The Old Main building on the campus of Penn State University.
By Mark Dent / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On a day partially devoted to honoring the work of outgoing Penn State University President Rodney Erickson, the university's board of trustees moved further in the direction of becoming a group that opposes some of the controversial decisions made by Mr. Erickson and long-standing board members.
Alice Pope, Al Lord and Bob Jubelirer were announced as winners of the 2014 Penn State alumni board of trustees election Friday, giving Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship, or PS4RS, its second consecutive sweep in the elections.
All three alumni candidates ran on platforms stressing the need for the university to reassess past decisions made regarding Joe Paterno, the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions. They were endorsed by PS4RS, a group of alumni and others that formed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It has endorsed nine candidates in the past three elections, seven of whom have won.
"With nine new alumni members, I would hope that there is a recognition by the existing board ... that it's important we work together," Mr. Jubelirer said. "And there's only one way that's going to be effective: We have to get to the truth. Due process does matter. I heard that man in Hershey, [trustee] Ken Frazier, a year ago in March say it didn't matter. Like hell it doesn't matter."
Ms. Pope, a psychology professor at St. John's University, had 10,025 votes; Mr. Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, 9,516; and Mr. Jubelirer, a former Pennsylvania state senator, 8,101. The business and industry board members also announced the election of new trustees Daniel Mead and Walter Rakowich, who will replace outgoing trustees James Broadhurst and Linda Strumpf.
Notable candidates who lost to Ms. Pope, Mr. Lord and Mr. Jubelirer include Joel Myers, who had been an alumni trustee for the past 33 years, and Upward State candidates Dan Cocco, Julie McHugh and Matt Schuyler. None of those candidates garnered more than 4,000 votes. The other two incumbent alumni trustees, Marianne Alexander and Jesse Arnelle, didn't seek re-election. All Penn State alumni can vote, and the total number of ballots received was 29,791 from more than 613,000 eligible voters.
The Upward State candidates had promoted a platform less concerned with past actions of the university than PS4RS, an outlook attractive to certain alumni and many current students who have claimed that too much discussion of the Freeh Report, Paterno and the NCAA sanctions has come at the expense of Penn State's present and future.
"We remain convinced that this silent majority shares our future-focused message," Upward State wrote in a news release. "While our candidates did not win, we are buoyed by the fact that yet another graduating class of students who share our vision will be voters next year. Upward State has no intention of quietly fading away."
For an alumni base divided since the Sandusky sex abuse scandal, PS4RS continues to exert significant influence.
"I got a sense from communications I receive every day that people are still upset," trustee Anthony Lubrano said. "When you look at people who typically vote, it's those people who are engaged. And that group of people remains engaged."
Mr. Lubrano has at times been critical of Mr. Erickson's leadership, but he had no problem honoring him on Friday. Mr. Erickson, by unanimous vote from the trustees, received a $50,000 bonus on top of the $100,000 he was set to receive at the completion of his contract. He was also named president emeritus, received the Penn State Medal and had the Food Science Building -- home of Berkey Creamery -- renamed after him.
Mr. Frazier thanked Mr. Erickson in front of the trustees for assuming the presidency during a difficult time and helping Penn State transition away from the scandal with "a great deal of courageousness and compassion."
Mr. Lubrano said he voted for the bonus and honors for Mr. Erickson because of his body of work as a Penn State employee -- 37 years as a faculty member and administrator -- and he wanted the community to heal.
"There will be many in the alumni community tonight who will post in their blogs that they're not happy that President Erickson was honored but they haven't honored Joe," he said. "That's not my view, but I expect to hear that from alumni. There's no reason why both shouldn't be."
Mr. Lubrano said he also would like the board to repudiate the Freeh Report. Do nine new alumni trustees elected since 2012 with similar mind-sets have enough power to affect those types of changes?
Penn State's board consists of 30 voting members: six each who are appointed by the agricultural and business and industry societies; six appointed by the governor; three ex-officio members who are the state secretaries of the departments of agriculture, education and conservation and natural resources; and the nine alumni trustees.
Candidates who attempted to get the PS4RS endorsement during this election argued that the alumni trustees didn't have enough power on the board's various subcommittees and particularly the 13-member executive committee. Mr. Jubelirer said Friday that the new complexion of the alumni trustees could influence the appointees of the governor, whom he said have most recently aligned with long-standing trustees.
"I want to make a difference," Mr. Jubelirer said. "I hope I can. And I'm going to try, anyhow."
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 or on Twitter @mdent05.. First Published May 9, 2014 5:07 PM
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