Friday, March 15

Recap of Today's BOT Meeting (UPDATED w/Video)

by Bill Bender 

Reflections on the March 2013 Penn State Board of Trustees meeting

Lettermen speak starting at 32:30
Video streaming by Ustream

That the Penn State Board of Trustees considers itself a model of anything is bewildering, and embarrassing.

I watched my first Board proceedings today via live-stream feed, and I was crestfallen.  When I was a Penn State freshman volunteering with a local fire company, our small foundation adhered more strictly to Robert’s Rules than this esteemed institution did today, and at a time when it should be paying particular attention to doing everything right.  For an institution still teetering on the edge, the lack of direction, purpose, and situational awareness is beyond remarkable.

The Board succumbed to a dreadful briefing on the status and progress of it’s medical center, and as a result had to push its own business into a hurry-up conclusion that was undertaken as members were leaving out of pure exhaustion.  

When the Board finally did focus on the business of survival, the far from concluded Sandusky scandal, it heard from the only Trustee we can apparently place our trust in for the future of Penn State.  Anthony Lubrano shined a bright light on the issue every Penn Stater is concerned about. The room would have remained dark but for his boldness. An attempt to weigh in on Lubrano’s position, without really weighing in, was feebly offered by another alumni Board member, whose “Trustee” credentials are far from assured.  The rebuttal he received provided nothing new.

Kick the can...then the cutoff.

What is notable about this meeting was the manner in which the various Chairs managed to “kick the can down the road” at each point where issues began to come to a head, and real discussions and decisions were required.  On matters of Board structure, Board membership, governance, and of course on the Freeh report.  To those watching it is obvious what was occurring. 

Ken Frazier managed an ersatz apology for his previous day’s remarks while continuing to cling to the twisted logic he insists defends his Freeh Report.  Yes, HIS Freeh report; he owns it now as he never did before. And then a motion was raised to cut off discussion on the topic, so as to move on to other important things.  What could be more important than THIS discussion, particularly after ‘investing’ hours learning of the miracles of modern medicine?

The same cut-off happened earlier, when Trustee Lubrano raised the issue of background checks for trustees. Trustee Broadhurst ruined both his shoes kicking that can down the road before abruptly adjourning this segment of the meeting.

Novices Playing House With A World Class University

Administratively, it is clear there are no standards by which information is compiled or presented to this Board. Individual committees follow no structured information management model to convey the essential work of their committees to the Board.  Whoever stands up and gives a pitch is given whatever time they need to do so.  We saw not one instance of a chair presenting projects or issues based on metrics-based requirements, costs-benefit analysis, and the like.  There is apparently no decision brief format to frame the issues in a logical sequence the Trustees can expect, assimilate, and process in an efficient manner. 

For all the talent available on the Board, this is a group of novices playing house with a world class university. 
Members of this Board have made broad statements, trumpeting their impressive accomplishments in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, as they rush to implement the recommendations of a man who most of us wouldn’t ask for street directions.  

The Board spoke of progress on recommendations stemming from a report they will not accept, yet will not question or review, even as that report stands as the sole document upon which rests the soul and treasure of this university.  

Our Day, and Your Day, Is Coming

Lest we fail to say it out of timidity in the face of our accusers: this is a cover-up.  

It’s time to stop pretending it is anything but, and set motive aside for the moment.  

The gaze that Letterman Mark Battaglia cast upon trustee Suhey as he delivered his impassioned remarks should stand as both a symbol to Penn Staters, and a warning to this Board....

Our day, and your day, is coming.  


  1. The Letterman made me proud to say once again "I am a Penn Stater" and "We are".

    Although I am still waiting for Taliaferro and McCombie to standup and starting supporting the alumni as we expected.

  2. Amen brother. Good article.

    I believe you are correct - the day is coming.

  3. Thank you, Bill Bender, for an inside look at a PSU BoT meeting.

    I chaired a charitable organization board of directors for several years, and we ran our meetings with far more professionalism than you have described with respect to the PSU BoT.

    I was also a military officer for over 35 years, and we conducted our wing and headquarters staff meetings using detailed decision briefs, with fully vetted COAs (courses of action) from which the senior leadership could make informed decisions.

    We thought we had "captains of industry" on the PSU BoT, when, in fact, we have had a bunch of amateurs who show up with little, or no, preparation to conduct the business of a major university. This is sad, and unacceptable. But it tells us that in November 2011, these trustees were overwhelmed, and in way over their heads. And they failed miserably in their duty to PSU.

    The November 2011 trustees should resign immediately. There is no way to move on with them on board.

    1. Thank you for your comments Colonel. It was apparent our governance issues extend far beyond matters of structure. I'll withhold the tempting analogies here; with your experience I'm sure you grasp the picture.
      Semper Fi
      Bill Bender