The Penn State board of trustees has been a sometimes contentious body in recent years.
There has been bickering, split votes, harsh words during debates and even lawsuits from opposing factions.
But is it mean?
One trustee said so Thursday.
The committee on governance and long-range planning was discussing a measure that has been on the table for a couple of meetings. The proposal would tweak the official language about what the university would and would not reimburse a trustee for spending.
Travel? Yes. Legal fees? Maybe. Legal fees because you sued the board? No.
Alumni-elected trustee Alice Pope said the policy was reactionary. Pope is one of seven trustees who sued the university for access to the source materials for the Freeh report, the product of the Penn State-commissioned investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The seven members have asked the board repeatedly to reopen the investigation. When that failed, they asked to have access. They were told no. The situation escalated to court.
The trustees then asked a court to make sure they had their legal fees paid, claiming they took the action to be able to do their jobs as members of the board. In June, a stipulation was filed in Centre County court saying the university had “satisfied its obligation” to pay the fee.
In July, the board had a lengthy discussion about the issue, with some board members and lawyers on one side saying the system is built on the idea that everyone pays their own fees. On the other side, board members argued that was unfair against an organization as large as Penn State.
Pope renewed that objection Thursday, saying the move seemed “mean-spirited.”
“In effect, this means only wealthy trustees will be able to do this,” she said. “I’m a volunteer. Should I be forced to sell my house to pursue my rights and responsibility?”
The measure will not be voted on by the full board until November, but it passed committee with just one no vote. That came from Barbara Doran, another of the seven plaintiffs in the suit.