In the era of Graham Spanier, we saw Penn State become a “money making machine”, as opposed to an educational institution. Spanier pushed programs to expand campuses, both physically and through the world wide online campus. Tuition tripled, to the point where it is not unaffordable. Meanwhile, Penn State as an academic institution did not ascend the national rankings in US world report, the university simply got richer. The BOT, and of course the upper administration got richer. In other words, the quality of the education or prestige of the university did not ascend. They essentially began charging private school tuition for a public university. In short, it was: Greed, naked and unabashed GREED.
It was the type of greed that left parents taking second mortgages on their homes in order to send their children to a state school. In fact, when I went to college, the prices were so out of control that University of Georgia out-of-state tuition was less than Penn State Tuition, and the two universities were similarly ranked.
We know that Penn State is image conscience, and commercially conscience. If you need evidence of this, look at the size of Beaver Stadium. Tickets to Beaver Stadium are nearly unaffordable. Penn State took the added measure of criminalizing alcohol at tail gates, meanwhile legalizing the sale of alcohol in their sport’s facilities, charging 12 bucks for a Coors Light.
In the wake of Sandusky the Board of Trustees FIRED Graham Spanier. He certainly had it coming, and I have ZERO doubt there was a cover up employed by Graham Spanier, Gary Shultz and Tom Curley. These men were running Penn State, not as a public institituion, but as a profit. They were the “equifax” executives of the university community. With one of the highest state public schools in the nation, they were rolling in profit and incentives.
Eric Barron was an intentional continuation of that greed laden mentality by a board who also profited (under Spanier) with incentives by the profitability of Penn State.
A general view, in my opinion, is that many universities are focused on this topic as a source of revenue, not as educational experiences for students and opportunities for them to do startups. We have a lot of effort on the student side. The minors have expanded. I think we have six or seven entrepreneurship minors now that are embedded in curriculum for different colleges if you want. Last year, we started having any student with any major to be able to get all the credits equivalent to a minor in business. There’s a lot on that side plus startup weeks and other activities with a scholarship side of it.
One of the first things President Barron did upon assuming office (within the first year of his tenure) he approved a raise for the trustees and they approved raises for him. Ever still concerned with the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal, they catered to their biggest alumni donors. They still continue to cater to their donor base. This is best embodied in Penn State’s unwillingness to address the drinking problems in the Greek organizations, a problem which has tormented local residents for years. The noise, the trash, the alcohol overdoses, the rioting, were all things largely left unaddressed. The wealthy donor base within the Greek organizations meant vastly more to Penn State than did the welfare of the students, or the quality of life by local residents living blocks within the campus grounds. Penn State cared more about money than it did about people.
Eric Barron was not a change of the Spanier administration, it was a sad continuation of it, and remains so.
Finally, we come to Eric Barron, President of Penn State (salary: $1.2 million with incentives). I’m not going to focus on whether Penn State hiring Barron in the wake of his dubious handling of a festering rape scandal at Florida State was odd, or not. And I’m not going to focus on climatologist Barron’s relationship with Koch Brothers funding. Or his conflation of “incredulous” with “incredible”; who among us, etc. No, I’m going to focus on this amazing piece of puffery. From an interview with Barron on “entrepreneurship” and “proactive leadership”:
It was not the many complaints by community residents about the noise and debauchery and litter and rioting that finally compelled Eric Barron to take action against the Greek Community. Instead, it was Penn State being thrust into the national spotlight and having their profit threatened by bad attention in the national news. It was a reputational issue, which boiled down to these corporate fat cats, who were posing as “academic” officers…. It was a reputational threat, which to them equated to a threat on the profitability (and their incentives) that caused Barron to finally take issue.
Eric Barron, former president of the University of Florida, is not from happy valley. He clearly has not had any moral investment in the place where not just Penn State Students lived. With every piece of bad press (and there has been a number since he took office), Barron responds by some piece of distracting news coverage of what he is doing, the launchbox for small businesses, the diversity and inclusion program (clear waste of money and more political press stunts). Penn State’s numbers on percentage of minorities enrolled remains relatively the same as under the Spanier era. It’s all been a bunch of showboating, from an out of towner, intent on lining his own pockets and maintaining the profitability of Penn State. He has no regard for local government, except to appoint David Gray’s (president of PSU finance and business) wife as county administration. It’s an alarming and very inappropriate conflict of interest, to appoint the wife of a PSU executive (who had little qualifications and almost no local ties) as upper level county government administration. It’s time that the county stops bending over backwards to Penn State, if they are not going to take the concerns and comforts of “locals” into consideration while they are shamelessly hell bent on profiting from Pennsylvania tax payers and Pennsylvanians.
What about the unions? Penn State policy is erroding away union rights. The unions are shrinking. Union employees cost too much money. Penn State doesn’t want to pay fair wages. They force the indoctrinated union members to retire early. The unions, which once protected the working force of Penn State, are being intentionally and bureaucraticly phased out.
Penn State started going down hill under Spanier, when they became all about the money. Recently the Pennsylvania Auditor Attorney General made a public recommendation that Penn State shrink the Board of Trustees. Penn State did the opposite. They grew the board of trustees. This tax payer funded university gave the middle finger to Pennsylvania Government. Accumulating money was far more important than raising a new generation of Pennsylvania students, who could contribute to this state. They’d rather make a dollar, than spend another dollar on academically cultivating this next generation of students. They would rather line the pockets of Penn State Executives and the Board of Trustees, then pay a dime for insurance on for the new generation OOP employees and their families to have health insurance. Where does Penn State hire their janitors and labor employees in this day and age? They hire them from from blue collar staffing agencies, pay them as little as possible and pocket the profit. These are not students that I am referring to, these are locals from this community.
I think of new bright eyed students, who are attending Penn State from small broken towns like Scranton or Shamoken. Whose parents have to take second loans on their homes to pay tuition, and these PSU students who graduate with some of the highest national students debts per average nationally, and I wonder, what has Penn State done with for these kids and their family.
And for that matter, what has Penn State done recently for this community?
The Board of Trustees, in the past year, started refusing to broadcast public commentary at their public meetings. They didn’t like the complaints, it was – again – a blow to their reputation and profitability. These “public meetings” by board members, paid by public tax payers are now censored.
Eric Barron is one of the worst things that happened to Penn State after Sandusky, he is not from this era, and he has continued on the corporate minded policies of profit gaining that came from the era of Sandusky, without improving the quality of academics.
And also like the Gricar era, or the end of the Gricar era: Under Barron, we continue to see scandal after scandal. The embarrassing and preventable shameful activities and good name of our hometown spread across the news.
While he makes over $16,000 a week, families mortgage their homes and kids take out loans, all to send their kids to a public school. And Penn State janitors make minimum wage, while Penn State professors in the academic field get “laid off” to save money. The residents see scandal after scandal, watching the good name of State College, spread across national news with each new scandal.
Eric Barron is not “leadership,” he’s much of the same crap we’ve been seeing in the past three decades. Send this crocodile back to the gator filled Florida bayous, and get someone competent and academically focused to replace him. Fire 75% of the Board of Trustees. Penn State is not Comcast or Verizon or Equifax, this is an academic institution. As Joe Paterno always emphasized: Academics and Athletics. When did it become so much about money and greed, with the utterly shameless disregard of everything else?
It’s not all about image, I’m asking, what is Penn State doing for this community, for the students, or for you – in whatever category you might fall.
And as for Barron’s credentials? They come into question. He was up in the middle of a rape scandal while President of University of Florida….. How did he handle it? He swept it under the rug……. Sounds like typical Penn State, except now it’s a gator in Lion Country. Welcome to the new swamp.