When Anthony Lubrano got involved in the Penn State trustees, it was to take aim at the board and its decisions.
Now, the vocal critic is sitting at the same table as the people he had taken to task for their response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, including the decision to fire Joe Paterno.
Lubrano and the two other trustees that alumni elected to represent them on the board — Adam Taliaferro and Ryan McCombie — took office two months ago amid calls for change. Now, the freshmen trustees say doing a better job with outreach and taking a look at overhauling the makeup of the board are at the top of their agendas.
At the same time, Lubrano still is calling for some of the people around the trustees table to step down.
“I think there needs to be some ownership on the part of the board for their responsibilities in the handling of the Sandusky affair,” he said. “It’s one thing to say you’re going to be accountable, but it’s another thing to demonstrate you’re accountable. Today, we’ve had but one board member resign.
“If you’re going to hold Joe Paterno responsible for leadership failure ... then you need to take responsibility yourself as board members and say, 'I need to step down,' if for no other reason than clearly to demonstrate to the community that we get it," Lubrano said.
The 32-member board includes nine alumni-elected members, six the governor appoints, six from agriculture and six from industry and business and another five ex-officio members — the president, governor and three state secretaries.
Lubrano and McCombie both pointed to changing the board’s formation as a priority.
McCombie said he thinks the make-up of the board and its governance are still issues that need to be addressed.
“I think we’ve made some progress on term limits,” he said.
Trustees voted in July to approve 12-year term limits for elected board members.
A Faculty Senate committee is pursuing its own study of the trustees, including comparing its make-up with other boards, as is the state auditor general.
Lubrano said he thinks 32 members is too many and that the level of state funding — a total of $279 million out of a $4.3 billion budget — doesn’t warrant the governor appointing six members, along with ex-officio members.
“To me, that’s disproportionate,” he said.
He said the board still needs to be more open and accountable and have regular conversations with the Penn State community.
“I just get a sense that the alumni base is just really angry,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an extreme wing of the alumni base.”
While he had called for the board to apologize for how it fired Paterno over the phone in November as the scandal unfolded, Lubrano said he thinks that moment has passed.
“I think an apology right now would be disingenuous. People would say it’s meaningless to them. You waited too long. ... I think I’d be more focused on the outreach to the Penn State community.”
That is what Taliaferro, the former football player who brought in the most votes in the race, said he thinks the board needs to do — whatever it can to mend the fences with alumni.
“There’s so much anger from all sides,” Taliaferro said. “I’m trying to help bridge the gaps.”
He said there had been discussions about the board having listening tours or meet and greets to let alumni express their opinions, and he hopes that is something they will be able to do. He’s starting with the alumni groups in his backyard.
“They just want to be heard,” he said. “They want to know we’re listening to them.”
Both Lubrano and McCombie declined to comment on the legal action McCombie had taken, with support from others, to reverse the NCAA sanctions.
The university accepted those sanctions — a $60 million fine, four-year bowl ban and drop in the number of scholarships it can offer — and an NCAA official has said they aren’t subject to appeal.
Taliaferro, Lubrano and McCombie were the three top vote-getters in a race that attracted 86 candidates. Fourth on the list was Barbara Doran, a 1975 graduate and financial adviser in New York.
Doran said she plans to run again in the upcoming year. She said she thinks that by electing three board members who “aggressively campaigned on the message of reform in governance and leadership of the university, the alumni made their concerns clear and held the trustees accountable for both their failures in oversight and their precipitous and emotionally driven actions in November.”
“Alumni are now holding them responsible for their failure to fight both the Freeh report and the NCAA sanctions as well,” Doran said.
Board leaders say they are taking steps, including listening to alumni.
Chairwoman Karen Peetz said Friday that the board will be meeting with an alumni advisory group once a month to get feedback. She said she would also like the board to meet with alumni leaders to continue to improve communication.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy