Thursday, May 7

Barron Escalates PSU's War On Alumni Trustees

PSU President's latest message hypocritically points the finger at alumni trustees for squandering resources and not serving the University's mission. 

Ray Blehar

On Tuesday, PSU President Eric Barron continued to rub salt on the unhealed, gaping wound created by PSU Board of Trustees decision to promote the Sandusky scandal as a Penn State football scandal.  Alumni who hoped that Barron might take a stand against the "unaccountable" trustees and attempt to correct the record got another dose of reality about PSU's latest puppet president.

The reality is that Barron works at the pleasure of the "unaccountable" trustees who are in control the BOT and, therefore, the University.  He will continue to do their bidding --  no matter what the cost to the Penn State.

As for his letter, I can't say I was at all shocked at his decision to go public with his response -- that essentially was another road block to open and transparent governance at PSU. 

First off, why would a University not be transparent about who was nominated to serve on its governance board with MEMBERS of said governance board?  Talk about factionalization (and marginalization)!  Barron's letter essentially states that the alumni trustees don't need to know how the Business and Industry (B & I) trustees are selected in order to effectively perform their fiduciary responsibilities.  

In short, the B & I trustee selection process could be based on how much someone was willing to pay the sitting B & I trustees for a seat on the board -- for all the alumni elected trustees know right now.   Ironically, the idea isn't too far-fetched, considering that this board revised its conflict of interest policy after a devastating scandal  -- replete with allegations of conflicts between Second Mile and Penn State -- and continued to allow conflicts of interest.

Next, the rationale that the information couldn't be shared because of confidentiality concerns is patently false. Just as in their lawsuit regarding the Freeh source documents, the alumni trustees agreed to keep the names out of the public, but would not accept the University's redactions of names and titles because it would not allow for analysis of the credibility of sources.   In the case of the B & I trustees, the alumni trustees assured PSU that they would keep the names confidential.

Barron was lying -- and following in the footsteps of Erickson and the "unaccountable" trustees.

Hypocrisy On Education Mission

One of the issues that probably has the majority of alumni upset is that Barron continues to insult our collective intelligence by making hypocritical statements about the University's focus on the education mission.

Barron was the Board's surrogate for attacking
alumni for their unwillingness to "move forward"
President Barron sure talks a good game, but why in September 2014 did he decide to be the nation's spokesperson for civility?  

In reality, the civility message was nothing more than Barron parroting the position of the "unaccountable" trustees, who have considerable disdain for the alumni who have refused to swallow their lies and "move forward."  

Barron's civility message was seen for what it was and he received considerable blow back from the alumni.  Then Barron tried to walk it back by saying he was commenting on the uncivil discourse across the country and that the University should be able to talk about important issues.

Education mission?  

Just three months later, Barron was again out there working for PSU's "education mission."  In December 2014, he participated in a demonstration with students who were protesting the Ferguson, Missouri case involving the police shooting of Michael Brown.  

Pennsylvania law maker, Jerry Knowles issued a press statement late Friday calling Barron's gesture a slap in the face to law enforcement.  Knowles explained that to him, the hands-up gesture in itself is a continuation of a false narrative from Ferguson that unfairly discredited police.  In March 2015, a Department of Justice investigation  found that reports of Brown in a hands up don't shoot position were not credible.  

After Penn State was severely damaged by a false narrative in the media, Barron should have been acutely aware that he should not take positions based on unproven allegations. But on April 30th, Barron said he would do it again -- continuing to claim that his protest was to support PSU students who felt vulnerable -- and not about the Ferguson case.

Seriously, is President Barron actually capable of telling the truth, let alone advancing PSU's education mission? 

Hypocrisy On Squandering Resources

Barron's statement that the alumni trustees were squandering University resources by asking for their expenses to be reimbursed was laughable.  

Penn State has accumulated nearly $200 million in costs associated for a scandal it could have completely avoided.  Had the power bloc on the Board decided to be on the side of the facts and law, instead of on the side of public opinion, the Sandusky scandal would have never become the PSU scandal.  

Power bloc engineered 11/9/11 removals
& cemented PSU's guilt in eyes of public 
PSU's guilt was assumed when the "Board" ousted Spanier and Paterno.  However, the reality was that the Board didn't do it.  The power bloc, dominated by the B& I trustees, engineered the ouster without a vote of the full board.

In the aftermath of that decision, the power bloc and other "unaccountable" trustees have continuously decided to spend the University's money because of the findings of a now widely discredited report by former FBI Director, Louis Freeh. 

Most reasonable people now agree that the NCAA over-reached when it penalized the University for the criminal acts of a retired football coach.  Of course, those not included among the "reasonable people" just so happen to be  Barron and the "unaccountable" trustees -- who have decided to remain co-defendants with the NCAA in continuing litigation.   

PSU continues to pile up millions of dollars in legal expenses to avoid having to reveal the source documents used in the Freeh Report and to hide its communications with the NCAA and Louis Freeh.  It refuses to disclose how much it will pay the three Sandusky litigants who had won the right to discovery of the aforementioned documents.

Does Barron think the alumni don't see the vast difference between the millions spent to keep the truth hidden and the paltry request to pay the legal fees for a very limited lawsuit over paying legal fees??

Again, the level of disrespect for the intelligence of the alumni is an insult.

Finally, Penn State's administration has continuously maintained that it will not use funds from tuition or from the Pennsylvania government allotment to pay for the costs of the Sandusky scandal.  Erickson stated that much of the costs to cover scandal related expenses would come from PSU's "rainy day" fund.  

PSU spokesperson Lisa Powers elaborated that the "rainy day" fund referred to monies that PSU accumulated from the interest off internal loans to departments within the University.  For example, the University is loaning much of the money to pay the NCAA fines to the Athletic Department, who will pay back the loan (plus interest) over time.  

Obviously, the "rainy day" fund couldn't provide an unlimited amount of money -- and apparently it was running near zero by late 2013.  Tuition was raised (note that money is fungible).

Erickson: Lied about unavoidable costs
After the vote to increase tuition, then-President Rodney Erickson stated (my emphasis added):

“Before considering an increase to tuition and fees, we identified expense reductions of $35.9 million and delayed planned budget increases for the capital improvement plan and deferred maintenance. The unavoidable cost increases that could not be funded by internal budget reductions and reallocations are what constitute this increase” 

Between 2012 and 2013, tuition and fee payments by students rose by approximately $40 million dollars, from $1.508 billion in 2012 to $1.549 billion in 2013.  At this point, most of you have figured out that the $40 million tuition increase could have been paid for by the  $59.7 million that PSU volunteered to pay the Sandusky victims (allegedly from the "rainy day" fund).

And PSU continues to agree to pay for avoidable costs, including those in the "total victory" settlement with the NCAA this fall,  In that "deal," PSU agreed that the Athletic Department would pay the remaining balance of the $60 million in fines and that it would  pay the legal fees for Senator Corman and former Treasurer Rob McCord.  

The Bottom Line

Barron's closing paragraph of his recent letter, as well as an earlier joint statement with Masser,  revealed what may really be going on (my emphasis added):

Second, as President, I am very concerned about your approach to confidentiality and to your fiduciary responsibilities. We have a growing number of failures to abide the Board’s Expectations of Membership, even when the potential for serious financial harm to the University is evident. We have moved into a position of having to repeatedly reconfirm the commitment to confidentiality in order to protect the University from unnecessary harm. I now hear regularly from students, faculty, staff and alumni expressing both concern and fatigue in seeing our own Trustees suing their University. Penn State’s mission is teaching, research and service. Your actions are not serving that mission. It seems to many of us that this is becoming a campaign against Penn State. Please reconsider these unfortunate actions.

Barron appears to be setting the table for Masser and the "unaccountables" to remove the alumni-elected trustees.


  1. Well done as usual.

    The issue of keeping the nomination procedures and the list of candidates confidential from the entire board is highly suspicious. The alumni trustees were right to object. At least one alumni trustee should have been on each of the nominating committees in the first place. Their exclusion smacks of marginalization of the alumni trustees.

    It is standard practice that any faculty member in an academic dept. can review all the applications for an open faculty position. A similar practice should be standard for the Board of Trustees.

  2. Ray - You mentioned settlements with "the three Sandusky litigants who had won the right to discovery" of the Freeh documents. I thought only victim 9 had gotten the Freeh documents in discovery so it may be only one victim who got the "extraordinary" payout.

    I thought Penn State was still filing motions in the victim 6 lawsuit after the undisclosed settlement was announced.

    1. Tim,
      According to this report, Victim 6's legal team won the right to discovery for "undetermined" Freeh documents, as well as the names of the people Freeh interviewed.

      I also believe that D.F. had won discovery rights because he was the third to get the settlement deal in April. If it was just money, PSU would still be fighting.

  3. Penn State had no problem wasting money on Louis Freeh's work of fiction, George Mitchell's extortion of millions of dollars for his do-nothing job as "integrity monitor," huge payouts to some alleged victims who were never vetted, Rodney Erickson's enormous pension, Dave Joiner's ongoing big bucks reward for royally messing up the Athletic Department and the biggest waste of all - Barron's 7-figure salary. Thanks Ray for your tireless efforts to expose the treachery of Barron and his handlers. Write on!

  4. Let us not forget that paradigm of virtue, Lanny Davis. Funny how protecting some peoples' "rights" is expensive and others' a waste of money. PSU is becoming perilously side-track...having built a moat around rich alumni while providing no drawbridge for academic integrity, let alone the truth. PSU is a corporation. That is a fact. Time they start acting like an honest one.

  5. After seeing Penn State's filing in the alumni trustees lawsuit, I think it is more appropriate to characterize Barron's criticisms of the alumni trustees as retaliation against whistleblowers. The alumni trustees are trying to expose the dirty dealings among some 11-11 trustees, Freeh and the NCAA, and the 11-11 trustees will have none of that.

    Penn State is even using Freeh's tactic of accusing the alumni trustees of wrongdoing and then refusing to make their evidence public. They want the judge to keep it under seal.