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Penn State Trustees Pledge Better Oversight

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DUNMORE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State’s board of trustees promised a “more active, structured and robust oversight role” in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal to make sure the school never again permits a predator to roam free on its campus, the school’s chairwoman said Friday.

Karen Peetz opened a board meeting by addressing Thursday’s report from former FBI Director Louis Freeh that showed late football coach Joe Paterno and three top administrators concealed child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky, a retired assistant coach convicted last month of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

Freeh also found the trustees failed to exercise oversight over ousted President Graham Spanier and other administrators, and failed to probe deeply enough when they learned that Sandusky was the subject of a grand jury investigation.

For the second day in a row, the board said it accepted “full responsibility” for its failures. Peetz said Freeh’s report will “result in changes, beginning here, beginning today.”

The board, gathering for its regularly scheduled meeting at the Worthington Scranton branch campus in Dunmore, attended to other business, too, approving a budget and setting tuition and fees for the 2012-13 school year.

Trustees voted to increase in-state tuition by 2.9 percent at the main campus in State College and 1.9 percent at its branch campuses — the lowest tuition increase in 45 years — as it approved a $4.3 billion budget.

In-state freshman and sophomores attending the main campus will pay about $15,560 next year, about $440 more than last year. Out-of-state students will pay about $27,860 to attend main campus, about $650 more than last year.

Penn State was able to minimize the tuition increase after Gov. Tom Corbett and state lawmakers dropped a proposal to cut $64 million in state aid.

“We are committed to keeping tuition increases as modest as possible without compromising academic quality,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson told trustees.

Fallout from the Sandusky scandal — including a promise of more transparency and better oversight from the trustees — continued to loom large.

Peetz directed committees of the board to review sections of the 267-page Freeh report that apply to their roles and report back “action plans” for change by the next trustees’ meeting in September.

In addition, Erickson said he has appointed three senior administrators — including a newly confirmed general counsel — to coordinate and implement changes suggested by Freeh.

“While yesterday’s issuance of the Freeh Report provides some level of clarity of our community, it does not undo the pain that the victims of Jerry Sandusky have experienced, and continue to experience,” Erickson said.

The board also voted to reduce term limits of trustees who join after July 1, 2013, from 15 years to 12 years.

The lengthy tenure of board members has been an area of criticism for some alumni angered by the board’s actions in the frantic weeks following Sandusky’s arrest in November — including the firing of Paterno.

The board also voted to allow public comment at meetings for the first time, with significant restrictions. Speakers will have to pre-register and be selected by the board secretary to speak, and will be limited to three minutes each, with a total public-comment period of 30 minutes. Certain topics will be off limits, including those related to collective bargaining, grievances of individual students and employees, and pending litigation.

“This is going to be a little bit of a trial and error, particularly in determining who gets to speak and who doesn’t. That will be very sensitive,” Trustee James Broadhurt said.

Four new trustees — who campaigned on a pledge to reform the way the board operates — attended their first meeting Friday.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)