Board of Trustees Wrapup: Settlements, Sanctions, New Vice Chair
The biggest news that come out of Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting came from two items that weren’t on the agenda.
The board voted to authorize settlement offers to some of Jerry Sandusky’s victims, although it did not provide any details about the number of settlements, the amount of the settlements or the deliberations that surrounded the settlements.
The chair of the board’s legal committee, Ira Lubert ’73, said the committee had been authorized to do so itself, but decided it was “in the best interest of the university” for the full board to vote. He said the board had twice been briefed confidentially, once on June 25, the other time during Friday morning’s executive session at Penn State Fayette.
The other big news also came from that executive session: football coach Bill O’Brien addressed the board—chair Keith Masser ’73 said he had issued an invitation—and appeared to be discussing the possibility of requesting a reduction in the NCAA sanctions.
Executive sessions are closed to the media and public, but the meeting was held in a room with windows, and O’Brien’s slides were visible to anyone in the hall. (Click here for a report from Mike Dawson ’02 of the Centre Daily Times, who was on the scene.)
Board chair Keith Masser ’73 confirmed in a news conference after the meeting that he had invited O’Brien to speak and that the university would like to ask the NCAA for relief from the sanctions: “We would like to do that at some point.” He said that “we have some work to do” before anything would happen. “I’ll use one of Coach O’Brien’s analogies: Instead of shoot and fire, you’ve got to shoot, aim, and fire.”
As usual, the meeting was jam-packed. Here are a few other highlights:
—Paul Silvis ’06g was elected vice chair, a position that became vacant when Stephanie Nolan Deviney ’97g was not re-elected. His term, like Masser’s, lasts until January 2014. Silvis defeated Ryan McCombie ’70; the ballot is secret, but Masser said that 27 ballots were cast and that a majority—more than 14—went to Silvis on the first ballot.
At the end of the meeting, McCombie read a joint statement pledging that he and Silvis would continue to work together.
“Ryan and I have been been friends and respected each other for a long time,” Silvis said. “He decided to run, I decided to run, and we got together and talked about it. We said regardless of who wins, we will continue to communicate and respect each other’s difference of opinion.
“I’ve lived in State College for a long time,” Silvis added. “I’ve been involved in the community, involved in Penn State. There’s a time when you’re called to step up, and this was the time.”
Silvis, a gubernatorial trustee who’s been on the board since 2010, is founder and president of SilcoTek Corporation, which is based in State College, and is still chair of the board of the first company he founded, Restek, which he sold to its employees.
—The trustees granted emeritus status to Anne Riley ’64, ’75g and David Jones ’54; two trustees, Anthony Lubrano ’82 and Ted Brown ’68, objected to the timing and voted no. (For more details on the emeritus trustee issues, click here for coverage of the Thursday governance committee meeting.)
Masser said he wasn’t particularly concerned about the disagreement: “It is healthy for differences of opinion among our board members to be aired out and discussed.”
—After protests from State College residents, the board voted to change the route of the natural gas pipeline to the West Campus Steam Plant so that it will go through campus, not through town. The change adds an additional $9.6 million to the cost of the project. State College residents were concerned about whether the pipeline—which is being built as the steam plant converts from coal to gas—was safe.
Asked whether the campus route is any safer, Masser said, “We feel there is no safety issue with what we’re doing. We would not jeopardize the safety of our students and staff and faculty on campus to do that. There’s gas lines running all over the world, so it will not be a safety issue.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor