By Penn State's commencement week in May, alumni will have voted for representatives to fill three seats on the Board of Trustees, but there are enough names on the ballot to fill almost three entire Penn State boards.
With 86 candidates announced in February - crushing the past record of 12 candidates - alumni across the country have shown their disapproval of the trustees' oversight of child sex abuse allegations against former coach Jerry Sandusky.
"I think 86 candidates [for the election] sends a clear message to them that Penn Staters aren't going to tolerate business as usual," candidate Rob Bowsher, an accountant from San Diego, said.
Alumni trustees are elected by their peers, three each year for three-year terms. Ballots for this year's election will be available online from April 10 to May 3.
The rift between trustees and alumni widened with the board's latest statement early last week on one of the sources of criticism - the board's removal of football coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier on Nov. 9.
"I continue to read comments on Paterno and Spanier. But the Board of Trustees are responsible for the university - they can't pass the buck off on someone else," Harrisburg lawyer and board candidate Casey Coyle said.
The board's statement cited lack of leadership as reasons for removing Spanier and Paterno.
"We determined on Nov. 9 that Dr. Spanier should be removed because he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities to the Board and took insufficient action after learning of a 2002 incident involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in a Penn State facility. This failure of leadership included insufficiently informing the Board about his knowledge of the 2002 incident," the statement reads.
Critics, including Bowsher and Coyle, said the board should have asked questions of Spanier, who testified before the grand jury, and should have read articles published in newspapers about the grand jury investigation of Sandusky.
"I find it hard to believe that no one was aware of the situation," said Bowsher. "I can't get away with that at work. I have to speak up."
But if the board's being in the dark stemmed from having to wait for Spanier to tell them that Sandusky had allegedly abused children in the football building, then the board's structure has to change, Bowsher said.
Coyle has a reform plan that would introduce sweeping changes to the university's charter, bylaws and standing orders.
"With only nine of the 32 trustees voted in by alumni, the board is set up to be non-responsive to the community as a whole," Coyle said.
His plan includes twice as many alumni on the board. He would also add a 30-minute public discussion period during board meetings and prohibit a trustee from being hired as a Penn State employee for three years from the end of his or her term.
Coyle wants to see the board reduced from 32 to 29 members. That is still larger than the next-largest Big Ten board, the Ohio State University, which has 19 members. Most of them are governor-appointed.
Coyle's plan would reduce the number of trustees appointed by the governor, the state's agricultural societies and Board of Trustees representing business and industry, with three members instead of six from each category.
Coyle said he couldn't fathom how board members can lead with such disapproval from the Penn State community.
"I haven't found a single member of Penn State who has given a vote of confidence to the board," he said.
Board member Keith Eckel told Mirror reporters during the January trustees' meeting: "Leaders should never lead by polls, but always do what they believe is right."
Eckel told The Associated Press on Monday that the March 12 statement about Paterno and Spanier's removal was a last attempt to help people understand the board's reasons for the decision, and people are welcome to agree or disagree with the board.
Eckel did not comment about the board not being informed of the scandal prior to Nov. 5.
"I don't have any comment on that. Not until the investigation [conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh] is complete," he said.
That investigation may be completed by the start of the next school year, but Coyle is skeptical of the board's stated openness toward reforming the board. He cited the board's Sunshine Act violations the night they removed Spanier and Paterno on a private telephone conference call as reason to believe the board won't restructure the board to be open.
Board members were criticized this month for possibly violating sunshine laws, the Patriot News reported, by meeting privately to discuss their plan to increase board standing committees from three to five.
"It is unfortunate because I believe they care about Penn State, but Penn State as a whole is upset with the entire board," Coyle said."They put out this notion that they are not culpable for any of this, that Spanier and Paterno are to blame."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.