Reminders of the past at PSU board meeting

Posted: September 21, 2013

It was perhaps the most routine meeting of Pennsylvania State University's board of trustees since the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal broke in November 2011.

The board reviewed a $2.7 billion capital spending plan, agreed to ask the state for a 5.1 percent increase in funding, listened to plans for a tuition hike averaging 2.85 percent, upgraded its nursing school to a college, and discussed a slight uptick in applications, among other items.

But there were two sharp reminders that it was still not business as usual at the state's flagship university.

Outside the Penn Stater Conference Center where the meeting was held, dozens of alumni held a "March for Truth" and bashed the board of trustees once again for its handling of the scandal.

Inside, the board authorized the university to borrow up to $30 million if necessary to fund deficits in the athletic department, still reeling from NCAA financial sanctions, loss of football bowl-game revenue, and lower ticket sales as a result of the scandal. It was part of $750 million in borrowing the board authorized for the school's capital plan.

Alumni arrived with signs criticizing the board and defending the late Joe Paterno, who was fired as head football coach in the wake of the scandal surrounding his former assistant coach, Sandusky, now in prison for molesting boys. The protesters did not enter the boardroom or attempt to disrupt the meeting.

Franco Harris, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star and Nittany Lions football player who was one of the leaders of the protest, said he was prepared to continue to push until all of the board members who were in office when the scandal broke were gone.

"There's no time frame to find the truth," Harris said in an interview before addressing the protesters, many of whom were in town for the Penn State football game Saturday.

Even so, at the meeting, the board continued to tout its reforms and progress since the scandal and to highlight efforts that showed the university had moved on. Penn State has implemented 116 of 119 recommendations made by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was commissioned by trustees to investigate and issue a report.

Those moves have become such a part of the fabric of the university, said David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business, that they no longer should be called "Freeh" recommendations.

"This now should be embraced as a continuous improvement initiative," Gray said. "We think it's very, very important that we rebrand and relabel this enterprise."

Gray said the university was ready to move into the next phase: "First and foremost, continue the positive momentum that we've established over the past 12 months."

But that's not the way the protesters saw it. A homemade sign stuck in the ground outside the meeting addressed the board of trustees: "Hey B.O.T. No More Lies and Deception! Time to Admit the Truth."


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693, ssnyder@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq. Read her blog at www.inquirer.com/campusinq.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|