Friday, June 13

DiRaimo's Letter Reveals Leadership Void At PSU

Special Assistant's attempt to derail legislation raises questions about leadership, transparency, and professionalism. 

Ray Blehar

Wednesday's unanimous 11-0 vote by a Senate Committee confirmed that the alumni who have pushed for reforming the BOT are not vocal minority. With 36 co-sponsors on the bill, the majority of the PA Senate have sided with the alumni.

However, the unanimous vote by the committee may have been something else --  a harsh communication sent to PSU in response to an unprofessional letter sent by Special Assistant for Government Affairs, Michael DiRaimo.

DiRaimo made a last ditch attempt to derail the legislation by sending a six-page letter that touted the reforms the University made since the Sandusky scandal broke.

It was an unimpressive list of "sweeping changes" to the board, such as reducing the size of the board from 32 to 30 members, removing the Governor and President as voting members, and establishment of new committees (that could be likened to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic).

The administration also made the case that the Senators were unfairly singling out Penn State for reform, but not making similar reforms at Lincoln University, Pittsburgh, and Temple.  That would be a fair argument -- if those school's Boards had inflicted the same kind the damage on their Universities.  But they didn't.

The list of "accomplishments" provided by DiRaimo was very hard to read with a straight face, as most were insignificant changes to rules that wouldn't affect how the Board currently operates.

However, where the letter really went off the rails was its inclusion of a link to an op-ed written by the Collegian that DiRaimo characterized as the students taking a position against reform because "it deflects attention away from the things that matter most to their education."

I have posted that op-ed below.  It was nothing more than an attack on Penn State football fans, the alumni group, PS4RS, and the Senators, with no serious discussion of the issues affecting students.

DiRaimo's decision to include that op-ed reflects highly questionable judgment on his part.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Where is President Barron?

I found it curious that the letter to the Senate Committee was signed by Michael DiRaimo, but it was not co-signed by President Barron and/or the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Nor was there any specific mention that President Barron or the Board Chair had endorsed DiRaimo's position . However, that does not rule out that someone on the BOT may have persuaded DiRaimo to write the letter without the knowledge of the rest of the Board.  Perhaps this is just another shining example of the BOT's lack of openness and transparency?

At the end of the day, DiRaimo's letter confirmed that the leadership void that occurred after the ouster of Graham Spanier has continued through the Erickson administration and that President Barron has not yet stepped up and taken charge at PSU.

President Barron's reaction to this letter will be an early indication of how (or IF) he will lead the University.


  1. You know, the hits just keep coming at PS4RS or anyone who stands up to way they want transparency and reform of our Board of Trustees. Why do they think we are evil incarnate? Why do they presume to call us JoeBots and Football crazy alumni. Within the membership of groups like PS4RS are thousands of us who have donated scholarships, help build the buildings students flock to (not just the stadium), worked hard in the Alumni Chapter and Council ranks, mentored and hired students, recruited thousands of students via the out of State AACs... and I could go on for a whole page. They said we are angry because they took away our beloved old coach- yes, we are, but that is just the TIP of the iceberg. Many of us have been harrassed, attacked, bullied where we live and work because NObody stood up for the true culture of Penn State- Academics first. To say we have a football culture is a joke given that we have for decades generated one of the highest student Athlete GPA records, one of the TOP Academic All Americans roll calls, all the while generating championships. It is a SLAP in the face to all of us, but especially to every student athlete to say "PSU is making progress due to the NCAA Sanctions." How about they shine a light on programs like Syracuse, NC, (and we could go on till our computers crash) and see if there is a far, far worse football or basketball culture out there? We're mad as HELL and the 9 Alumni - removable Trustees who were booted and the PA legislature all the way to One Term Tommy know it. OPEN your eyes students. Stop being a tool for the old BOT and Administration.

    1. Quite an editorial by the Collegian. I graduated from PSU in 2008, so the 1973 comment doesn't fit me and a lot of other recent graduates who are involved with PS4RS and other groups. As the Penn State Alumni Association surveys have shown, nearly 80% of us have consistently voiced an opinion that Joe Paterno got a raw deal and that the Board needs to recognize him (and Sue) for their service.

      80%! That is an overwhelming majority, which reveals that the Collegian op-ed reflected a truly a minority opinion. Based on the date of seven month ago and the content, that puts the date of this opinion piece right around the time of the March4Truth.

      And of course, we all know what happened there...another invisible hand of the Board situation, where a rift between the students and alumni was fabricated to show how divisive the "vocal minority" had become.

      You can't make this stuff up.

    2. Hey Ray. Did you read the second paragraph or...?

  2. I suspect President Barron knows what needs to be done with respect to the controversy.

    The problem is marrying the action to the thought. For him to do what is proper would require him to essentially call out those who hired him.

    President Barron asks for time to decide on how to honor Joe Paterno, and that gets him through the moment.

    I don't think this ever gets fully resolved until all members of the 11/11 Board are gone. By then, we may be talking about President Barron's successor

  3. Sent yesterday:
    William A. Levinson, PSU B.S. '78

    To: Senator Jake Corman
    Senator John Yudichak
    cc: President Eric Barron
    Michael J. DiRaimo, Special Assistant to the President

    13 June 2014

    Subject: SB 1240 Letter Shows Penn State's Governance is Out of Control

    Dear Senators Corman and Yudichak,

    I wrote to you yesterday about the "Request to Table SB 1240 in Committee" from the office of Penn State's President. This letter was almost certainly initiated, directly or indirectly, by one or more Trustees in violation of the Board's Standing Orders. The result was an inaccurate statement to the Pennsylvania Senate about the Board's position (it never voted to adopt one) on SB 1240.

    This unauthorized and misleading letter illustrates yet another elephant in the living room, and that is the issue of chain of command—as in, "One person, one boss." I can envision only two ways in which this letter could have been sent:

    (1) One or more Trustees violated the chain of command, and President Barron's authority, by directing Mr. DiRaimo to write the letter.
    (2) One or more Trustees gave President Barron false information about the Board's official position on SB 1240 (it has none), to get him to direct Mr. DiRaimo to write the letter.

    SB 1240 is emphatically not a punitive measure directed at Penn State, whose well-being the problem Trustees have obviously confused with their personal interest in deflecting blame for their ongoing stream of bad decisions. SB 1240, or something even stronger, is clearly necessary to protect Penn State from some of its own Trustees.

  4. Sent Thursday

    William A. Levinson, PSU B.S. '78

    To: Senator Jake Corman
    Senator John Yudichak
    cc: President Eric Barron
    Michael J. DiRaimo, Special Assistant to the President

    12 June 2014

    Subject: False and Unauthorized Communication on Behalf of Penn State re: SB 1240

    Dear Senators Corman and Yudichak,

    The State Senate recently received a "Request to Table SB 1240 in Committee" from the office of Penn State's President. This letter says that the Board of Trustees opposes the legislation. I believe this to be a false and unauthorized statement on behalf of the University that violates the Board's Standing Orders against any Trustee acting on Penn State's behalf without the Board's consent.

    The Board never voted to take any position on SB 1240, which means nobody had the authority to direct Mr. DiRaimo to send a letter on Penn State's behalf to oppose it. If I am wrong, the Board's minutes, including a record of the vote, will correct my misconception, but I do not believe any such record will be found. This is a recurring pattern of conduct, and not an isolated incident:

    (1) Penn State spokespeople (again acting under direction of others) have published, on Penn State's behalf, false accusations that four Trustees have a conflict of interest because they joined a lawsuit to overturn the NCAA's sanctions. This means some Trustees are using Penn State communication channels, and the University's name, as weapons against other Trustees.
    (2) Another apparent violation of the Standing Orders gave the NCAA the fig leaf excuse it needed to impose its sanctions in the first place. The NCAA cited Penn State's acceptance of the Freeh Report's findings that Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz somehow enabled Jerry Sandusky's crimes against children. The Board NEVER voted to affirm these findings, although Karen Peetz did so explicitly in her capacity as Chairwoman. Kenneth Frazier, meanwhile, affirmed Freeh's findings that the named individuals failed to protect children.

    These apparently unauthorized communications on behalf of Penn State underscore the perception that its Board of Trustees is out of control, and that some members think the Standing Orders apply to everybody (e.g. the NCAA plaintiff Trustees) but themselves. This is a strong argument in favor of SB 1240, or even more invasive corrective action, by the Legislature., page S-9

  5. Ray,

    Since I assume the email address on DiRaimo's letterhead is legit, I would urge everyone to send an email to let him know what we think of his letter. I've got mine drafted but need to tone it down and eliminate the profanity before sending it. I will be direct but not nasty in letting him know that I think his letter and positions are appalling. I will also eliminate as many reasons as possible for getting myself labeled as a "JoeBot PS4RS whacko".

    I must say, also, that while I'm keeping an open mind on President Barron, I have some serious reservations with his hire. To have hired someone from one of the premiere football factories in the country doesn't seem like the best of ideas. And, the potential issues with the handling of Jameis Winston lead me to wonder further if it was a good idea. I'll reserve judgement on that, however, and see how the President performs.

  6. Dr. Barron knew he was entering a war zone and that he would soon have to take a side. Getting caught in a cross-fire is no way to start a new job. There is no "honeymoon". My thought was that Peetz and Frazier would not hire someone whom they could not control. I see no initiative on Barron's part to release the documents relevant to the Freeh Fraud.

    On another topic...I am troubled by JP's apparent lack of knowledge of McQueary's gambling problem. Jay knew and several people in the Athletic Department knew. How did Joe not know about something this serious? Joe was still very sharp in the mid 1990's. How was this covered-up?