Stanley Ikenberry can't seem to get away from scandals involving university boards.
Two scandals within three years.
Ikenberry served as interim president of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign following an admissions scandal in 2009 in which well-connected students received extra consideration for acceptance.
Then in November, after Ikenberry moved to a research role with Penn State, where he formerly served as senior vice president for a stint in the '70s, the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal rocked the university.
In Illinois, the solution was ultimately a clean wash. Gov. Pat Quinn removed all trustees from the board.
"Penn State's case is quite different," Ikenberry, professor and senior scientist at the Penn State Center for the Study of Higher Education, told the Mirror.
But the scandals at the Big Ten schools have some similarities.
In both cases, the governor is a member of the board but only takes a voting measure in times of crisis.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has maintained he and the board were justified in removing Joe Paterno, The Associated Press reported last week.
But the board's failure was in the oversight leading up to dismissing Paterno and Spanier, Penn State community members including alumni said.
"They want to be absolved of their lack of preparedness," alumnus Anthony Lubrano said. "They said they weren't told enough. They should have asked questions."
Critics including Lubrano said the board should have questioned Spanier and university legal counsel Cynthia Baldwin when they downplayed the grand jury investigation of Sandusky. Spanier and then-Penn State administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley were called to testify before that grand jury.
Baldwin's representation of Schultz, Curley and the university clouds the case from a legal standpoint, the Patriot-News reported in February.
Before he was elected governor, Corbett headed the case as attorney general. The Patriot-News reported in November that Corbett attempted to show the board a March 2011 Patriot-News article outlining the scope of the Sandusky probe.
"This is an interesting story. Is anybody looking at this?" the paper reported that he asked the board.
Corbett supported removing Spanier and Paterno, but during a Feb. 29 visit to Altoona to promote his budget proposal, he declined to answer whether he considered urging board members to step down as Quinn did in Illinois.
"I'm waiting to receive the independent investigation report from Louis Freeh before these decisions are made to remove trustees. That's fair," Corbett said.
But unlike the Illinois situation where the governor appoints all trustees, Corbett does not have direct power over all members of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
The 32-member board is comprised of:
n Five trustees serving in an ex officio capacity by virtue of their position within the university or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
n Six trustees appointed by the governor
n Nine trustees elected by the alumni
n Six trustees elected by organized agricultural societies within the commonwealth
n Six trustees elected by the board, representing business and industry endeavors.
Ikenberry said he has frequently pointed to Penn State's board as an exemplary structure for a university.
"Penn State is a well-structured board. It brings a lot of interests together - so it is not captive to any one interest - not captive of the governor, industry or alumni," he said.
Criticism of the board resulted in a record 86 alumni candidates vying for the three board seats this year. Three alumni members are elected each year for three-year terms.
In a congratulatory email from California candidate Rob Bowsher to candidate Anthony Lubrano of Philadelphia following the Feb. 29 candidate announcements, Bowsher added a note: "My parents are on the Board of Directors for the University of Illinois president's Council. They told me about a recent scandal there that resulted in the entire Board of Trustees being dismissed by the Governor of Illinois ..."
Neither candidate was sure of how similar or different the Illinois and Penn State scandals might be, but the thought of a new board appeals to Lubrano, who is a critic of the board placing blame on Paterno while deflecting attention from its governance and mistakes.
"For me, the only way to have confidence in the board is if all were replaced. I have no confidence in their leadership or governance," Lubrano said.
Corbett might not directly have power to remove all trustees, but in situations where board members have no one to be held accountable to, the Legislature would have the power to remove an appearance of impropriety, said an education policy analyst.
"I think in that situation you would have to see elected officials using their power of influence and other impacts to urge trustees to step down," said Matt Smith, education policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States, an interstate compact facilitating exchange of information among state policymakers and education leaders.
Corbett, himself, is not free from questions of his ethics. The Patriot-News reported that he accepted more than $25,000 in campaign contributions from board members of Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile, during his gubernatorial campaign last year while the grand jury investigation of Sandusky was under way.
Corbett also approved a $3 million grant to The Second Mile in July - three years after his grand jury investigation of Sandusky began. But letters from the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget state the grant was canceled at the request of Second Mile vice chair and Centre County commissioners in the aftermath of Sandusky's November arrest.
Ikenberry conceded that the governor always has the power of the "bully pulpit" over the board but disagreed with Corbett stepping up to it.
"In Illinois, there was a problem of admissions that originated in the board and upper level administration," Ikenberry said. "Penn State's board had nothing to do with the initial tragedy [Sandusky's alleged actions]. It had nothing to do with Joe Paterno, administrators or the board."
But all of those people have been affected by the case against Sandusky, who faces trial for 52 counts of alleged child sex abuse against 10 children. Five of the alleged victims reportedly were abused in the Lasch building on campus.
It is easy to question the board when it is dealing with an unprecedented situation, Ikenberry said. For a board as large as Penn State's, it is natural for that board to rely more on an executive board or, in Penn State's case, the university president, he said.
"The governor urging trustees to step down would be a tragedy for Penn State and inflict even more pain and shame on the university that has been through a lot," Ikenberry said. "I think Penn State's board is still a good example of structure. But a 32-member board has to work hard to keep everyone informed."
Ikenberry, who was instrumental in recommending Penn State to the Big Ten more than 20 years ago, said he is hopeful that PSU will be able to share one similarity with the Illinois scandal - an ability to heal quickly.
"Universities have the capability to heal. Illinois healed rather quickly," he said. "Hopefully, Penn State will do the same."