“This will not be engaging or interactive,” Penn State board of trustees Chairman Keith Masser said.
He wasn’t wrong.
The public comment portion of the trustees’ meeting came at the end of Friday morning’s executive session. There were 45 minutes set aside for the comment period, but with just four preregistered speakers on deck, each with a few short minutes for their comments, it only took a third of that time to run through their statements.
The system was not popular with the crowd, which packed the room next door to the meeting to view the comments on a large screen and with sometimes spotty sound.
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“Shutting the public out of public comment is a wrong-headed move,” Penn State Boardwatch Chairman Jeff Goldsmith said as he started his statement.
He asked that people be allowed to watch just from the back of the room. It didn’t happen.
In the viewing room, there was confusion from some and belligerence from others.
“Sing it, sister!” said Denise McClelland as speaker Cindy Altland asked the board, “What are you trying to hide?”
Many of the comments were critical of the board, specifically the non-alumni-elected members.
“Any failure in leadership began here at the top,” Altland said. “We are Penn State. Are you?”
Al Lord is one of those alumni trustees, and he was as confused about the comment arrangement as the audience.
“It was a slightly awkward way of doing it,” he said. “Some people just don’t want to hear the alumni, or the trustees. I’m not sure what a minority member can do.”