STATE COLLEGE - Members of Penn State's Board of Trustees have started meeting with student and other university groups as part of what board leaders say are efforts to improve communications and transparency.
The university said in a statement released this weekend that board members met with students, faculty, staff and alumni last week. Chairwoman Karen Peetz had announced after taking over as the board's new leader last month that trustees would hold such gatherings.
"The meetings are part of our continuing listening efforts, in particular for the new leadership," Peetz said in the statement. "The information we are gathering is critical to formulating our plans for the future."
The Staff Advisory Council was one of the groups that met with trustees, and chairwoman Ginny Hosterman said council members shared concerns while trustees told them of upcoming plans. Hosterman said details of the discussions were private.
"It went well, they listened to us, and we felt good about the conversations with them," she said Monday in a phone interview.
Trustees have been criticized by some alumni for their actions in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, including the firing of the late Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno days after Sandusky was charged in November.
The group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship has called for "transparent, trustworthy and moral leadership" in elections this spring for three alumni seats on the 32-member board.
The group announced Monday in a statement it was also forming a "Legal and Regulatory Task Force" to research issues connected with board decisions, as well as to study and recommend changes to the makeup and operation of the board. The task force would operate independently of the university, its alumni association and trustees, while seeking cooperation from the board, the statement said.
The group, which said it has more than 5,000 members, has endorsed three candidates for the trustees election. The race is expected to draw potentially two dozen or more total candidates, though a list of names wasn't expected to be released by the school for nearly two weeks, at least, while qualifications are vetted.
The nomination deadline was Saturday, while supporting materials for potential candidates are due Wednesday. Alumni elect nine members of the board, with three seats up each year.
Retired school teacher Anne Riley said last week she plans to run for re-election, though the other two trustees whose terms are expiring are not running.
David Jones, a former newspaper editor, said he decided two years ago to limit his board tenure to 15 years, which would be in June. David Joyner is leaving the board because he is now the school's Acting Athletic Director.
The names of candidates will be announced at the board's next meeting, March 16, in Hershey. A link to the election voting site containing the ballot and candidate statements is scheduled to be emailed to alumni by April 10, with ballots due by May 3. The winners are typically announced at the board meeting in mid-May.