No question, Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano is a poster child for the pro-reform, anti-Freeh report movement.
He’s shared his views at meetings and in interviews. He’s a plaintiff in a lawsuit to undo the NCAA sanctions. And recently, he took time to speak out at a public hearing sponsored by a local lawmaker.
It’s now obvious that his fellow board members have been paying close attention.
Lubrano sparred on Thursday with trustees who disagree over the positions and messages he should be extolling at events when he’s representing the university. The debate, during the board’s governance and long-range planning committee meeting, started as a broad discussion with no finger-pointing or name-dropping until Lubrano jumped in.
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Lubrano refused to back down from representing his views, which he says are the will of many alumni nationwide who are angered over the board’s decisions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Lubrano has championed the reform-the-board causes and called for them to go even further, he’s blasted the Freeh report and he also turned heads when he joined the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA to reverse the sanctions on the university.
“Just because I’m outvoted on an issue doesn’t mean that I still don’t have the same opinion,” said Lubrano, who most recently attended a Penn State reform hearing sponsored by state Rep. Scott Conklin in State College in July. There, Lubrano was joined by trustees Keith Masser, Paul Silvis and Ted Brown, and Lubrano was the most vocal of the bunch, as he fed off the clear anti-board sentiment at the hearing.
On Thursday, though, the tables were turned, and Lubrano was not in the majority.
His adversaries were trustees Keith Eckel, the governance committee chairman, and newly appointed trustee Richard Dandrea. Previous discussions between Lubrano and other trustees have been contentious, but the latest debate struck a civil tone and at times it sounded as though the opponents were giving Lubrano well-intentioned, but not taken, fatherly advice.
“I don’t think there’s any question that, when you have a board member bucking the consensus by repeated public pronouncements on the subject, you do undercut the policies and positions of the board,” Dandrea told Lubrano, who was sitting beside him. “A divided board is a weaker board.”
Eckel said he wrestled with similar experiences as president of the state Farm Bureau for 15 years. But, he told Lubrano, when he personally disagreed with a policy decision he still supported and advocated his organization’s viewpoint.
“When I come to a board, I come with that same mindset,” Eckel told Lubrano, adding that his stance “concerns me because what we’re talking about is the Pennsylvania State University.
“It’s not any of our individual opinions. It is the university’s position when we’re done.”
Lubrano, still disagreeing, suggested the board breached its fiduciary duty to the university by accepting the consent decree from the NCAA. He went on to question who exactly the university is in reference to the university’s position, because he believes the answer is the constituents who elected him.
“To stifle what someone says, it would be a mistake, and I don’t think anyone would stand for that, frankly,” Lubrano said.
Keith Masser, the board chairman, gave Lubrano his interpretation of how trustees should represent the university in public, referring to the expectations of a trustee as laid out in the university’s standing orders. The document says trustees must “publicly support decisions reached by the board” and make decisions as a board and not individuals.
Masser said if Lubrano wants to change the wording, then he’ll need a majority of board members to support changing it.
“What I disagree with,” Masser said, “is using external forces to apply pressure to this board” after the authority has been delegated.