar graphs, scatter charts, financial data, and bulleted lists of potential ways to make a Penn State education more affordable.
When I profiled Barron for our May/June issue, he told me he liked data. Click here for a PDF of his presentation today—you’ll see he may have understated his love of data.
More than three hours later, the meeting ended with a surprise resolution introduced by newly elected alumni trustee Al Lord ’67, who called for a roll call vote on “finishing” the Freeh report. Lord contends that the report is incomplete because Freeh did not talk to seven key people and because the truth of whether Penn State officials were aware of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes is still unknown.
“I want the board to agree that we’re not done. That’s all,” Lord said after the meeting. “It’s very simple—that we’re not finished. There are a lot of people that complain there’s misinformation in the report. I don’t know. I do know it’s not finished.”
Discussion was suspended because Penn State general counsel Stephen Dunham advised that it would need, for privacy reasons, to take place in executive session. Lord said the board had decided to have the discussion at its next meeting in September, and then the board briefly debated whether it needed to table the resolution to assure that the meeting did not end with a resolution on the floor. Although newly elected alumni trustee Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g said he believed the motion was tabled with the intent of killing it, board chair Keith Masser ’73 Eng said it was merely a formality. The motion was tabled.
It’s a lot to digest. So here are some of the details on both:
Barron’s report: He identified six major areas of emphasis for the university: excellence, student engagement, economic development and student career success, diversity and demographics, access and affordability, and technology and curriculum delivery.
Barron spoke in intricate detail about what he called Penn State’s “evolution into a tuition-driven university,” and showed a chart that made clear how few state budget dollars Penn State gets in comparison with the other Big Ten universities. He broke down how students pay for college and provided a table that showed how family income affects graduation rates: For every additional $10,000 in family income, a student’s chance of graduating rises 6 percent.
He discussed the rising level of debt college students face—66 percent of students graduate with some debt, and the average debt has grown from $20,000 to $35,429 in the past decade. Worse, Barron said, some students don’t have enough money to finish, so they are saddled with debt but don’t have a college degree. (This topic was fleshed out in a recent study by the Brookings Institutions, written about here by the New York Times.)
Barron said the university must focus on helping students to graduate in four years; an extra year of college, he said, is the “biggest tuition increase.” Among the ideas he floated: emphasizing the summer semester, possibly through “online summers” with reduced tuition for students with financial need or a “cost-contained” summer on campus, once the university could determine the break-even point for expenses.
He also said that he’d like Penn State to raise money to cover the “unmet need” many students have in paying for college after loans, scholarships, and grants. He noted that those students work to make up the money, and that extra time on the job can cause difficulties in the classroom. He would like to find a way that students don’t need to work more than 20 hours a week—he calculated that would cost the university $25 million for all in-state students at Penn State. He called it the Penn State Promise.
“Some of these things won’t work,” he said. “I’m talking a little bit out loud—let’s get strategic, let’s focus on these things.”
Several of the trustees praised the report, and Barron indicated he would tackle the other five issues in upcoming meetings.
Lord’s resolution: Generally, the way Penn State’s board has worked is that resolutions come up through the committees. Lord introduced this resolution, however, to the full board.
He said the trustees haven’t done anything with the Freeh report—except to fulfill the recommendations Freeh made and hand the report over to the NCAA, which in turn used the findings to impose sanctions. “By virtue of the fact that we didn’t reject it, the board tells me that they didn’t accept it,” he said. “To me, the absence of a rejection is acceptance.”
He said that “everyone has been sitting on their hands” waiting for the criminal trial of Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g, and Tim Curley ’76, ’78g. “I’m afraid that case is going to be dismissed,” he said, “and it’ll be ‘Penn State got out of it because of a technicality.’ I want the truth. I am hopeful of where it leads. I have very strong beliefs of where it will lead. But if any of those guys were guilty, then they belong in jail.”
Lord said he would be happy to provide specifics of incomplete parts of Freeh’s report, but he wanted to refresh his memory of the details before he did so. “I’m sort of brain dead after that mind-numbing conversation all afternoon,” he said.
Freeh did not have subpoena power; in his report, he indicated that was why he did not speak to the primary figures in the Sandusky scandal, among them Schultz, Curley, Joe Paterno, and Mike McQueary ’97. (Spanier did meet with Freeh’s investigators.) Said Lord: “Louis Freeh would tell you that, Look, I couldn’t talk to this guy because he’s part of a criminal investigation. But you’re talking about seven people, the seven key people who know what happened or as much as anybody knows about what happened—he never talked to anybody. I understand that some of them have claimed privilege because they’re in a criminal case, but that means [Freeh is] not finished.”
As if all that weren’t enough, here are a few additional—shorter—items from the meeting:
—Masser ran unopposed for chair and will serve for another year. Kathleen Casey ’88, a gubernatorial appointee, defeated Bill Oldsey ’76, an alumni-elected trustee, for the vice chair position. As usual, vote totals were not announced.
—Casey’s election as vice chair opened up an at-large position on the executive board, and the trustees voted to fill the spot with Ryan McCombie ’70. He is the first of the alumni trustees elected post-Sandusky scandal to be appointed to the executive committee.
—The board granted emeritus trustee status to Samuel Hayes and Paul Suhey ’79, with all nine alumni trustees abstaining. Anthony Lubrano ’82 suggested again that emeritus trustee status be delayed until governance reform is enacted.
—The board approved a $4.6 billion budget for 2014-15 with a tuition increase of 2.99 percent for University Park and increases ranging from zero to 2.4 percent for other campuses.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Some of what happened at Thursday’s meeting of the Penn State trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee—which began to get into the nitty-gritty of additional reforms—was predictable:
Veteran members of the board spoke in favor of keeping it the same size; newer members, elected by the alumni in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, insisted that a smaller board would be “more nimble” and “more engaged.” Agricultural trustees didn’t think cutting back the number of ag trustees was a good idea. Students said they need a permanent seat on the board, with the trustee being chosen by the students themselves, not the governor or the board itself.
But for the first time in public, the trustees went beyond the basics. Representatives from the Alumni Association, the faculty, and the students made their cases for permanent seats on the board. And among the issues the trustees considered Thursday were these:
How do the trustees define whether board members are “engaged”? Would having a faculty member—a university employee—on the board present an insurmountable conflict of interest? And how many board members should be alumni—not just trustees elected by the alumni, but alumni?
Additionally, Eric Barron, who is attending his first board meeting after taking over as Penn State’s president on May 12, weighed in.
He was careful to say that he wasn’t making recommendations and didn’t want to choose who his boss would be (the Board of Trustees is responsible for selecting the president). Barron said only that he wanted to let the committee know of his experience, and that he was familiar, as Florida State’s president, with having student and faculty representation on the board. He repeatedly used the word “voice” to describe what those trustees provided.
“If I got nervous about anything in this conversation, it wasn’t the notion of numbers and placement,” he said in the meeting. “It’s the notion of representing someone. My view is that this has to be a group of people that are here for one purpose: to ensure the success of the institution, not representation.”
As he spoke, governance consultant Holly Gregory and her assistant, Paige Montgomery, nodded their heads vigorously. Gregory had opened the discussion by saying, “Reaching agreement on these issues is difficult because it’s not quite as clear [as other reforms the board has already enacted]. There are issues of both power and trust. The trust among members of this board is already under some degree of tension. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about it. I know some are frustrated that we haven’t moved faster.”
Barron elaborated on his experience with student and faculty trustees, saying that in addition to the voice they provide, he found that the chance for additional back-and-forth about the issues was important. “Lo and behold,” he said, “a student will vote for a tuition increase because they participated in an in-depth discussion about the budget and understand what the university is up against, and they don’t want to give up quality any more than anyone else. A faculty member will vote on benefit changes because they realize that between health insurance and benefits, it’s going up at a clip of $25 million a year and that’s unsustainable. So the voice is not just that, but an opportunity to give input and have it go in reverse.”
As usual, there’s no easy way to sum up what happened during the meeting, which lasted for 90 minutes and moved briskly. Even at that pace, the committee didn’t discuss all of the reform items it had previously discussed in small groups that were closed to the public in May. Here are some highlights from today’s meeting:
Alumni trustees: Alumni Association president Kay Salvino ’69, in making the case for an Alumni Association seat on the board, highlighted the association’s “mission of service” to its 174,379 members and 631,000 living alumni. “We have responsibility for serving the largest constituency of the university—substantially larger than students, faculty, and staff combined, and growing larger every year.” She noted, as well, that Alumni Council, the association’s governing board, includes alumni society presidents from each college and campus.
[In the interest of full disclosure: The Penn Stater magazine and this website are both published by the Alumni Association.]
In addition, Salvino said, the Alumni Association is “one of the largest cumulative donors” to Penn State with more than $15 million in gifts for scholarships, fellowships, programs, and facilities since 1988. And in the just-concluded capital campaign, Alumni Association members donated nearly $800 million, meaning “90 cents on the dollar of all alumni giving came from members of the Alumni Association.”
She finished by showing the scope of the Alumni Association’s programs, which involve students, showcase the university’s academic prowess, and communicate with alums: “We touch and serve Penn State and our alumni in a way that no other organization can do, and we do it every day, in countless ways.”
Trustee emeritus David Jones ’54, for one, was skeptical. He said he had “great respect and admiration” for the Alumni Association, but pointed out that alumni already elect nine trustees and noted that “historically, in recent years, at least two-thirds of our trustees have been alumni.” He called that proportion of trustees who are alumni “really full, if not too full.”
He added: “I sometimes think we would benefit by having more outside voices on the board.”
Alumni trustees Anthony Lubrano ’82 and Barbara Doran ’75 spoke up for the current system of elected alumni trustees; Doran called the alumni election “one of the most robust, transparent processes you can run.”
Business and industry trustee Richard Dandrea ’77 floated the idea of reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees, saying that election turnout is low and that so many of the other trustees are alumni that perhaps alumni are overrepresented on the board. Lubrano disagreed repeatedly, saying “no one” is more invested in the success of the university than alumni, but board chair Keith Masser ’73, an ag trustee, agreed with Dandrea, saying that the business and industry trustees may be misnamed. He said he isn’t aware that a non-alum has ever been named a business and industry trustee.
Faculty: John Nichols, professor emeritus of communications and chair of the Faculty Senate’s special committee on university governance, which issued this report in 2013, made the case for a faculty representative on the board. He stressed two things: first, that his committee’s report had been unanimously approved by the Faculty Senate, which is a particularly rare feat; and second, that he was proposing not a faculty trustee, but an “internal academic trustee.” The distinction, he said, is “very important.”
A “highly specialized institution like a university,” Nichols said, needs trustees who have a “deep understanding” of its mission. Penn State’s board has two members with a background in higher education: elected alumni trustee Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, and Bill Oldsey ’76, who has worked in academic publishing.
Additionally, he said, a university is “essentially a professional association, and professional institutions are best governed with considerable governance by the internal professionals that deliver the goods. … Not to have that happen is a serious disconnection between the core mission of the university and the governance of the university.”
Jones said he had reservations about having employees on the board; ag trustee Betsy Huber noted that Pennsylvania law prohibits schoolteachers from serving on the school board in their own districts for just that reason. But Dandrea (who was chairing the meeting in Keith Eckel’s absence) said having one faculty trustee out of 30 meant that any conflict of image could be managed.
Students: University Park Undergraduate Association president Anand Ganjam and vice president Emily MacDonald spoke on behalf of students, and they made largely the point that their predecessors have made in previous meetings: that students don’t want to rely on the whim of the governor to have representation on the board and should have a representative who is chosen by students themselves. (For years, the governor has used one of his appointments to include a student on the board, but there’s nothing saying he has to.) They also detailed the procedure by which they assure student input.
Lubrano said he was in favor of the governor continuing to appoint a student trustee, but Masser said Gov. Tom Corbett had agreed to give up one of his appointments and allow the board to choose a student.
The tension surrounding reform was evident earlier in the day at the outreach committee meeting, when alumni trustee Ted Brown ’68 questioned Mike DiRaimo, the university’s governmental affairs representative, about a letter DiRaimo had written to the Senate’s state government committee asking that a bill sponsored by state Sen. John Yudichak, which would cut the board to 23 members, be tabled. Brown said he was upset that the letter indicated that the Board of Trustees did not support the bill because that is not, in fact, the case.
DiRaimo explained that he objected to the committee taking action on the bill for two reasons: because the bill would apply only to Penn State, and the university had been assured that would not be the case, and that the bill stipulates that only the General Assembly can make changes in the board’s size and composition in the future. He said, “That I know to be against the interest, against the position, against the actions of the trustees.” (The Senate committee did vote, unanimously, to approve the bill, which still needs to be considered by the full Senate.)
Brown wasn’t satisfied: “You said the Board of Trustees is opposed to this bill. I don’t remember any discussion to that, ever.”
New alumni trustee Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g chimed in, suggesting that DiRaimo could have phrased his objections better—and more accurately. He said that Yudichak ’93, ’04g and co-sponsor Jake Corman ’93 had previously agreed to hold the bill through May 2014 to see what progress the board made itself on reform and that the bill had been amended so to extend the time period to two years to allow the board to pursue reform itself.
“I think that’s significant,” Jubelirer said. “There’s plenty of time if this board is intent on reforming.”
He added that not only did the full board not discuss or vote on its position on the bill, but that he would not have opposed it had the board done so. Therefore, he said, the letter to the legislature was inaccurate. DiRaimo did not respond.
Here’s what comes next in the process:
Dandrea said that any committee members interested in working on a formal proposal to vote on at the next committee meeting would work with university attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78, who will “labor over” the draft. The committee will schedule an additional meeting within the next month to vote on recommendations to bring to the board. The idea is to have the board in position to vote on a proposal at its next meeting, Sept. 19 at University Park.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Consent decree challenged: Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court may have opened the door to a challenge of the consent decree, the basis for the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State, in a ruling today in the NCAA’s challenge to a bill written by state Sen. Jake Corman that would require the $60 million fine to be spent entirely on child-abuse programs in Pennsylvania. This Patriot-News story will give you the basics, and you can click here to read the decision yourself.
BOT election starts tomorrow: The election for three alumni seats on the Board of Trustees begins tomorrow, Thursday, April 10, and runs through 9 a.m. Thursday, May 8. Before you cast your ballot, learn about the 31 candidates with our Three Questions project.
A creative thank-you: Men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky released this video to thank the team’s alumni for their support. And, yeah, that’s a cool gesture. But what will really keep you watching is Gadowsky showing off his juggling prowess. I couldn’t look away. I’m off to work on my hand-eye coordination.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
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