Penn State’s Board of Trustees met today for its May meeting at the Penn Stater which incidentally fell the day after the claim against Joe Paterno resulting in a national media flare-up reminiscent of the one four-and-a-half years ago.
The full-board meeting was the first opportunity — other than executive sessions — for discussion on the PMA’s allegation that Joe Paterno knew about Jerry Sandusky’s abuse in 1976 but not until the end of the meeting.
Trustee Anthoy Lubrano brought the allegation to the floor at the conclusion of the Board’s meeting, calling the claim “stale and highly-suspect.” He called on Chair Keith Masser to demand the details be released so all stakeholders, including the Board, have more complete information on the allegation instead of a single line in a court filling that was nationally and swiftly reported on.
“Mr. Chair I am very confident that once you demand the release of this information, we will see this allegation for what it is: an uncorroborated, baseless claim lacking in veracity,” Lubrano said.
Trustee Al Lord stood following Lubrano’s remarks to read a letter from Sue Paterno about the allegations in which she says she and her family were not made aware of the claim. Lord said he received the letter at approximately 1:40, 10 minutes after the anticipated start time of the meeting (though executive session ran late and the trustees didn’t actually get underway until 1:40 themselves) and read it verbatim and without analysis. Here is the letter as presented by Lord in the meeting:
Dear Chairman Masser, President Barron, and members of the Board of Trustees,
As we learned yesterday, the dark cloud of the Jerry Sandusky tragedy continues to hang over this institution. With one line in a court filing a tidal wave of media coverage has been unleashed that once again claims there is definitive evidence that Joe Paterno and others participated in a decades-long cover-up. I am deeply saddened by this latest allegation because it follows exactly the pattern of four years ago.
We have also been notified by a media outlet of another decades-old allegation of abuse and cover up. We told them that any such allegation was in total conflict with all the facts we know. I write to you today because I know we are all better than this. We can not allow this situation to be ruled by allegations and speculation. The seriousness of this matter demands that we all insist on facts and due process.
My family and I have no knowledge of the allegation released yesterday. No party has shared any information with us, and yet it is now taken by many as a confirmed fact. From the first day, Joe and I have called for the full record to be made public. I do not fear the facts, and I know that everyone will be better served if the complete story is made available for all to review.
My family, Penn State, the victims, and everyone who hopes to prevent future Jerry Sanduskys have to come together to demand a more transparent and complete process for reviewing allegations. To deny this right is to guarantee that the full truth will never be known. I call on the Board of Trustees to open Penn State’s records, lift your objections to transparency, give everyone a chance to see the truth about what you know. I’m confident there is a way to do this while still protecting the rights of the victims. I also call on the NCAA to do the same, and anyone else who has information critical to this matter.
It is time to end this endless process of character assassination by accusation. In the spirit of our love for Penn State and our duty to the victims, let’s stop fighting about process and start fighting for the truth.
When Lord completed the letter and the subsequent applause died down, Chair Masser immediately adjourned the public session of the meeting and moved the Board into another closed executive session.
The other major topic at the meeting came with the recommendation for limited alcohol sales at athletic venues including the Bryce Jordan Center, Beaver Stadium, and the golf courses. The proposition was unanimously recommended by committee on Thursday but saw some minimal but voiced opposition when presented to the full board.
The biggest voiced concerns surrounded student drinking, which Trustee Betsy Huber argued would be magnified by this problem.
“We have a serious drinking problem on and off campus,” trustee Betsy Huber said in opposition. “I think it’s sad that the expectation is that people can’t have an enjoyable experience without alcohol. I think we’re sending the wrong message to our students — it’s showing them an example that adults can’t have a good time without alcohol.”
Furthering the idea that students obviously would only be able to drink or be inebriated at football games and other sporting events if they were able to get beer and wine from a concession stand themselves or from an of-age friend, emeritus trustee David Jones asked for assurance that alcohol would not be allowed in the stands during football games as to keep Beaver Stadium from turning into “what takes place at professional football [games].”
Not selling alcohol at an event isn’t going to keep students or other attendees from drinking if they want to at those events, but selling alcohol will decrease the pre-event drinking that goes on if attendees know they’ll be able to get drinks at the event. Trustee Alice Pope noted that serving alcohol will actually help curb things like binge-drinking before events, but if an under-21-year old wants to be buzzed or drunk at a concert, there isn’t much stopping them so long as they aren’t completely belligerent. Even then, events that are geared toward a primarily underage crowd won’t serve alcohol.
The recommendation was primarily supported in all aspects however. Some of the reasoning for the acceptance included the fact that the ability to serve alcohol at the venues would allow the university to better utilize the intercollegiate athletic facilities which would allow for more events like concerts and events at the golf course. The trustees even mentioned how serving alcohol would improve the chances of hosting events like the NHL’s Winter Classic that was widely speculated. Additionally, the Board reported a decrease in instances at events where alcohol sales were piloted (eight BJC concerts over the last year) and noted that sales were carefully monitored.
The recommendation was approved with two “nay” vote despite more trustees that standing in opposition. The next Board meeting will take place July 21-22 at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.