Thursday, October 2

Barron and "Old Guard Plus" continue the incivility toward alumni

Barron's and Board's recent actions continue to show a lack of respect for the intelligence and the opinions of Penn State alumni

Ray Blehar

When President Barron sent out his now infamous "civility" email and video, both he and I agreed that civility and respect go hand in hand.

The recent decisions by Board chair Keith Masser to disallow public comment on Board reform demonstrated that President Barron's plea for civil discussion of issues has gone unheeded.

In addition, proposal A+ that was accepted by the governance committee (minus Anthony Lubrano) was nothing more than a power play to keep the "Old Guard Plus" (OGP) in control.  It was quite a show of disrespect for the intelligence of PSU alumni for Richard Dandrea and the rest of the sponsors to think that alumni wouldn't immediately recognize this proposal for what it was.

Finally, President Barron's discussion with Barry Fenchak, the alumnus who was denied a chance to speak at the September 19th meeting, revealed that Barron has been co-opted by the OGP when he made a number of disingenuous statements in an attempt to justify the existence of the unaccountable members -- which happens to be the majority - of the Board.

Comments on Board Reform Unwelcome, Silenced

Barry Fenchak has been working for over two years on his proposal for BOT reform.  Along the way, he has met with a number of officials, including Senator Jake Corman, to discuss why the reforms are so badly needed.  Given that Board reform was a topic of high interest inside and outside of Penn State, Fenchak requested to provide public comments about his proposal at the Friday, September 19th meeting.  In fact, when he logged in to sign up on September 12th, he was too early and the web-site was not yet up.  When it eventually came on line, he was the first to sign up.

On September 17th, he received a notification from Jeanie Andrews stating that "we are unable to accommodate your request" to speak at the meeting.  Fenchak was incredulous that he wasn't chosen, given his topic AND that he was the first to sign up.

Civility: Barry Fenchak denied opportunity
 to speak then forcibly removed from meeting
In addition to his attempt to speak at the Board meeting, Fenchak had arranged to meet just prior to the Board meeting with President Barron.  At that point, he again broached the topic of being turned down to speak and asked Barron if he could be afforded a spot, since there were two or three "no show" speakers.

Even more incredibly, Barron told Fenchak that he could not speak because he had already had his chance.  Fenchak, who had never spoken at a Board meeting, alerted Barron to that fact.  To which Barron responded, you're written plenty of letters and emails over the past two years. 

At the close of Friday's meeting when the last scheduled speaker finished, Fenchak approached the microphone stand to speak.  The microphone had been removed, but he went on with his presentation, only to be cut off by Keith Masser and told that he could sign up for another time.  Masser stated we are "moving on" as he moved to adjourn the meeting.  He was then approached by a rather large individual who confronted him and apparently motioned for others to come and assist in the removal of Fenchak.

Fenchak also noted that it was very "uncivil" for many of the Board members to leave the meeting at the start of the public comment session.  As you will see on the video, there are many empty chairs around the table and most are occupied by the alumni elected trustees.

Barron's Disingenuous Justifications for Unaccountable Board Members

After Fenchak had been denied the chance to speak at the meeting, he followed up with President Barron in a series of emails, one which specifically asked:

"Do you believe that the governance board of Penn State should be an accountable, democratically elected body......or do you support the current non-accountable unauthorized factional structure?"

Barron response stated that he would not answer the question because it presupposes only one answer (which of course, is the right answer).

However, Barron's disingenuous answers began shortly thereafter when he tried to justify the unaccountable, non-elected members (my emphasis added).

First, Barron stated:  "We receive considerable state-support.  A part of the accountability for receiving that support is to have board members appointed by the state if you are a public or public-related institution.  This may be direct appointments by the Governor, or appointments by a Board of Regents (appointed by elected officials) or both.  They expect accountability because universities operate partially on taxpayer dollars.  This is the common practice.   We are accountable to elected officials who are the distributor of taxpayer dollars.

Separating fact from fiction:  
1.  The Commonwealth provided $272 million of a $4.9 billion budget for 2013.  That's only 5.6% -- hardly considerable.  It's about the same amount of money that PSU got in donations (private gifts, grants, and contracts).  

2. The only elected government official on the Board is Governor Tom Corbett, who has attended just one meeting during his tenure as governor.

Next, Barron attempted to justify the Business and Industry trustees.  "Most boards dearly love to have business and industry representatives.  They create connectivity, open doors, often donate significantly. They have wisdom from operating large institutions.  Most are alumni and, as such, add even greater value.   I know of no public or private institution that doesn’t work very hard to have business and industry leaders on their boards if state laws don’t get in the way. 

Separating fact from fiction:  
1.  If the B&I trustees were so connected, one might expect that a considerable amount of PSU's research grants would come from industries represented by this group.  That is not the case.  PSU's 2013 OMB Circular A-133 audit of Federal grants reveals none of the companies associated with the B&I members among the grantees.  Typically, private sector companies like Boeing, SAIC, Northrup Grumman, and many others provide research funding via "pass throughs" (see page 43 of the audit report).    

The fact of the matter is our B&I trustees are mostly in banking, investing, and finance -- which provide little in the way of grants.  

2.  Those of us who have been watching since 11-9-11 are hard pressed to see any wisdom coming from the direction of the B&I trustees.  Consider that almost every benchmarking activity related to Board reform showed that PSU's Board was exceptionally large and that a smaller Board would be more in line with other Universities.  Yet, Richard Dandrea and others offered AND PASSED a proposal to increase the size of the board.  This brought more negative comments from Senator Yudichak, who went as far as to state that the BOT's attempt to change the structure of the Board may be illegal.

Barron closed with another  false statement about PSU's funding:  "We also have to remember that this institution operates almost solely on dollars from students and the taxpayer."

Separating fact from fiction:  
1.  Less than half of the University's revenues are from tuition and the state appropriation
About $1.82B of $4.9B (37%) is from those sources and  -- the state appropriation is rather minuscule at $272 million.  

2.  The "institution's" other major sources of revenues include Hershey Medical center at $1.3B (28%), government and other grants about $620M (12%), and the rest are cats and dogs, none contributing more than 8%.

It is very hard to give President Barron the benefit of the doubt at this point, given that he has been in place since May and seems to be of the mindset that he can "snow" the alumni about the operations of PSU.


On September 19th, over 1500 alumni signed a letter, which was run as a 2 1/2 page ad in the Centre Daily Times asking President Barron to bring Louis Freeh back to campus for a civil discussion of the Freeh Report.

To date, the authors of the letter (Eileen Morgan and I) have not received a response.

It appears that when it comes to having a meaningful and civil discussion on the issues, President Barron has opted to stand with the OGP and shut out those who disagree with the University's positions.


  1. Ray,

    Another great article. The question I have is this:

    What is it that the OGP is fighting so hard to protect and keep hidden? Why are they so determined to just "move on?" Are there people from this group who were possible "clients" of a Second Mile pedophile ring? I am completely and totally baffled and amazed that the OGP keeps trying to "move on" when there are so many alumni (the very ones who truly keep the university afloat with their time and their money) keep confronting them about their behavior and decisions. There is something very sinister about this.

    And lastly, it's a good thing I haven't been able to attend any of these trustee meetings. Being from Mount Union, I recognize that there is sometimes the need for a good fight. And about the time I would ever attend one of these meetings and somebody would attempt to remove me because they didn't like my questioning, there would be a full-blown brawl going.

  2. It is amazing that President Barron would be so ignorant, or so blatantly lie, about the sources of funding for Penn State.

    I expect that Freeh would decline any invitation to speak publicly about his report given the potential defamation lawsuit by Spanier with Freeh as defendant and the Paterno family lawsuit against the NCAA, where Freeh will be a major witness.

    1. Tim,
      Agree on the latter, but PSU should approach Freeh about making good on his promise. I would be happy if he (or his firm) sent someone in his place to have the discussion.


    "The B&I power bloc of the BoT hijacked the engineering and mechanic arts seats over two decades ago and then changed the name to business and industry trustees in Nov. 2002. To read the history, see my article titled "Penn State's Trustee Coup Reflects a Deeper Crisis" that was first published in CDT on Feb. 21, 2003 (, and republished online at in 2011 after the 11-9-11 crisis.

    Bob Horst, "58EE
    PSU Trustee 1992-95