HARRISBURG — Penn State University trustees Wednesday announced a special meeting, apparently for the purpose of voting on a new president, only to call it off a few hours later.
In a legal notice, the board said the purpose of Friday’s special meeting was to consider a resolution on “a personnel matter.” The board’s website says it is responsible for only one position at the university — the presidency.
In abruptly postponing the meeting later in the day, the board said only that the indefinite delay was necessary “to allow for further consideration on the matter.”
It also scrapped a private meeting of the trustees tonight, but they still planned to meet behind closed doors on Friday morning.
No names of prospective presidential candidates had been confirmed as of Wednesday.
A committee of 12 trustees has been working with an executive headhunter firm for months to choose a successor to President Rodney Erickson, who was thrust into the job amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Erickson plans to retire by June.
Karen Peetz, head of the presidential search committee, and board chairman Keith Masser did not respond to emails seeking an explanation for the abrupt change of plans.
One trustee complained Wednesday that the search committee was stacked with trustees representing business and industry, and that trustees not on the committee were excluded from interviews with the finalists for the job.
“I’m disappointed that the process wasn’t more inclusive,” trustee Anthony Lubrano said.
Erickson, previously the university’s provost and executive vice president, was appointed to succeed Graham Spanier, one of the nation’s longest-serving college presidents.
Spanier was forced out and veteran football coach Joe Paterno fired in November 2011 in the chaotic days after Sandusky, a former defensive coach under Paterno, was arrested.
Erickson led Penn State through an agonizing period of self-examination, including pending criminal charges against Spanier and two other university administrators for an alleged cover-up, NCAA sanctions that include a $60 million fine and a four-year ban on postseason football, and a backlash among angry alumni and students who believe Paterno was treated unfairly.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012 and was never charged with a crime, though a Penn State-commissioned report faulted him and law enforcement officials questioned whether he acted appropriately. His family has sued the NCAA, saying it lacked authority to impose sanctions based on criminal matters that were not related to the sports it oversees.
On Monday, the university announced $59.7 million in out-of-court settlements with 26 young men who claimed they were molested by Sandusky, who is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term after being convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse.