A giant leap forward for Penn State’s trustees

Published January 21, 2012

Wow. What did they put in the water yesterday at University Park? Truth serum? A billion gallons of Starbucks?

Whatever it was, it spurred every member of the Board of Trustees to abruptly abandon their vow to not talk about the Sandusky crisis.

No matter how you feel about this group and what they’ve put the Penn State family through in recent months, one has to give them credit for doing a complete 180 on keeping quiet. That’s a good thing, and hopefully a sign of better things to come.

But I’m still concerned about the mentality that led to their silence for so long. Newly elected board President Karen Peetz yesterday said they were “over lawyered,” which led them to keep quiet for two months. And only recently they decided to speak out in the wake of festering anger from alumni across Pennsylvania.

Why didn’t they question their lawyers’ advice from the beginning? These are bright people who should have considered other options instead of simply falling in line and taking orders from advisors who didn’t have Penn State’s best interests in mind. That’s not the kind of leadership Penn State needs, and not the kind of people we want to handle the next crisis.

I’m also concerned about the election of Peetz, a Wall Street executive who heads the Financial Markets and Treasury Services division of the Bank of New York Mellon. She’s a corporate executive who has little experience with promoting transparency.

In addition, she’s one of the so-called “Business and Industry Trustees,” whose appointment process is one of the most corrupt I’ve ever seen. Her appointment as board president leaves me with little confidence that we’ll see the changes that the Penn State family demands.

But I’m willing to give Peetz and other board members credit when it’s due. This was a big step forward, and I hope there are many more like it in the near future.