Board of Trustees: Where To Go From Here
The results of the alumni Board of Trustees election, announced last Friday at the monthly meeting in the Nittany Lion Inn, were anything but surprising.
Former Penn State football player Adam Taliaferro, widely seen as the front-runner throughout the campaign, predictably garnered 15,629 votes, appearing on just under 42% of the ballots. The always-outspoken Anthony Lubrano wasn’t far behind with 10,096 votes, and the third and final winner, retired Navy SEAL Ryan McCombie, finished with 4,806 votes.
So what does this mean for Penn State?
As the esteemed Davis Shaver discussed last week, a Penn State education could be “so much more.” The living-learning community of large universities like Penn State is eroding, as costs continue to increase. Professor and staff wages are frozen, faculty loads are increasing, and majors are being cut. All of this on top of a governor who just doesn’t seem to understand the role of a land grant institution.
But if the recent Board of Trustees election tells me anything, it’s that Penn State’s priorities still aren’t in the right place.
Let’s look at Anthony Lubrano, one of the more outspoken critics in recent months of the Board of Trustees. Lubrano has donated millions of dollars to Penn State, and by all accounts wants nothing but the best for this university. But to me, good intentions aren’t enough.
Lubrano created a five minute pathos-filled Joe Paterno tribute video that acted as a campaign stunt. He ran on a platform with the first point, “Secure a public apology to the Paterno family for the disgraceful manner in which Coach Paterno was treated.” This is a man who has called for the entire Board of Trustees to resign, the same board on which he will sit in two months.
As I look over his website, there is no shortage of Joe Paterno photographs. What there is a shortage of, however, are tangible ideas to help steer Penn State through this new educational landscape that we’ve been dealt.
Adam Taliaferro is a Penn State icon, known for his perseverance and philanthropy. This name recognition was, in no uncertain terms, the main reason he received over 5,000 more votes than the second-highest vote getter. But like Lubrano, I look at his platform, filled with jargon about “fresh ideas” without actually listing any such initiatives, and question if it would stand alone without Taliaferro’s miraculous story attached to it.
Don’t get me wrong; I believe these men and the people that elected them, like all of us, only want the best for Penn State. But that sentiment alone is not merit enough to have the honor of serving on the Board of Trustees. I fear that these new members are fueled chiefly by the emotional ire that came with the Sandusky scandal. Believe me, I feel it too. We all do. However, that impassioned drive is not a substitute for intellectualism when it comes to decisions in higher education.
What Penn State needs now, perhaps more than ever, are acute thinkers who understand academia and the pressing issues that the university faces. Emotional vendettas stemming from how the board treated Joe Paterno will only delay our healing. Cursory attempts to fix the past — hollow apologies, stadium rededications, or radical BOT restructuring demands — only serve to delay and convolute the real task at hand.
That task — above all else — is providing the best education possible for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the world. I think Coach Paterno would agree with that.