Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Response to President Barron's letter of May 5

Dear President Barron,
cc: Penn State Trustees, alumni networking

I read your letter at http://news.psu.edu/story/356242/2015/05/05/administration/letter-penn-state-president-eric-barron. While I do not have enough information to respond to your assertion that the alumni Trustees’ lawsuit to compel disclosure of the identities of Business & Industry Trustee candidates was unnecessary, your remark about “confidentiality is a standard practice among non-profits to ensure that high-caliber candidates apply” is a sick joke given the nature of the candidates who were appointed during the past several years.

(1)   The B&I faction reappointed Karen Peetz, whose incompetence and violation of the Board’s Standing Orders (more about this below in light of your remark about “expectations of membership”) gave the NCAA an excuse to levy its illegitimate sanctions against Penn State. Peetz’s (more likely than not) defamation of Graham Spanier resulted in a well-justified libel suit against Penn State. Mr. Masser’s and Mr. Frazier’s deposition in the Corman-NCAA lawsuit also showed that Ms. Peetz not only scapegoated Joe Paterno in November 2011 but then, along with the rest of her Board colleagues, lied about it in March 2012 when the Board said Paterno was fired for failure of leadership. Somebody who lies to and on behalf of an organization to which she owes a fiduciary duty is ethically capable of lying to her stockholders, employees, customers, and suppliers, and nobody who scapegoats any employee is fit for any position of supervisory responsibility. I hope this is not your perception of a “high caliber candidate.”
(2)   The B&I faction reappointed Kenneth Frazier, who also exposed Penn State to a lawsuit with his remarks about Graham Spanier, and lectured an alumnus in Sharptonese (the kind of language used by Al Sharpton to describe people whose skin color differs from his own) in March 2013. Frazier, like Peetz, scapegoated Joe Paterno and then lied about the circumstances to and on behalf of the organization to which he owed a fiduciary duty.
(3)   The B&I faction’s other recent appointees all supported the Board’s willful dereliction of fiduciary duty in failing to contest the NCAA sanctions (the opinion of the Commonwealth Court in April 2014) and subordination of Penn State’s interests to personal agendas as opined by State Senator John Yudichak.

You then go on to say,

“Second, as President, I am very concerned about your approach to confidentiality and to your fiduciary responsibilities. We have a growing number of failures to abide by the Board’s Expectations of Membership, even when the potential for serious financial harm to the University is evident.” Now I need to be very blunt with you about the Expectations of Membership, and your responsibility as a leader to support uniform standards of behavior.

(1)   When Karen Peetz violated the Expectations of Membership by affirming the Freeh Report on behalf of the Board of Trustees, but without a vote by said Board, your voice was conspicuously absent despite the financial harm Ms. Peetz caused the University. I know you were not then President of Penn State, but you remained silent about this after you took office.
(2)   When one of your subordinates lied to the Legislature (doubtlessly per direction of one or more Trustees in violation of the Expectations of Membership) about the Board opposing certain legislation, your voice was conspicuously absent.
(3)   When one or more Trustees misused Penn State communication resources to intimidate and defame alumni Trustees with false public accusations of conflicts of interest, your voice was conspicuously absent. (Again, I recognize that you took office later, but I cannot identify any corrective action you took with regard to this misuse not only of Penn State communication resources, but also Penn State’s name.)
(4)   When Paul Suhey directed Rodney Erickson to remove the Paterno statue, your voice was conspicuously absent after you became President.
(5)   When Keith Masser and his faction paid out Penn State money to Sandusky victims in whose injuries Penn State played no apparent role, your voice was conspicuously absent.
(6)   When Keith Masser and his faction sabotaged efforts to overturn the illegitimate NCAA sanctions, thus placing a cover-up of their own dishonesty and incompetence ahead of the financial interests of Penn State, your voice was conspicuously absent.

Nobody heard what you had to say about those failures to abide by the expectations of membership regardless of financial harm to Penn State, so I do not see why I or any other member of the alumni community should hear what you have to say on that issue now.

I encourage you seriously to think about your actions as a leader, because you are rapidly losing credibility. Your presentation on how to reduce college costs (July 2014 Board meeting) impressed me very favorably, and I even contacted my state representative, with whom I have a very good working relationship, on how to apply your ideas to the public school system so people could finish with associate’s degrees at age 18. Then, however, you tried to impress the students by joining them with the “hands up” demonstration without apparently realizing that you were implying that a law enforcement officer shot a suspect who had put up his hands. I know this was not your intention, but you clearly did not think it through. Your letter of May 5 demolishes your credibility because of your failure to similarly criticize far worse breaches of the Expectations of Membership by the Board’s controlling majority.

Penn State deserved a lot better from Rodney Erickson, but he deserved better from Karen Peetz, Kenneth Frazier, Keith Eckel, and Keith Masser. Please do not let the remaining 11/9/2011 holdovers do to your Presidency what they did to Rodney Erickson’s.


William A. Levinson, B.S. ‘78

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