Clemens Resigns from BOT; Alumni Election Change Passes
For the second day in a row, I find myself wrapping up the Board of Trustees meeting by starting at the end.
Just as board chair Keith Masser ’73 was preparing to adjourn the Friday’s meeting, Al Clemens ’59 jumped in to read a statement. He got right to the point, announcing that he was resigning from the board.
Clemens, a gubernatorial appointee, joined the board in 1995 and was the only one of the four trustees remaining as plaintiffs in the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA who was on the board when the Sandusky scandal broke. As a result, he is the only one of the trustees who was found to have standing to sue on the claim of defamation.
He said the board didn’t have much information or time to discuss the issues when it voted quickly on Nov. 9, 2011, to fire Joe Paterno: “I will always regret that my name is attached to that rush to injustice.”
He indicated, as well, that hiring Louis Freeh and accepting his conclusions “without review” was another mistake and that he joined the Paterno family’s lawsuit in an attempt to “reverse the misguided sanctions that were designed to punish a football program without blemish.”
He also said his resignation was in keeping with his belief in term limits; the current limit is 12 years, but members including Clemens were grandfathered in when that change was made. He has served for 19 years.
Clemens’ term on the board actually expired in 2012, according to the trustees’ website; staff from the trustees office said that there’s often a long lag between when a governor-appointed trustee’s term expires and when the governor nominates a replacement. Gov. Tom Corbett announced in late February that he was nominating Cliff Benson ’71 and Todd Rucci ’92 to fill the seats of Clemens and Ira Lubert ’73. Those nominations must still be confirmed by the state senate.
Lubert’s term technically ended in 2013, as did the term of vice chair Paul Silvis ’06g, for whom a replacement has not been announced. The terms of two other governor appointees, student Peter Khoury and Mark Dambly ’80, expire in 2014.
Also noteworthy from the meeting:
Alumni election changes pass: All alumni who have email addresses on file with the university will receive ballots in the upcoming alumni trustee election. Trustees unanimously passed a motion to change the procedure in the university’s charter; previously, only alumni who are Alumni Association members or have donated to the university in the past two years automatically received ballots, although any alum could request one.
After the issue was debated and unanimously passed in the January governance committee meeting, Penn State sent postcards to 186,610 alumni without email addresses on file, governance chair Keith Eckel said Thursday during the committee meeting. The cost: $82,000.
Eckel said Thursday that only 400 of the cards had been returned and noted that while he thought reaching out to alumni was the right thing to do, the “somewhat disappointing” rate of return meant that the gesture likely doesn’t need to be repeated. At Friday’s meeting, he said he’d been told that the number of returned postcards had increased to 700.
The alumni election starts April 10, and alumni still have time to return the cards. All of these changes are taking place after the nomination process for alumni trustees, which ran from mid-January to late February. In the future, all alums with email addresses on file will receive both a nomination form and an election ballot.
Public comment: After several meetings in which the number of speakers during the public comment session shrunk, nine speakers were announced for Friday’s meeting, although only seven showed up to speak. Also in contrast to recent meetings, when speakers covered a variety of issues, most criticized how the board has handled to the Sandusky scandal.
Ceil Massella, an alumna and wife of football letterman Brian, told the board, “Just as I always think of the shooting when think of Kent State, this university will always be associated with Sandusky’s guilt unless the record is set straight.”
Evan Smith ’11 asked the board, “What are you personally doing with your position of power to help serve the Penn State family? How are you helping us fight this battle of public perception?”
Several speakers also reiterated their belief that the board owes an apology to the family of Joe Paterno.
Facts and figures: President Rod Erickson said applications for 2014-15 baccalaureate admission have increased by 9,000 over last year—19 percent at University Park and 8 percent at the commonwealth campuses. Out-of-state applications are up 26 percent, and international applications are up 18 percent. Minority applications he said, are running 16 percent of last year.
He also said that the quality of applicants is higher: Their average SAT score is 20 percent greater than last year’s.
Lori Shontz, senior editor