Penn State adds 6 trustees to 30-member board
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State trustees decided Friday to add six voting members to the 30-person board after alumni-elected members failed to prevent the changes.
The board voted 16-9 to add a student, a faculty member and the immediate past president of the alumni association, along with three spots that the trustees themselves will pick as a way to find new members with special expertise or experience.
Supporters said that they were responding to requests by different groups for representation and that, despite the larger size, the board would remain more or less in line with similar institutions.
But alumni-elected trustee Al Lord said he was concerned about the balance of power on the board.
“Each time we add a director or trustee, you neutralize one of the trustees on the other side,” Lord said. “Were this board totally simpatico, I think we would all be indifferent.”
Those divisions were reflected in several votes, and new trustee Walter Rakowich said they troubled him.
“The numbers (of trustees) don’t matter, what matters is trust, and we don’t have trust on the board,” Rakowich said. “And that’s what we need to start working on.”
The board voted to wait until January to consider, in executive session, a proposal by alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano that the university become a plaintiff in a state lawsuit against the NCAA over the legality of the 2012 consent decree the school agreed to as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
Trustee Kathleen Casey moved to delay that action, saying she was concerned about “really quite significant” legal issues that had been outlined earlier in the day in a closed-door meeting.
“This is a legal question,” said Trustee Keith Eckel. “I can’t make judgments based on what I read in the newspapers. I’ve got to do it on fact.
“I have to have legal counsel advise me or I can’t meet my fiduciary duties,” Eckel said.
That didn’t sit well with alumni in the audience.
Jeff Goldsmith, Class of 1982, said the board’s decision to wait until January was “ludicrous.”
“By January, there’s going to be nothing left to discuss,” he said. “Putting it off to January is the same as saying ‘We’re not going to deal with it at all.’ ”
Many shared this sentiment, cheering and applauding speakers during the public comments session who challenged the board’s decision to wait.
Peggy Stine, a Penn State World Campus graduate, said the meeting — and the decision not to reach a resolution about the NCAA emails — was a farce.
“It’s business as usual,” she said.
Some students who spoke during the meeting voiced concern about civility.
John Wortman, speaker of the assembly for Penn State’s student government, asked the board and members of the audience to continue respecting all opinions regarding controversial Penn State topics.
“Even though we have differences of opinion, we respect them,” he said. “All of us here are Penn Staters.”
The trustees agreed to a request by Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to delay considering a proposal to convert three cabinet secretaries on the board into non-voting members until he is inaugurated in January.
The board includes as voting members the state secretaries of Education, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources.
Trib Total Media staff writer Megan Henney contributed to this story.