Board Of Trustees Hold Routine Meeting Highlighted By Presentations
Penn State’s Board of Trustees met this afternoon at the Penn Stater for its November meeting. Coincidentally, the meeting took place only hours after the Department of Education released the Clery report that levied a record $2.4 million in fines against Penn State for various violations in Clery Act reporting. The report was only mentioned once, however, by President Barron in a short statement.
The meeting started with special presentations from two Penn State student leaders: Austin Sommerer and Neha Gupta. Sommerer, the 2017 Executive Director of THON, spoke about his role and how THON brings Penn State together and how humbled and honored he is to get to represent something bigger than ourselves as students. Gupta, founder of Empower Orphans and first American winner of the International Peace Prize, said that the “spirit of philanthropy is palpable at Penn State,” which she showcased in her work with Empower Orphans.
“This is an example of two future leaders,” Board Chairman Ira Lubert said. “We’re in good hopes for the future.”
Lubert then discussed the announcement last week that the Board of Trustees would no longer stream the public comment session, which is held during the Friday morning executive session. Lubert said the Board will be posting the comments that conform to the Standing Orders and address the meeting agenda…so really, they can just provide whichever comments they want under that justification.
President Barron began his report with comment on the Clery Report that was released yesterday, elaborating only slightly on his and the university’s statements that were sent out yesterday.
“This review, in scope and in the length of period that they investigated, is unprecedented by the Department of Education, and we expect our review of the document will help us better understand its findings,” Barron said. “While regrettably we cannot change the past, the university has been recognized for significantly strengthening our program since 2011.”
Barron’s report then moved to Invent Penn State, which included presentations from various professors, students, and researchers that outline the benefit of the program to those who may not be as well versed in entrepreneurship but are doing ground-breaking research. Barron, as well as many of the presenters, spoke highly of Penn State’s first-ever IP conference that hosted hundreds of companies, entrepreneurs, and students and was favorably received by all attendees.
“It’s quite exciting and you just saw a small sample of it,” Barron said of Invent Penn State as a whole and those who presented their projects.
Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims presented next, offering the floor to Ben Locke and UPUA President Terry Ford to speak on mental health at Penn State and the impact of CAPS. Locke, the Senior Director of CAPS, discussed the importance of CAPS on campus, saying that the service is always looking for more support and is, in fact, at capacity as far as student treatment. Locke also dislodged the idea that utilization of CAPS only increases due to increases in enrollment. He provided a 10-year trend that showed a 4.9 percent enrollment increase but a 58.9 percent increase in appointments as well as a 49.4 percent increase in students served, which is a trend at universities across the country.
“It’s important to understand that CAPS has a profound and compelling impact on student life,” Locke said. “We save lives and help students get back to success.”
Ford discussed the importance of CAPS for students and the impact the service has. He spoke about the Student Fee Board and how the new process will allow students to allocate student funds to what they find important, such as CAPS.
“Because mental health and well-being is a central issue for students, we who have been organizing the Student Fee Board are eager to use this flexibility to address the financial challenges of CAPS,” Ford said. “As I have said, the funding crisis at CAPS is not unique to Penn State. But through continued collaboration and with student leadership, I am convinced that we will be able to promote the welfare of Penn State, her students, and make this university a national leader when it comes to advancing mental health and well-being.”
Each committee recommendation was unanimously accepted before the Board voted on the eight members recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award, which Lubert asked the public not report on until those recipients are officially recognized by the university. Lubert also officially approved Gary Gilden as the Dean of the Dickinson School of Law, Michael Kubit as the new VP for information technology, and Rich Bundy as the new VP for Development and Alumni Relations. Lubert spoke highly of all three, but Barron as well as Trustee Robert Jubelirer specifically praised Bundy and look forward to his service to Penn State.
The meeting was generally routine until Trustee Anthony Lubrano addressed the Board in the closing minutes. What started with Franklin Delano Roosevelt quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” turned into a lengthy plea to keep the highest ideals of the university and its pride in mind and also honor Joe Paterno. After many long, awkward minutes — including Chair Lubert interrupting to ask if Lubrano was almost done — the meeting adjourned immediately after.