Trustee candidate Joanne C. DiRinaldo, an educator and researcher, said this week the board has shown “from my eyes, incremental baby steps. I would like to see more drastic attempts with transparency.”
She suggested potential changes in bylaws that govern rules of confidentiality of dissent on the board, and to open up trustees meeting to public participation.
Unlike other vocal critics on social media, DiRinaldo said she does not favor the entire resignation of the board because she could not judge how they made their decisions behind closed doors. “I will say they arrived at their decision hastily and without due process.”
Written by Jeff Frantz, Harrisburg Patriot News
Welcome to the political science experiment that is the Penn State board of trustees election.
Will there be a few thousand voters or half a million?
No one knows.
Will those voters know more than a handful of the 86 candidates or what they stand for?
Flip a coin.
Does the record number of candidates mean alumni angered by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal will turn out in droves? Or will the passing months, and new board leadership, be enough for alumni to once again become complacent observers of the university?
No one is sure what will happen April 10 when alumni begin voting for three of the 32 seats on Penn State’s board.
Individual candidates — and groups of candidates — have been working tirelessly since December to win a spot on a board that is increasingly questioned about its power structure and transparency. They’ve started websites and held meet-and-greets. They’ve raised questions about one another’s fitness to serve.
One candidate even aired a TV commercial.
One group endorsing candidates — Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship — and one group of candidates — Penn State Alumni Trustee-Choice — established themselves early. Both strongly support the Paterno family. Their names come up repeatedly among the most-likely voters.
How much of an advantage is that really?
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship’s Facebook page has less than 4,600 friends. The three Penn State Alumni Trustee-Choice candidates with dedicated campaign Facebook pages each have less than 100 people “liking” them.
More than 100,000 Penn State alumni association members automatically will receive ballots, and any nonmember alumni can request one. Everyone guesses there will be more votes than in recent elections, when around 10,000 alumni cast ballots, but nobody knows how many more.
How much support will a candidate really need?
Maybe less than you think, said Christopher Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg and a Penn State graduate.
“As much as [alumni] are invested, it’s still not going to probably be the type of turnout where a majority of alumni cast ballots,” Borick said.
Voting advocates are thrilled when they get 50 percent turnout for a presidential election, Borick said. Alumni traditionally ignore the trustee election. Anything close to 50 percent turnout would be a surprise, he said.
If the votes get spread out across the field, a candidate could win with a relatively low percentage of voters.
Alumni probably will scan the daunting list of names for people they know, Borick said, and then people they recognize. If they haven’t picked their three candidates yet, they’ll look for people who graduated in the same year, people who live in the same area or work in the same field. If trends from traditional elections hold, some women will want to pick a woman candidate, Borick said.
Name recognition will be huge. If a candidate isn’t well known for something such as playing football for Paterno, his or her best bet is probably to join a group.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship formed as a group of alumni who wanted to change the board but focused their public rhetoric around Paterno’s firing. More than 50 people asked for the group’s endorsement. The three people it ultimately backed all wrote about the need to apologize to the Paterno family in their official position statements. One of them, Anthony Lubrano, has traveled the state with Franco Harris demanding justice for the legendary coach.
They enjoy a first-mover advantage in claiming to be the most righteous Paterno defenders on the ballot.
Could it backfire?
The majority of candidates focused their position papers on keeping Penn State affordable while restoring its worldwide brand as an elite university. With another state-funding debate looming in Harrisburg and the current board having discussed a private-school model with Cornell, might alumni be more focused on what’s next?
Perhaps, Borick said. But who knows if those people will show up?
The alumni focused on Paterno? They could be the all-important base.
“I can’t only talk about [Paterno], but I certainly make that the focus of my outreach efforts,” Borick said. “If you want to reach out to the masses, and those masses were engaged because of this issue, your sales pitch on it is crucial.”
The Paterno issue has caused some friction among the candidates.
“He was a fabulous football coach, and he did fabulous things for Penn State,” candidate Jayne Miller said. “For that to be the sole issue for someone to get on the board of trustees — if anything, it misses the point of what this university faces.”
More than 50 people asked for Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship’s endorsement. More than 20 of those endorsement seekers ran even after they were passed over.
They complain that the group now censors its Facebook page, and tries to control information such as the current trustees. The group counters that it is simply promoting its message.
Getting good information has been an issue. Penn State did not let the candidates include a website with their 250-word biography or position statement. The student radio station has interviewed some candidates and streams those sessions online.
Penn State now is hosting a meet-and-greet for candidates during Blue-White weekend, when thousands of alumni return to campus for the spring football game. But with the event being held in the center of campus, a decent walk from the stadium, turnout is uncertain.
The alumni association also has asked each candidate to answer three questions. It will post the answers on its website the day before voting begins. None of the questions address the board’s handling of the Sandusky investigation or the ensuing scandal.
Nikos Phelps, the president of the Harrisburg Chapter of the alumni association, said alumni seem interested to him but aren’t sure how they will approach the ballot.
“I think [turnout] will be half-decent,” Phelps said. “The question is, with that many candidates, is it feasible for anyone to do their homework?”
Voting will continue until May 3.
What’s next for the 84 losers? For many, May 4 is the beginning of campaign 2013.
“It will show who’s committed to the cause,” candidate Marlene “Myke” Atwater Triebold said.
Maybe by then, we might have a better idea how this experiment works
ballot links are provided automatically to alumni (with email addresses on file) who are members of the Penn State Alumni Association, have held membership within the past two years, or have contributed to the University within the past two years.
Additionally, any alum is eligible and encouraged to participate. All they would need to do is email BOT@psu.edu and provide the following:
1. Full Name
2. Year of Graduation
4. Current Home mailing address
If alums submit this information by Thursday, March 29, we can add them to the list of those individuals receiving a ballot link on April 10. Any requests received after March 29 will be processed after April 10. Alums can request to participate until May 2, close of business (5 pm). However, it is advisable for alums to submit their request as early as possible in order to participate.
“The Paterno family is surprised and saddened that the Board of Trustees believes it is necessary and appropriate to explain — for the fourth or fifth time — why they fired Joe Paterno so suddenly and unjustifiably on Nov 9, 2011.
“The latest statement is yet another attempt by the Board to deflect criticism of their leadership by trying to focus the blame on Joe Paterno. This is not fair to Joe’s legacy; it is not consistent with the facts; and it does not serve the best interests of the university. The board’s latest statement reaffirms that they did not conduct a thorough investigation of their own and engaged in a rush to judgment.
“At various times, university officials have said that they fired Joe Paterno. At other times they have said they didn’t fire him. They have simultaneously accused him of moral and leadership failures, and praised him for the high standards he set for the university.
“The tough questions that have yet to be addressed relate not to Joe Paterno, but to the board. Two months ago, as Joe Paterno was dying, the board conducted a series of media interviews condemning him for ‘moral’ failures. Now they are trying a different tack and accusing him of ‘leadership’ failures. The question we would ask is simply this, when will the board step up and acknowledge that the ultimate responsibility for this crisis is theirs? Everyone who cares about Penn State is longing for strong, courageous, honest leadership. Today’s statement is anything but that.”
So now they say that Paterno was fired because of a “failure to lead?” I wonder how many former football players and other alumni feel that Paterno was not an adequate leader–He is the best example of a leader in the history of Penn State University. The current Board of Trustees must go–and not three at a time. Replace, Restructure, Renew. Shame on them for their sorry attempt to give the alumni a “reason” for the firing of a legendary leader, educator, coach, and humanitarian. Shame, shame, shame.
Weekly Topic – Why are you running? And love of the University is not enough as we all love the University.
Sam Zamrik Ph.D., 1961, 1965 (http://samyzamrik.com/) – Well, I could not simply stand by and see what’s happening to Penn State‘s reputation and the action of the board, the disgraceful scandal, and the media that tried to destroy the institution that I have spent 40 years of my life serving. I am advocating structure change in the charter’s board membership so we can have an adequate alumni representation to institute transparency and open communication. Public trust and confidence must be restored in Penn State’s leadership.
Joanne C DiRinaldo, EdD, 1978 (http://www.joannedirinaldo.com/). – As an advisory board member at Penn State New Kensington campus, there is gap in the communication and streamlining of collaborative efforts with University Park. Commitment to student growth and economic development across the entire university is essential. I would be honored to serve my alumni constituents knowing they have my utmost dedication to protect and maintain their welfare while carrying out the university mission.
Myke Triebold, 1972 (http://pennstatetrustee.com/) – I believe as a trustee I would be able to examine and work on changing the bylaws, policies, and procedures that resulted in the debacle of a scandalous 2011. Structural changes in the board need to be made to create different representation, accountability, and openness for decision making regarding the future of Penn State, especially in regards to university fiscal policies, relationships with Harrisburg legislators, and our reputation outside of Happy Valley.
Scott Munroe, 1998 (http://www.facebook.com/scott.k.munroe)- I am running because we have a clearly broken system, which is evident in the issues surrounding the Sandusky trial, but also exists in our overall culture of administration, values, and the decision making process. We need to reestablish institutional self-control and the need to follow good planning practices that maximize the value of existing resources instead of acting as enablers by supporting a building boom while existing space goes underutilized and tuition becomes the most expensive in the nation for a public university. We must do this while changing the Board of Trustees from a group that is interested in the prestige, money and power of a closed group, with a lack of leadership to one that is responsive and hold dear the values of being a Penn State Alumni, and the lives of innocents.
Scott Fozard, 1989 (http://www.Fozard4BOT.com) – The way that everything regarding the Sandusky scandal has been handled to this point shows a complete lack of leadership and vision at the highest levels within Penn State. I would like to help transform the BOT as an “outsider” as I am not a money and power player who will likely end up supporting the established group-think mentality of those current money and power players now in control. My role will be to help fill our leadership void by contributing strong character, unwavering ethics and true vision…not just money for facilities and / or padded resumes.
The key to success in this election, said Scott Munroe, will be to show alumni you are not a one-issue candidate. “We’re going to have to push beyond just re-organizing the board and investigating Sandusky,” Munroe said. “We pretty much all agree on that.” That means rebuilding the connection between the state and the university. Joanne DiRinaldo, who already sits on the board of Penn State’s New Kensington campus, wants to improve communication for the branch campuses. Some of these candidates have aligned themselves with groups like Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship or Penn State Alumni Trust Choice, (Scott Munroe, Scott Fozard, Sam Y Zamrik, Joanne DiRinaldo, and Myke Atwater Triebold). Others are running on their own. Wednesday’s drawing was a chance for many of these people to meet for the first time. The mood was collegial, though Anne Riley, the only incumbent alumni trustee running for re-election, did not attend. At least fifteen candidates are attorneys, and seven work in finance. Eight candidates live in the State College area. Thirty-four live outside Pennsylvania.
PSAT-Choice has learned that Mike Ceres has had a change of plans and will not be running for the board of trustees during this election cycle.
The Penn State Alumni Trust-Choice, a self-formed group comprising six candidates vying for the three alumni trustee seats up for election this spring, also are advocating a reorganization of the board’s structure.
They want to see the board transform itself to be transparent and responsive to all. The candidates comprising this group are accountant Scott Fozard, Penn State professor emeritus Sam Zamrik, pharmaceutical and biotech industry executive Joanne DiRinaldo, real estate consultant Myke Triebold, and landscape architect Scott Munroe.
Additionally, a group called PSU Alumni for Reorganization of the Board of Trustees is researching other land-grant universities‘ structure to identify reforms that it would like to see be implemented at Penn State. Members of Penn State’s Faculty Senate also have expressed an interest in exploring university governance reforms as well.