Town Hall in Pittsburgh, my thoughts

I was among the 600 or so alumni who attended last night's Town Hall meeting in Pittsburgh. Since I had not seen anyone else post their thoughts on President Erickson's performance (and ours), I thought I'd give it a shot with my first ever FanPost.

It was a full house at the Double Tree. I saw few, if any, empty seats at 7:00 pm and when I had arrived (6:30), most of the available seating was in the back third of the room. The format of the event was a bit disappointing however, as the moderator only read a few of the questions submitted electronically or just before the event. Also, there seemed to be little rhyme or reason for how the moderator selected which person – stationed at one of four microphones around the room – would be permitted to ask the next question. Add to the fact that the microphones did not always work and, well, I just hope they learn from a few of these mistakes and put on a better show in Philly and NYC.

As for the questions and comments from the alumni on hand, I must say it was even more respectful and “Penn Statish” than I had anticipated. I know that some won’t like to hear this, but I thought that Dr. Erickson came off as a sincere and worthy (if reluctant) successor to the presidency. Though I still think that the University should have conducted a national search for his position, I believe that he has our interests at heart. I was not as certain of that before last night’s meeting.

As has been reported elsewhere, the longest and loudest reaction came from a question (read by the moderator) asking how the BoT was going to be reshaped in order to give students and alumni more input into its composition. The question was actually interrupted by a near minute long (partially) standing ovation from the audience. We had a decent laugh when, after the applause had subsided, the moderator then continued with the question. Unfortunately, as anyone who has worked on corporate governance matters knows, these changes – though they can be influenced by those on the outside – must be implemented by the BoT itself. Not the most satisfying answer, but the truth.

There were questions about Joe. Questions about why there wasn’t a plan in place. Questions about the cost to the University in terms of lost revenue, lost job opportunities for new or recent graduates, the cost of defending named defendants (though not Mr. Sandusky), the office of the president, the BoT, etc.

The most dumbfounding answer that Dr. Erickson gave, with respect to costs, was the revelation that the University paid $360,000 to a crisis management consulting firm in November alone. I want to learn the name of the firm so that (i) I never hire them and (ii) I might send them my resume (because money for nothing isn’t bad work if you can get it). Dr. Erickson also didn’t seem to fully recognize the need to shake up communications between senior administrators and the outside, though he did acknowledge that some changes were in the works.

Of course there were a few non-questions. Comments from people who just wanted to voice their support for Joe or disgust with the Administration or BoT. These were delivered with a nice balance of anger and respect.

One note for those attending in either of the next two nights, don’t be the guy who misses the point completely. One jackwagon asked a question about leaving the B1G to join a conference with Pitt, WVU, Maryland, Syracuse, etc. (though not the ACC), and he took forever to get to his question. This is not the venue for that type of question. I gained a new level of respect for Dr. Erickson when he deftly sidestepped the sillyness and simply stated that the B1G affiliation has been great for the University athletically (not just for football) and academically.

Bottom line: though I do not agree with everything Dr. Erickson said last night, I do believe that the University is in capable hands.

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