Posts tagged ‘Keith Masser’

NCAA Sanctions Repealed, Paterno’s Wins Restored

IMG_3693_trustees_resolutionKeith Masser ’73 stuck to the script when he opened the Penn State Board of Trustees meeting today, saying he had some good news to report: that Penn State’s World Campus scored a No. 1 ranking in the U.S. News rankings of online programs.

But a few moments later, President Eric Barron took the podium and announced the day’s truly big news: that Penn State, the NCAA, and state officials had reached a tentative agreement to roll back the sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. And not long after that, the trustees voted unanimously to approve the agreement.

The NCAA issued a news release spelling out the terms of the agreement, the major points being that (1) 112 vacated wins—111 belonging to Joe Paterno, and one to Tom Bradley ’78—are restored (or, to quote a tweet by Charles Thompson of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, “And move over Bobby Bowden!”), and (2) the $60 million in fine money stays in Pennsylvania.

But State Sen. Jake Corman ’93, in a Harrisburg news conference, was more blunt: “The consent decree is hereby repealed,” he said, and “all remaining sanctions against Penn State are voided.” You can read a news release from Corman’s office here.

The trustees’ vote on the settlement was quick, with no discussion or debate before the roll-call vote, and the vote was unanimous.

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who invited reporters to an impromptu news conference in the hallway outside the meeting—while the meeting was still in progress, with President Barron giving a report—said that the agreement isn’t perfect, but is still a win overall.

A point of contention with some in the Penn State community had been the possibility that, in order to see a rollback of the sanctions, the university would have to acknowledge that the NCAA had the right to impose the sanctions in the first place. The wording of the agreement appears to be very carefully phrased in that regard; it says that “Penn State acknowledges the NCAA’s legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter.”

The restoration of Paterno’s wins has already prompted calls to return the Paterno statue to its spot outside Beaver Stadium. Corman, asked about it at his news conference, said it’s a decision for Penn State to make, but added, “In my personal opinion,” it should be put back. Lubrano also called for the university to return the Paterno statue, suggesting Homecoming might be a good target date.

The Paterno family issued a statement calling today “a great victory for everyone who has fought for the truth in the Sandusky tragedy.” The advocacy group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship was less pleased, thanking Sen. Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord but adding, “Unfortunately, we cannot support an agreement that does not require the NCAA to acknowledge its wrongdoing.”

Penn State has posted a news release about today’s settlement announcement, with comments from President Barron and Chair Masser. Barron, Masser, and attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78 will speak with the media after today’s meeting.

Tina Hay, editor

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January 16, 2015 at 4:10 pm 3 comments

Trustees Vote Against Examining the Freeh Report

In a contentious 90-minute special meeting Tuesday, the Board of Trustees voted down a proposal to formally examine the findings of the Freeh Report, voting instead to maintain its current stance of waiting until legal proceedings related to the Sandusky scandal run their course.

Alumni trustee Al Lord ’67 presented the initial resolution, which proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee to “examine the Freeh Report, meet with Freeh and his investigative team, review the full set of undisclosed communications and report its findings to the full board.” That resolution was defeated by a 17-9 vote, with Lord and the other eight alumni-elected trustees the only “yes” votes. A second resolution, presented by gubernatorial appointee and board vice chair Kathleen Casey ’88, proposed that the board “continue to actively monitor the discovery and factual investigations … and, upon conclusion of such proceedings, shall determine whether any action is appropriate and in the best interest of Penn State.” That resolution passed 17-8, with alumni trustee Adam Taliaferro ’05 abstaining.

It was Lord, during discussion of the second resolution, who asked Casey to clarify whether the action in her proposal (written in collaboration with Ken Frazier ’73) was simply to “continue.” When Casey said yes, Lord replied, “Continue to do what we’re doing? Resolutions should do something. This is ‘continue to do nothing.'” It was an exchange that got to the heart of the divide among the board’s members: The alumni trustees remain committed to repudiating the most damning findings of the Freeh Report, while the majority of board members argue that any such action is at best premature.

Lord introduced the amended resolution, first proposed in July, by acknowledging other issues that demand the board’s attention. “I wish that instead of talking about being pleased with only increasing tuition two or three percent, we were talking about decreasing tuition,” he said. “But what needs immediate attention is the Freeh Report… My feeling is that the consequences of the Freeh Report and the NCAA consent decree live on.” He cited comments and signs encountered by Penn State fans at the Rutgers football game last month as proof that the damage to the university’s reputation remains unchecked. “When I saw those signs, it occurred to me how far we’ve fallen, or how other people think we’ve fallen, because we don’t stand up for ourselves. I’m bothered by how meekly we react. Generally speaking, we don’t react at all … there’s a sense of ‘Suck it up, we deserve it.’ We don’t deserve it.”

The four-person ad hoc committee proposed in Lord’s resolution would have included Lord, fellow alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82, and two members appointed by board chair Keith Masser ’73. The alumni trustees were unanimous in their support: Ted Brown ’68 argued that any trustee who said they’d be willing to defend the university’s reputation in a one-on-one conversation was obligated to support the proposal, while Bob Jubelirer ’59, ’62g disputed the need to wait on the legal outcomes: “There is no downside, none at all, if we review the Freeh Report.”

Counterarguments came from Keith Eckel, an elected agricultural trustee, who cited strong applicant numbers and an upgraded credit rating as signs of the university’s health, and argued that the board’s responsibility was to “our students and our constituents. I urge the defeat of this resolution and the moving forward of the university, and the continued observation of the results of the trials that are ongoing, and because of which we cannot make any decision today.” That response brought an isolated “boo” from someone in the audience of roughly 100 people, many of whom applauded points made by the various alumni trustees. An otherwise tame exchange between the business and industry-elected trustee Rick Dandrea ’77 (an attorney who argued the wait-and-see approach on the ongoing court cases) and alumni trustee Ryan McCombie ’70 led to a more strident response from the crowd; two audience members were escorted out of the meeting after loud outbursts, prompting Masser to slam his gavel at the podium, while Lord turned toward the crowd and made a “time out” signal to try to quiet things down.

When order was restored, McCombie finished his point: “We accepted a scarlet letter that said we are a ‘football culture,’ when everyone knows we aren’t a football culture. I refuse to accept that letter; I don’t think the university should, either.”

After a bit more back and forth between the two sides—and the removal of one more audience member after an extended outburst—the trustees voted, with the the “nays” carrying the day. That was followed by the introduction of Casey’s resolution, a brief back-and-forth about when the board members had initially received it (the proposal was sent out electronically last Friday), and objections from Lord, Lubrano, and Bill Oldsey ’76 about the proposal’s wording. Taking issue with the final paragraph of Casey’s proposal, Oldsey noted, “It says ‘consistent with fiduciary duty’ … and then it says we’re going to wait and see. Unless I missed the last two hours, there is a lot of disagreement on the board about our fiduciary duty.”

That disagreement doesn’t figure to change anytime soon. A quick vote to table the proposal until a later date was shot down along the expected lines—the nine alumni trustees once again voted together—before the actual vote on the Casey/Frazier “wait and see” resolution. It passed.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

October 28, 2014 at 3:35 pm 4 comments

Governance Committee Wrestles with Reform—Again

The Board of Trustees’ governance committee began discussing the details of potential reforms on Wednesday afternoon. But what the trustees discussed isn’t yet known.

On Wednesday, at an extra meeting of the committee—called after the March meeting, when the trustees and governance consultant Holly Gregory spent a couple of hours discussing what data they needed in order to begin discussing reform—the trustees received a report benchmarking Penn State’s board with 20 peer institutions.

Gregory introduced the report today by saying that she and her associate Paige Montgomery had conducted more than 40 interviews, reviewed “a variety of reform proposals,” organized a January retreat for the Penn State board to identify goals and guiding strategies, and met with a legislative caucus in Harrisburg. “What’s become very obvious from all of these,” Gregory said, “is that a clear consensus on reform has not yet emerged. Nor does there appear to be a clear consensus on what are the underlying problems that we are attempting to solve by considering reform.”

The 29-page benchmarking summary report compares the structure, composition, and selection of Penn State’s board to Pennsylvania’s other three state-related universities (Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln), 14 Committee on Institutional Cooperation universities (the CIC is the highly regarded academic counterpart to the Big Ten and includes the University of Chicago), two private land-grant universities (Cornell and MIT), and Johns Hopkins.

(As usual, I feel compelled to point out that we at The Penn Stater benchmarked Penn State’s board against other Big Ten universities and land-grant universities in our July/August 2012 issue; click here for a PDF of our findings. I should also note that the Faculty Senate committee, which anyone who cares about governance issues should read, also did substantial work on benchmarking.)

No two boards are structured the same, but there tend to be consistent differences in how public vs. private universities are structured. For instance, private boards are larger—of the five that Gregory and Montgomery benchmarked, the median number of members is 64, with 55 having voting privileges. For the 15 public universities, the median size is 13, with 12 voting. As a state-related university, Penn State has characteristics of both public and private schools.

Among the consultants’ findings were these numbers on the percentage of the 20 peer institutions that include representatives from the following groups as voting members:

— Governor: 15 percent (Penn State’s board: no longer)

— Secretaries of state agencies: 15 percent (Penn State: yes)

— President/chancellor: 35 percent (Penn State: no longer)

— Student: 55 percent (Penn State: a student is traditionally appointed by the governor)

— Faculty: 10 percent (Penn State: no)

— Staff: 5 percent (Penn State: no)

— Alumni: 35 percent (Penn State: yes)

— Agriculture: 10 percent (Penn State: yes)

— Business: 5 percent (Penn State: yes)

The report also compares Penn State’s selection methods to the peer university group’s selection methods:

— Appointed by governor: 60 percent (Penn State: yes)

— Secretaries of state agencies: 25 percent (Penn State: yes)

— Appointed by legislature: 20 percent (Penn State: no)

— Elected by alumni: 15 percent (Penn State: yes)

— Selected by board: 45 percent (Penn State: yes)

— Elected by students: 20 percent (Penn State: no)

— Elected by statewide vote: 15 percent (Penn State: no)

— Elected by staff: 5 percent (Penn State: no)

— Elected by faculty: 10 percent (Penn State: no)

— Selected by Alumni Association: 20 percent (Penn State: no)

The committee had a brief discussion after several members noticed that the report indicates Penn State has about six fewer trustees who are alumni than it actually does. Board chair Keith Masser ’73 said, “It just makes me question—if this isn’t right, what else isn’t right?”

Gregory and Montgomery apologized and said the data was compiled from publicly available sources. I don’t know when they gathered their data—or what the composition of the board was then—but I just checked the Board of Trustees’ website, and there are several trustees without biographical information, including six who joined the board in the past year: Kathleen Casey ’88, Ted Brown ’68, Barbara Doran ’75, Bill Oldsey ’76, M. Abraham Harpster ’94, and Richard Dandrea ’77.

Including those trustees, there are 22 alumni serving on the board (nine who are elected by alumni).

After hearing the report today, the governance committee was divided into three separate breakout groups to spend an hour, behind closed doors, considering questions posed by the consultants. (Group one: trustees Keith Eckel, Dandrea, and Anthony Lubrano ’82; faculty representative Roger Egolf, and vice president for administration Tom Poole. Group two: trustees Masser, Jim Broadhurst ’64, Doran, and emeritus trustee David Jones ’54. Group three: trustees Carl Shaffer, Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62, and student representative Emily McDonald.

At the March committee meeting, Arnelle had asked whether the next meeting would be public, and attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78 said it depended on what was being discussed. Eckel said Wednesday that the small groups were not open because there was no quorum and because there were non-voting members present in each of the groups. Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Law says open meetings are required when there is “official action and deliberations by a quorum of the members of an agency.”

Each of the small groups was to consider the same questions and report a consensus back to the consultants; the results of their discussions aren’t yet known. Eckel said he would like to schedule another governance committee meeting between now and the July Board of Trustees meeting to further discuss potential recommendations. He hopes that the committee will be able to make reform recommendations to the full board in July but said that the complexity means it could stretch until September. The board needs at least 30 days’ notice before voting on changes to the university’s bylaws or charter.

The officially scheduled governance committee meeting is Thursday morning. More updates as events warrant.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

 

May 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm 2 comments

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

March 7, 2014 at 8:45 pm 2 comments

Eric Barron: In His Own Words

DSC_4680_Eric_BarronPresident-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…)

February 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

President-Elect Eric Barron: ‘I Have a Lot to Learn’

President-elect Eric Barron and his wife, Molly, are introduced at Monday's special Board of Trustees meeting.

President-elect Eric Barron and his wife, Molly, are introduced at Monday’s special Board of Trustees meeting.

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…)

February 17, 2014 at 8:02 pm 2 comments

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