Penn State alumni, including former Nittany Lion football players, took the floor to voice concerns, questions and reflective comments during the public comment session of the Board of Trustees meeting in Hershey on Friday. Other governance reform and administrative items on the agenda were also addressed.
Conversation surrounding the Freeh Report constituted a major part of the discussion, as Trustee Ken Frazier said the board should not go back to review this report, equating this to trying to “rewrite history.”
On the other hand, Trustee Anthony Lubrano, rebutting Frazier, recommended a public review of both the Freeh and Paterno Reports, saying the board did not carefully evaluate the motives of Freeh. Lubrano also suggested the board take up Freeh on his offer to meet with students, faculty and others to answer questions.
Frazier, chair of the former Special Investigations Task Force that hired former FBI director Louis Freeh’s firm, said on Thursday that it is “crystal clear” the board cannot and should not revisit the Freeh Report. While he said he read the Paterno Report, he pointed to its lack of thoroughness compared to that of Freeh and dismissed it on the grounds that it does not bring to light any new facts regarding university functioning.
Whether or not people agree with the report, it was independent and complete based on interviews and witnesses, Frazier said. He added that the Paterno Report is “just a report.”
Frazier also prefaced his speech Friday with an apology for missteps made the day before.
“Absolutely no offense was intended. I apologize,” Frazier said in response to an “analogy” he made Thursday.
Frazier found himself in a heated argument Thursday with Bill Cluck, a candidate trustee from the alumni base, who said interviews from the Freeh Report should be accessible to the board, who financed the investigation. Frazier said those were privileged.
After this comment, Frazier made an analogy between those who question the Freeh report like Cluck and those who believe the O.J. Simpson trial verdict to be correct.
During the public comment session, alumni and former football lettermen each took three minutes to contribute their insight surrounding the timeline of events.
Further concerning structural reform of the board, alumnus Daniel Wallace said he believes more trustees should be elected from the alumni base rather than be appointed by the governor.
Football letterman Thomas Donchez said the board acted swiftly in accepting the “undeserved punishment” of the NCAA to “save public face.”
“We are no further ahead today than we were the night we fired Joe Paterno,” Donchez said.
Worried that the board has forgotten “who we are,” letterman Mickey Shuler said corporate interests and the desire to be politically correct have taken precedence over those of the university. He advised the board to read the Paterno Report and subsequently compare it to the Freeh Report.
Trustee James Broadhurst, speaking on behalf of the Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning, addressed changes for the structure of the board, stating that the board has made revisions to university governance documents more than 20 times over the past 12 years. He added that the board has increased constituent representation regarding faculty, staff and students at meetings.
A few proposed board changes to the charter include, Broadhurst said, making the governor and president ex-officio, non-voting members of the board, slightly reducing the board size and making the quorum requirement the majority, not 13.
Additionally, Broadhurst announced the secretary of the board will no longer be a post filled by the president, but it will rather be an elected position. He added “continued work would be required to update the conflict of interest policies.”
Members for the executive committee — a smaller committee that meets on occasions when the whole board cannot — were elected, as well.
Citing the immediate issue of the presidential search and expanded roles of board committees, Broadhurst further said, “it is not the appropriate time to consider an adjustment to the membership.”
University President Rodney Erickson noted that applications for admissions were down about 9 percent compared to last year, but the yield rate — or those students who accept and submit deposits for their education — “continues to track ahead of last year,” he said.
Regarding other approved matters, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer David Gray said there is a $5.6 million price tag connected to the university joining the Centre County radio communication system, adding it is “very robust.” This would replace the current system that has been in operation since 1992.
The percent increase for room and board for 2013-14 was also approved, as Gail Hurley, associate vice president for auxiliary and business services, said this amounts to a 4.23 percent increase. This was attributed “to increased operating and facility maintenance costs” in the agenda.
Representing the Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life, Trustee Marianne Alexander said Vice Provost for Global Programs Michael Adewumi’s presentation from Thursday indicated the university “has made great strides” to becoming “a global institution.” She also noted that study-abroad participation has increased 27 percent at the university since 2008.
Trustee Peter Khoury also said, in connection to this year’s State Patty’s Day, preliminary reports indicate that arrests and citations are down 40 percent, attributing this much to “the hard work of [Vice President for Student Affairs] Damon Sims and student leaders.”
For the Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning, Trustee Linda Strumpf announced the new South Halls Complex residence hall, set for completion in August 2013, will officially take the name Chace Hall.
Further into the agenda, Erickson declared the promotion of Director of Human Resource Management Susan McGarry Basso to vice president for human resources effective at that time.