Update from Chairman Peetz - October 16, 2012

September was a busy month as our University was alive with the beginnings of a new academic year.  It is good to see this renewed focus on our primary mission --- education.

September was also a month in which the University made notable progress on a number of action steps the Board of Trustees, working in tandem with the Administration, is taking to enhance our infrastructure and our policies and procedures as we continue to build on Penn State’s outstanding heritage and reputation. 

New Era of Transparency

To start, as previously reported, we are enhancing our management structure and refocusing our philosophy of how we act as a board, administration, and a University, entering a new era of better, more representative and transparent governance.  I am fully committed to this path.

Emblematic of that approach is the fact that Board of Trustees committee and other  sessions are now --- with exceptions for legal or personnel matters and certain seminars when no action is deliberated or taken  --- open to the public.  This most recent one also featured a public comment session and this session will be ongoing for all regularly scheduled meetings.

Freeh Report

To be sure, that turned out to be a lively exchange, with most of the questions --- and comment and opinion --- about the Freeh Report.

As way of background, the Freeh Report was produced by a team of people led by Judge Louis Freeh, who is a former federal judge and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  His credentials are impeccable.  It is a large and extensive report.

Within the  283 pages about past events there is plenty of room for people to question, comment, agree or disagree, or even attempt to do their own analyses.  This was, of course, an independent report.

But as we move forward the critically important part of Judge Freeh’s report lies in the governance recommendations he makes to strengthen our University, and that is the necessary focus of the University.

In line with that fact, approximately three months ago, after reading and digesting the Freeh Report, in a letter to you we outlined how the Board would take a disciplined and focused approach to the report’s recommendations.

Virtually all of Judge Freeh’s interim recommendations have been implemented.  And now --- importantly --- we have assigned review of the final recommendations to various joint University and Board committees.  An update on the status of the 119 recommendations made to the University is available on the Progress website located at http://progress.psu.edu/resource-library/story/penn-state-takes-action-on-many-freeh-report-recommendations.  Monthly updates will be provided and you are encouraged to track our progress as we move forward.

The Board is committed to completing the evaluation and implementation of the Freeh recommendations by the end of next year.  And as noted, in the few instances where review and consideration may suggest implementation is not wise or appropriate, we will provide the reasons for non-implementation.

Evaluation and implementation of these recommendations is a complex effort that is being done with resolve, high attention to detail, and thoughtfulness. 

There is no doubt that this effort will add to Penn State’s high reputation.  Clearly we are known as a leading educational institution.  To that well-deserved reputation we will also be known as best in class for university governance.

Management Searches Underway

On other fronts, progress is also visible and concrete.  At the September 14 Board meeting we announced that the nationwide search for our new president would commence this coming month, November.  At that time we will let you know the members of the search committee, the process, and timetable for completion.

We also discussed the formation of the Blue and White Vision Council.   This is a prestigious group of individuals who will identify key strategic challenges and opportunities facing Penn State in the years ahead and assess the implications for the university.  It will focus on what Penn State is today as well as what it can and should be in the future. 

We are very fortunate too to have Dr. Stan Ikenberry, the distinguished former University of Illinois president, and former president of the American Council on Education,  and current senior fellow at Penn State advising the work of the Council.

The Council’s efforts will be an important prerequisite for defining the characteristics and experience we will look for in our next University President.

The search for a new compliance officer is in the final stages. 

Having a director of University compliance will coordinate some 140 distributed compliance personnel, giving us vastly better control and oversight. We are updating other departments as well, including the important areas of human resources and university relations. 

Underway now, with the appointment of vice president and general counsel Steve Dunham, is the enhancement of our legal department. 

As is evident, we are revamping, upgrading and enhancing our management team and our infrastructure.  The investments made to core functions are necessary and will pay solid dividends for the future.

Outreach

Finally, it’s important that you know that we on the Board do understand the frustration of many of our alumni in regards to certain aspects of the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions.   Within that frustration there is constructive thinking that we need and desire to exchange with our alumni. 

We have begun to meet with alumni leadership across the University to further open communications and work collaboratively on the great challenges ahead.

History demonstrates when all shoulders are against the wheel, pushing in the same direction with the same effort, progress is inexorable.

Given that fact, as we listen to each other and work together we too will witness the inevitable and be a key part of such positive momentum.

We as a University are making great progress in our continued development.  But we need to face the facts of what happened here, accept responsibility, make change happen, and then intensify our focus on our most important mission --- education. 

We must do this together.  We Are Penn State.  And we need to be a community focused on our future.

Karen B. Peetz ’77

Chairman, Penn State Board of Trustees