Penn?State trustees approve borrowing $750 million

STATE COLLEGE – Penn State’s board of trustees approved $750 million in new borrowing for capital improvements Friday at a relatively low-key meeting that was countered by protesters who remain unhappy with the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

Inside the university-owned Penn Stater hotel, the trustees capped their nearly three-hour meeting with a review that showed the school has implemented nearly all of the more than 100 reforms recommended last year in a scathing report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

“Now is not the time for Penn State to rest on its laurels. … We cannot allow backsliding,” David Gray, the university’s senior vice president for finance and business, told the board.

The mood outside the hotel was markedly different.

About 200 demonstrators chanted, called for the trustees’ resignation and carried signs supporting late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who the university-commissioned report said helped cover up Sandusky’s abuse of boys.

“We will not be worn down!” vowed Robert Jubelirer, a former state Senate president pro tempore who is running for a seat on the trustees’ board, told the protesters.

Former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers football star Franco Harris, who has been a vocal critic of the allegations against Paterno, was also among the protesters.

Harris partially blocked the path of a shuttle van that was picking up people from the hotel as the trustees’ meeting broke up, forcing the driver to go over the curb to get by, while others protesters taunted the passengers. It was not clear if any trustees were in the van, however.

The borrowing package, which will help finance a five-year capital plan, includes $30 million to help the university’s cash-strapped athletic department cover the cost of NCAA sanctions imposed because of the scandal.

The trustees also approved the university’s plan to seek a state appropriation of $300 million in the 2014-15 budget, an increase of about five percent from this year.