Penn State trustees to weigh governance advice

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STATE COLLEGE – Penn State trustees say they’ll weigh the state auditor general’s recommendations that the university’s governing structure be changed in the wake of the child molestation scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.


Trustees began two days of regularly scheduled meetings Thursday. Auditor General Jack Wagner’s recommendations, released Wednesday, included the removal of the university president as a voting trustee.


Trustee James Broadhurst said leaders spoke briefly with Wagner by phone before he released his report, which they received late Wednesday or Thursday.


“There’s obviously a lot more information there,” he said. “A lot more we need to address and talk about.”


Wagner, in his conversation with trustees, highlighted several points, including taking away the vote of the university president, Broadhurst said. The other main points, as Broadhurst relayed to a trustees committee meeting, were to make the governor a nonvoting member, increase the number needed for a voting quorum from 13 to a majority of members and fully extend the Right-to-Know law to Penn State and the other three state-related institutions of Lincoln, Pitt and Temple.


Wagner told reporters his suggested changes might not have prevented what occurred after Sandusky was charged a year ago with abusing boys on and off campus. Still, Wagner called for “real and substantive reform.”


Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys. He’s serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but maintains his innocence.


The abuse scandal rocked Penn State, bringing down famed coach Joe Paterno and the university’s then-president, Graham Spanier, and leading the NCAA, college sports’ governing body, to levy unprecedented sanctions against the university’s football program. Criminal charges are pending against Spanier and other former high-ranking university officials accused of helping to cover up abuse complaints, but they say they’re innocent.


Trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz said the board also is awaiting recommendations from the Faculty Senate. It already has received recommendations from former FBI director Louis Freeh, who led the university’s internal investigation into the scandal.


Peetz said at the governance committee meeting Thursday “we need to decide at the end what we want to do” after more deliberation over all recommendations. Potential changes will be a main topic of a January retreat by the board.


Trustees on Thursday also discussed the process to replace President Rodney Erickson, who took over from Spanier and plans to step down when his contract expires in June. The full board meets Friday, when it’s expected to formally approve the search process.


The trustees will get candidate recommendations from a separate panel that includes students, faculty members and other campus constituencies. The hope is to settle on Erickson’s replacement by next November.


Emeritus trustees and the size of the 32-member board also were discussed Thursday.


Trustee Carl Shaffer said he read some of Wagner’s report and thought some points may not apply to Penn State.


“I think it’s up to this board to decide how to take this university forward,” he said.


Responding to Shaffer, trustee Joel Myers said Penn State was in a unique situation to evaluate recommendations but “it doesn’t mean we have to accept it all.”


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