Board of Trustees

Tension among Penn State trustees may ease with end of consent decree

Provost Nicholas Jones talks during the board of trustees meeting Friday, January 16, 2015, at The Penn Stater.
Provost Nicholas Jones talks during the board of trustees meeting Friday, January 16, 2015, at The Penn Stater. CDT photo

For months, meetings of the Penn State board of trustees have meant contentious face-offs among the board members.

Alumni-elected officials faced off with business and industry representatives and agricultural officials. New members squared off with old. The board might not have parties, but the dividing lines were clear.

Some of that may end with the dissolution of the consent decree that allowed Penn State’s historic penalties from the NCAA.

It might be that the one giant issue is no longer there to separate the sides.

Alumni-elected trustees had pressed the rest of the board to switch sides in the lawsuit, a move that led to a specially called meeting at which only one other board member attended, leading to animosity on both sides.

Trustees who attended hotly denounced those who didn’t attend. In response, at Thursday’s governance and long-range planning committee meeting, trustee Richard Dandrea, who represents business and industry, pushed for a rule change that would prevent special meetings from being called without a quorum.

However, committee members from the alumni faction and business and industry raised questions about the wisdom of limiting minority dissent.

After the settlement offer was put forward on Friday, alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano said fellow trustee Kenneth Frazier, who sat on the board in 2011 when Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sex abuse charges and Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno was fired along with then-president Graham Spanier, came to him to discuss the offer.

“Ken Frazier reached across the aisle today,” Lubrano said, expressing respect for his colleague for making the effort.

The animosity might have also just run its course.

“This is not my making accusations. This is not my condemning one group of people on any side of any issue,” said trustee Allison Goldstein, a Penn State student appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett. “Instead, what I’m saying is this: Penn State was accused of having a culture problem, and three years later, we’re still fighting about it. ... The environment that exists on this board is not something we should devote any further time to dissecting. Let us take command of our own culture.”

Goldstein called for the governance and long-range planning committee to undertake a self-assessment, a kind of internal review that happens periodically. The last self-assessment was done in August 2012, Goldstein said.

Alumni-elected trustee Alice Pope seconded the motion, and gubernatorial-appointed trustee Todd Rucci concurred, crediting Goldstein for urging the action.

“It’s our duty to work together,” he said.

The measure passed unanimously.