Posts filed under ‘Sandusky scandal’
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…)
Eric Barron spent 20 years at Penn State, a larger chunk of his professional career than he’s spent anywhere else, by a lot. He called Penn State’s current president, Rod Erickson, formerly his boss in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, “much more than that—he was my mentor.” He said at every job he’s held since leaving Penn State, including his current position as Florida State president, he has taken two lessons he learned here, the “push for excellence and the power of community.”
“In so many ways,” Barron said Monday afternoon, just after being appointed Penn State’s 18th president, “I never left Penn State.”
Which doesn’t mean, Barron stressed, that he knows everything there is to know about this place. He left University Park in 2006 (click here to learn about what he did during the past eight years), and he knows the campus and the entire Penn State system have changed a lot since then.
“I have a lot to learn,” he said. “I want to make sure that I take the time to learn everything that I can. I think it’s a mistake to think that just because I was here eight years ago and for a while, or that because I’m paying attention to what’s going on in the world, that I know everything and can make decisions.”
Barron gave that answer in responding to a question about how he would bridge the divide in Penn State’s community that is one of the lasting effects of the Sandusky scandal, but his need to learn was a theme he sounded throughout his brief media tour Monday afternoon, even when asked about his goals for Penn State.
“The first thing I’d like to do,” he said, “is tap each dean on the shoulder and say, ‘I’d like to spend half a day with you. Show me your physical plant. Tell me those things you brag about. Those things you struggle with.’ Because I do think it’s a mistake to sit here and say, ‘I’ve been a university president for four years and directed a national lab, I know what to do.’ It doesn’t usually work that way. (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
Your Monday sports wrap: The Nittany Lions’ “Return to Rec” game was a huge success in all but the final score, an 81-79 overtime loss Saturday to Princeton. The Tigers clawed back from a 20-point second-half deficit to dampen Penn State’s first game at Rec Hall since 1996. Still, it was a great afternoon for the fans who packed into the old barn—if you weren’t there, you can find a terrific bunch of photos from Mark Selders here. The women’s volleyball team enjoyed a more successful weekend on the road, beating Michigan State and long-time rival Stanford to guarantee a return to the NCAA Final Four. Penn State will face Washington on Thursday in Seattle for a chance to play in the national title game.
I thought the contrast in photos Onward State ran in back-to-back stories on the hoops and volleyball games was worth noting:
Making their case: At a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Harrisburg, attorneys for Graham Spanier, Tim Curley ’76, ’78g, and Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g will argue that the cases against them should be thrown out. At issue is the role of Cynthia Baldwin ’66, ’74g, the former university counsel, and the question of whether Baldwin was representing them or the university in front of a grand jury in 2010. You can read more here.
“Ready” or not? We knew the rumors were coming, and with Penn State’s football season over, we didn’t have to wait long. CBS Sports writer Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that, “according to pro and college sources,” Bill O’Brien is “ready” to return to the NFL. Is it true? Probably only O’Brien, his family, and his agent know for sure, but you can expect to hear much more on this over the coming weeks as NFL teams wrap up the regular season and prepare for the annual turnover in head coaching jobs. Stay tuned.
It’s finals week: The cold front that has smacked Happy Valley in recent days should make it easier for students to cuddle up with warm books and laptops for the next few days as they wrap up the fall semester with final exams. Student media has all sorts of finals-related coverage—much of it lighthearted, much of it NSFW, exactly—but this list of songs to get students through study sessions from the Daily Collegian’s “Finals Mag” is somewhat illuminating. Who knew they were listening to Dylan?
Ryan Jones, senior editor