A Few Notes From the Trustees Meeting
The Penn State trustees are meeting in two parts this weekend, with some weighty discussion items, including the Freeh report, a timeline for the presidential search, the NCAA sanctions, and ways to move forward.
This afternoon’s segment was scheduled to include a 30-minute meeting of the full board, followed by committee meetings. As it turned out, the board meeting ended up running close to an hour and a half.
I can’t pretend to give a comprehensive accounting of this afternoon’s session, but I can share some highlights:
—Board chair Karen Peetz ’77 opened with a statement that promised more openness from the trustees: “We are entering a new era of high standards of corporate governance,” she said, “where the University’s—and this Board of Trustees’—deliberations and actions are open and transparent. Except for limited sensitive, legal, or individual personnel matters, the board meetings will be open and available to all.”
You can read Peetz’s entire statement at Penn State Live.
—About 40 members of the general public attended the meeting; a few of them wore buttons from the group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
—Board vice chair Keith Masser ’73 will head up the board’s Freeh report “response team,” which will look at which of the report’s recommendations to implement and how to implement them. Penn State also will also hire an external project-management firm to help in the process; will seek guidance from the Association of Governing Boards; and will put together an advisory council that includes students, faculty, and a representative from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), among others.
—You’ll be hearing a lot in the months to come about the AIA—the Athletics Integrity Agreement that is part of the NCAA consent agreement that Penn State President Rod Erickson signed. Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was named earlier this month to be the university’s “athletics integrity monitor”; Peetz met with him last week and said, “His view is that if we fail, he will have failed. He’s not looking to do a ‘gotcha.’”
—Peetz said she’s confident that Penn State “will be a model for the NCAA”; in response, several people in the audience immediately murmured, “We already are.”
—New trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82 asked new university counsel Stephen Dunham how much Mitchell will be paid. Dunham said that Penn State will pay Mitchell’s law firm at a “somewhat discounted rate,” but didn’t elaborate.
—Trustee Joel Myers ’61, ’63g, ’71g asked Dunham how many other universities have an athletics integrity monitor, among other provisions of the NCAA sanctions. Dunham didn’t know. Myers said, “I’m not saying it shouldn’t exist. I’m saying, if it exists at Penn State, why doesn’t the NCAA require it for all athletic institutions?”
—Myers seems to be emerging as a contrarian voice on the board, aligning himself at times with the views of Lubrano and two other new members, Ryan McCombie ’70 and Adam Taliaferro ’05. Toward the end of the meeting he asked for, and received, permission to read a statement (Myers won’t be able to attend tomorrow’s meeting, as his mother died last week and will be buried tomorrow).
His lengthy statement harshly criticized the NCAA, calling the sanctions “a blight on the NCAA and the institutions that make it up.” They “inflict hurt on Nittany Nation, with no benefit to anyone.”
“The NCAA is no longer worthy to be a representative of higher education,” Myers said. When he finished, most of the attendees in the public-seating area of the room gave him a standing ovation.
Onward State has posted the full text of Myers’ remarks here.
—There was applause from the onlookers at one or two other points in the meeting, and it was interesting to me that Peetz, the board chair, didn’t seem bothered by that. She could have asked attendees to refrain from such reactions, but she didn’t.
—Several trustees made responses to Myers’ comments, including Lubrano, who echoed Myers’ comments, and Keith Eckel and Mark Dambly ’80, who spoke of the need to not dwell on the sanctions and to instead move forward. Eckel in particular was forceful and passionate, and I regret that I wasn’t in a position to take notes at that moment, so I can’t relay his comments.
Trustee Dambly added to Eckel’s remarks, saying, in part: “It is time to move forward. We need to pivot from where we are, and we need to remind ourselves of our purpose, and that is the education of our children and our youth. To continue to look backwards to talk about things we can’t change … is not a good use of our energy and our time.”
If today’s meeting was any indication, tomorrow’s should be interesting as well. It runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Penn Stater Conference Center, and is open to the public.
Tina Hay, editor