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Monday, July 16, 2012

Boards of Trustees Irony

Penn State's Board of Trustees took a minor beating in the Freeh Report last week, criticized for failing to exercise oversight and to have in place procedures for gathering information from university officials, especially the President and General Counsel. This was tempered somewhat by the much sharper criticism of former President Graham Spanier for failing to keep the Board informed; Spanier is the real bad guy, so the Board's misdeeds are somewhat mitigated. The point is that Board is the potential white knight--had the Board known, it would have done s0mething at least in 2001 and perhaps in 1998 and many of these problems (and perhaps the further assaults of children) would have been avoided. In other words, the narrative  is we needed more active involvement by the Board of Trustees, which should have done more to check the President and to run the university.

Wait. Wasn't the narrative  of the University of Virginia mess (less than a month ago) that the Board of Visitors was meddling and interfering with the school's academic mission and that they should leave  Teresa Sullivan alone to run the school and not impose their anti-intellectual vision on the university?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 16, 2012 at 01:25 AM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


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One Board was criticized for aggressively moving to terminate some parts of the liberal arts curriculum on the campus. The other was criticized for failing to aggressively move to terminate the child rape program on the campus. Yeah, basically the same thing.

Posted by: arthur | Jul 16, 2012 1:58:00 PM

Howard, isn't it possible to clearly distinguish the two? In one case, the Board was intervening quickly over matters of academic policy delegated to the President; in the other, the Board would have been intervening quickly over allegations of criminal wrongdoing by top university officials, possibly including the President. The decision on whether or not to commit crimes or report crimes to the police is not in the President's core areas of discretion delegated by the Board.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Jul 16, 2012 10:53:08 AM

No. The narrative at Virginia was that the BOV should not have intervened to do things that made no sense. The comparison does not work. It would make perfect sense to have had policies in place to prevent child rape. Everyone would applaud that,right? It makes no sense to have a Board speak of wasting the reputation and heritage of a great university on dubious educational adventures.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 16, 2012 7:47:27 AM

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