WE ARE--A Statement on my Lasch Building Vote Today

This afternoon I will be voting against the resolution for the Lasch building. This decision was not made lightly. The next few paragraphs are to explain this vote.


We are Penn State….”WE” is the best of all pronouns.


For many years WE ARE Penn State has identified us and drawn us together. Certainly Saturday afternoon or Saturday night football games see us united in chanting WE ARE. That cheer echoes far beyond the stadium confines and is part of the everyday lives for all who love this place.


No one denies that.


But in these challenging times WE must realize this: WE must bind all elements of this University in common cause.


Over the past year our administration and our Board have asked our University to make difficult sacrifices. Employees have been furloughed, academic budgets have been cut. Salaries have been frozen or slashed. Maintenance on buildings has been postponed, and proposed academic building projects have been put on hold.


Now we are being asked to borrow and allocate $48 million to make additions to a football building that has already undergone $36 million in renovations that included the desired recruiting updates—a new lobby, locker room, player lounge and academic support center.


And by the time the next phase is done we will have spent $105 million on this building. Some have advocated spending even more.


At the same time WE have students sleeping in the Hub at night, we have students who are hungry. We battle to make Penn State more affordable. We have a moral obligation to do that.


How do we look the people we are asking to make sacrifices in the eye and then borrow and spend this money?


Yes borrowing money is cheap now, but it is not free. Yes we can characterize this as an investment in the future. Yes other schools are spending a lot, but we are has always meant we lead on our own better path.


Around the country there is universal agreement that the future foundation of the amateur college athletics model is at best uncertain. Others would argue that it is ending.


Yes borrowing money is an investment. But right now we lack the certainty of what our revenues will be in the next ten months, let alone what we face with potential changes in college athletics across the country. The future revenue model to repay this money is shrouded in an uncertain fog.


We also have investments to make in Beaver Stadium that will likely involve more staggering numbers.


Many of us objected to spending on other non-student-centered projects like the proposed art museum and the eight-figure price tag for the private elevator for the president’s football suite.


When times are tough, we should remind ourselves that WE all must be patient, we must all pay a price in the short-term to benefit all of us over the long-term.


A year from now we can emerge from both Covid and the daunting changes in college athletics—better standing able to see the far horizon.


The actions we’ve taken this past year for this University have been difficult; more difficult challenges await us.


As members of this board, we have an obligation to this University that lasts long beyond our lifetimes.


There will be a time when our eyes will no longer be open to see the next day’s dawn—but there will be future students and faculty whose destiny will be shaped by what we do now.


With that as our guidance, we would do well to postpone this project to gauge the entire scope of needs we have in athletics --and more importantly the scope of needs across the academic and research mission that is the very reason for our existence as an institution.


And to end on one last point.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is our home, it is our partner and it is where we draw our strength. People across this commonwealth have lost jobs, people are standing in lines at food banks and can’t pay their rent.


So we must remind ourselves of this fact:


WE ARE does not end at our campus boundary.


Our own television ad states


“Dear Pennsylvania,


Wherever you are


We are with you.


Always.


We are Penn State.”


Today’s vote will signal to our students, faculty, staff and the people of Pennsylvania if we are truly with you…always.


Thank you.


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