Update from Chairman Peetz - September 6, 2012

Enthusiasm, optimism and pride were much in evidence on all our campuses as the Fall semester got underway these last several days. Even as a not-too-recent graduate, I strongly felt those positive emotions.  I coupled those feelings with the knowledge of our shared values and the hard work of so many, all for the benefit of our great University.

In late August your Board of Trustees met for a special weekend of meetings.  As many of you know, in line with our strong belief in the value of transparency, these meetings were available to the public, either in person or via the Internet.

Opening those sessions with four words synonymous with heritage, achievement, leadership and responsibility ---“We are Penn State” --- I explained how Penn State is a place where our ambitious, intelligent students prepare for the future; where our researchers and faculty find solutions to the world’s most vexing challenges; where our staff take great pride in their work; where our student athletes excel in the classroom and the playing field; and where the passion and commitment of our alumni are unsurpassed

We also discussed how, as a University, we are accepting the consequences of failure and remedying any wrongs, but also not losing sight of our outstanding heritage. I concluded that after all is said and done, in the final analysis, “We are all Penn State.”

[Read or View Chairman Peetz’s remarks.]

We discussed many important items, including the timeline for our upcoming presidential search and how we, as a representative board, can best serve the Penn State community and chart a course of continuous improvement for our great University. 

But how the University moves forward in accepting accountability for these tragic events was, necessarily, the primary focus of the weekend.

As a group, the Board of Trustees sees accountability as more than acknowledging and apologizing for the past; or investigating the entirety of what happened on our campus.  Accountability is initiating concrete and measurable change to ensure, with as much certainty as humanly possible, something like this never happens again.

We have already implemented a number of the initial recommendations presented to us earlier this year by Judge Freeh.  Some in fact have already been substantially completed.  Working in close coordination with President Erickson and his team, we are also assessing the final recommendations and considering paths to implementation.  Towards that end, each of the 119 recommendations of the Freeh Report was assigned to a team of University leaders who will develop specific implementation plans.  These plans will be reviewed by the Board before and after they are implemented. 

Clearly, these are lightning rod issues, sometimes dividing us just at a time when we need to come together.  The Board of Trustees recognizes --- and appreciates --- the complex and often contradictory emotions we all feel and the beliefs we all have about the Freeh report, the NCAA sanctions, and all the other issues emanating from these past events.

That is why several points Professor Larry Backer, chair of our Faculty Senate, made in his opening remarks to their meeting on August 28 especially resonated with me, and hopefully will resonate with all Penn Staters.

First, and in my opinion, most important, Professor Backer said we all must remain extremely sensitive to the real pain the Sandusky scandal has caused to real people. 

Second, he recognized the value of open discussion, and even disagreement, which I personally believe is part of the fabric of our democratic heritage and a foundation of what we, as Penn Staters, believe and value.

And finally, Professor Backer said “the present situation dictates a determined focus on the complex job of comprehensive reform and reconstruction…and that the University is committed to this path—from our Board of Trustees to our senior administrators, to this Senate…

I could not agree more, and welcome this type of responsible discussion, and appreciate the value in considering differing points-of-view.

Such discussion is a critical part of our broad effort to communicate more directly, frequently and openly about everything we, as a University, do.  We value the opinions and perspectives of all Penn Staters, which is why we will continue to ensure future Board meetings are easily accessible.  And regular updates about our progress are posted on the Progress website, as well.

I continue to be inspired by the enthusiasm and passion of the Penn State family. They are committed, as is our Board, to continuing the important work of being not just a leading public university, but also the best university in the nation – a leader in teaching, research and service.

Karen B. Peetz ’77

Chairman, Penn State Board of Trustees