With the Board of Trustees elections approaching, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship launched an ad campaign referencing two incumbent trustees’ involvement in the firing of Joe Paterno and the university’s acceptance of the NCAA sanctions.
One advertisement, which read, “Suhey & Deviney voted to fire JoePa. Now they want OUR vote. Really?” ran across the bottom of the front page of the sports section in the March 4 edition of the Centre Daily Times. It references board members Paul Suhey and Stephanie Deviney.
Paul Silvis, a current trustee, has recently decided to endorse both Suhey and Deviney for reelection because he believes they serve the board well — especially given the fact that Deviney is the current vice chairwoman of the board.
Another ad, which ran Thursday in the Centre Daily Times, read, “Suhey & Deviney accepted Freeh & Sanctions without challenge. Three more years? Really?”
Board of Trustee members serve three years then are eligible for re-election.
Roger Williams, the executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association, said he could not recall an ad running like this in a Board of Trustees election, but that does not mean it has never happened before.
Steve Garban, a former board chairman who stepped down from his trustee position in July, said he does not recall “in the last 50 years” ads such as the one that ran Monday.
The ad is currently only running in the Centre Daily Times, but the “extent of campaign is fully dependent on contributions of members,” PS4RS Spokeswoman Maribeth Roman Schmidt said.
Schmidt said that while the ads such as the one in the Centre Daily Times are not often seen in relation to board elections, the actions of the trustees lately have been “unprecedented.”
“It is also unprecedented that the Board of Trustees fed a false narrative to the media and did not protect a university it was charged to protect,” Schmidt said.
Paul Suhey, a former Penn State football player who was first elected to the board in 1998, said in a statement provided via email that “the anger and divisive tone is unfortunate” because of the issues the university faces.
“As someone who played for Joe Paterno and was a captain, I know full well that he did a lot of tremendous things for the university and inspired generations of students and alumni. That is a legacy that will never change,” Suhey said. “But as a trustee, I have a responsibility to focus on the entire university and its many challenges in helping to educate our more than 96,000 students.”
When asked for comment Sunday, Suhey said he had nothing further to add.
Deviney, the other incumbent trustee mentioned in the ad, could not be reached for comment as of press time Sunday.
With the campaign season for the Penn State Board of Trustees underway, Schmidt said PS4RS is both trying to vet the 31 candidates running for election with the goal of endorsing three and trying to educate the public on incumbent trustees.
As far as the ads being viewed as negative in tone, Williams said it depends on the perspective of the person viewing them.
Schmidt also said she wouldn’t consider the ads to be negative, but rather they stated the “undeniable” fact the two trustees voted to fire Paterno.
“I would take issue that they are being considered attack ads,” Schmidt said. “They call out the incumbents by name, but to clearly state the way the incumbents voted wouldn’t constitute an attack. It states a fact.”
Williams did not have a comment on the ad — it’s up to the alumni to form their own opinions, he said.
The Penn State Alumni Association does not support, endorse, or campaign for candidates in Board of Trustee elections, Williams said.
Schmidt said PS4RS is “very much in favor” of positive change in the leadership at Penn State and that the organization has worked over the last 12 months to achieve “open dialogue” with the Board of Trustees, but the efforts they have made have fallen on “deaf ears.”
Collegian staff writer Maria Bryant contributed to this report.