Members respond to the letter Board of Trustees Chair Karen Peetz sent to all Penn State alumni that included a response to the recent alumni survey conducted. Read the responses that some of our members prepared as a result of this letter
June 9, 2012
To: Penn State Board of Trustees
RE: Letter to Alumni from Board of Trustees Chairman Karen Peetz
cc: other alumni via Facebook and E-mail
The recent E-mail from Karen Peetz is an insult to the intelligence of Penn State’s
alumni, and the same goes for her statement that she wants to “bring Sue Paterno back
into the fold as an ambassador for the University.”
Let’s deal with the second issue first. Coach Paterno took the Trustees’ phone call on
11/9. Sue Paterno returned it promptly and said her husband deserved better. That was the
last phone call the Paterno family had any obligation to take from the Board, and any
obligation to return. The Board then repeatedly reaffirmed that what it did on 11/9 was
right, even to the extent of using Penn State’s money to pay Lanny Davis to insult Coach
Paterno’s memory during the week of his funeral. (See “Lanny Davis Should Shut his Pie
Hole” on PennLive.com.) As recently as March, the Board again attacked Coach Paterno
for a “lack of leadership.” If Ms. Peetz or any other Trustee has anything to say to the
Paterno family, I suggest that he or she say it to Coach Paterno’s headstone. That Trustee
will get the same response that he or she is entitled to from any member of his family.
It is by the way far too late for any kind of apology to be credible, especially in light of
the Board’s ongoing efforts to justify what it did on 11/9. Ms. Peetz talks about the
problems that confront Penn State, but the biggest one consists of the current Trustees.
Penn State cannot heal or move forward as long as any of the participants in 11/9
continue to sit on the Board. Now let us examine Ms. Peetz’s letter:
Dear Penn Stater,
There is no doubt that the Penn State community continues to face
challenging times, particularly as the Sandusky trial began this week. The
last year has been difficult for our entire community, from students,
alumni, faculty and staff to countless others who care deeply about Penn
State. We’ve heard from many of you who are supportive of the steps being
taken at the University; we appreciate that support, and we also respect
and continue to listen to the opinions of those who may disagree.
The last year has been difficult because the Trustees chose to admit guilt on Penn State’s
part for any role in the alleged actions of a former employee whose ties to Penn State
were exactly that; those of a former employee. The last year has also been difficult
because the Board’s admitted rush to judgment on 11/9 is evidence of its collective lack
of fitness to govern Penn State. Things also must be said about the millions of dollars of
Penn State’s money that the Board has squandered on spin doctors whose sole function
seems to be to defend the Board’s actions of 11/9 and not the reputation of Penn State,
which said spin doctors make worse every day.
For all of us who serve on the Board of Trustees, our greatest priority is
maintaining Penn State’s long-standing qualities of integrity,
responsibility, service to the community and excellence in academics.
The first step in promoting integrity and responsibility is to serve as a role model that
Penn State’s students can emulate, and the current Board is anything but such a role
model. A graduate who acts as the Board did on 11/9—rushing to judgment, firing
employees without cause and possibly in violation of the law (Sunshine Act) will put a
quick end to a person’s career in any kind of reputable organization. 11/9 might in fact be
a good case study for Penn State students, on how not to act if and when they are ever
given supervisory responsibility.
That is why, as we learn from and take action to address the past, we
remain accountable to actively governing to ensure the greatest propriety
in all of Penn State’s activities. I want you to know that we are dedicated
to working with President Rodney Erickson to address the crisis and its
related issues, and we will continue to accelerate our efforts in this area.
Mr. Erickson destroyed his credibility the instant he said the Board’s actions of 11/9 were
“courageous,” and he does not enjoy my trust, confidence, respect, or support.
More recently, in May, we held several elections for trustee members, and
set a record for alumni participation. For me, this was a powerful
demonstration of the inclusiveness and resolve of the Board and Penn
State community in addressing our current issues and preparing for future
excellence. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I welcome and
congratulate our four new members: Donald G. Cotner, elected by
delegates from agriculture societies; and Anthony P. Lubrano, Ryan J.
McCombie and Adam J. Taliaferro, who were elected by alumni. We are
excited for the new perspectives and ideas they will bring — and we
embrace the democratic process that helps ensure diversity and open
What Ms. Peetz means is that “we set a record for participation by outraged alumni,
many of whom voted for the first time for the explicit purpose of firing as many
participants in 11/9 as possible, which will also happen in 2013 and 2014.” I also recall
that Ms. Peetz was quoted along with Mr. Eckel in Philly.com’s smear job (complete
with conveniently anonymous accusers) against Mr. Lubrano, and I can only imagine her
“excitement” over the diverse perspective that he will bring to the Board. It is unfortunate
that nobody presented a diverse perspective on 11/9; if he or she had, we would not be
having this conversation and we would still be collectively Penn State.
Also this summer, we expect the results of the Freeh Report to be released.
The University already has begun acting on preliminary recommendations
of the independent internal review, which was initiated last November
when the Board of Trustees appointed former FBI director and federal
judge Louis Freeh to handle the investigation. Specifically, Penn State
now has begun an employee education initiative for mandated reporter
training. This training, for employees and volunteers who work with
minors, teaches how to recognize the signs of child abuse as well as how
to report abuse. In addition, Penn State has instituted more stringent and
routine background checks for employees, and has hired a full-time
compliance officer to support the Clery Act, a federal crime-reporting law
Neither program was in place when Mike McQueary brought his allegations to Coach
Paterno, who brought them to the Administration. This underscores the contention that
the Board scapegoated Paterno because of its own failure to enact sufficient policies and
Finally, the Alumni Association released Thursday the results of its recent
alumni opinion survey, which was conducted via a random statistical
sample of alumni and can be found on the Alumni Association’s website at
http://alumni.psu.edu/researchandreports online. These results will
provide important guidance to the Board in better understanding the
thoughts and concerns of our alumni as we all work to move forward. I
encourage you, too, to review the results at your convenience.
I did read it, with particular attention to Question 8C. “What is causing you to be critical
of Penn State?” The response for Spanier/Curley/Schultz was apparently less than 1
percent (out of the total of 6), but 3 percent (out of 6) cited 11/9 and another 3 out of 6
cited the Trustees. I also direct your attention to Question 14, with 48 percent of people
feeling more negatively toward the University. This would not have happened had the
Board not turned the Sandusky scandal into the Penn State scandal, and it is why the
University cannot move forward with the people who are currently on the Board.
Guided by President Erickson’s leadership, we look forward to working
with the Penn State community to continue leading the nation with topnotch
academics, breakthrough research and our long-standing
commitment to service — the foundations of our University for the past 157
As stated above, Mr. Erickson lost my respect almost as soon as he took office, and he
therefore cannot lead me or guide me anywhere.
We are mindful that Penn State is the most popular university in the
country, with more than 121,000 applications for the 2011-2012 school
year. We also rank among the nation’s top universities in industrysponsored
and defense-related research, with total research expenditures
exceeding $804 million in 2011, including funding from government,
industry, and other sources. Perhaps most importantly, Penn State
continues to turn out high-caliber graduates — the University was ranked
first among 100 colleges, including several Ivy League schools, in a 2010
Wall Street Journal survey of top recruiters from companies across the
United States. And in March 2012, for the second straight year, employers
surveyed by Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the Penn State Smeal
College of Business as having the best undergraduate business program in
I recall that a certain coach that the Trustees fired on 11/9 played a central role in making
Penn State into one of the nation’s top (academic) universities. A popular comment is
that Penn State is the only university in which a library is named for the football coach.
As I share my monthly website updates on the Board’s progress, I am
hopeful that our ongoing dialogue with you — Penn State’s dedicated and
— will help us to deepen and strengthen the work that continues to make
Penn State a national leader.
The “us” ended on 11/9, and the Trustees ratified their decision to end that relationship
with their subsequent insults to the alumni (interview on January 19) and to Coach
Paterno. WE (alumni, faculty, students) are Penn State, and we will seek to move forward
without participation by the current Trustees to help make Penn State a national leader.
–Bill Levinson B.S. ‘