By now, I believe we are all familiar with Eric Barron’s record of incompetence and self-interest – and his detrimental impact on the Pennsylvania State University:
But just how did Eric Barron happen to land in the seat of Penn State President?
Let’s take a look back:
In late 2013, when Rodney Erickson’s tenure was coming to a close, the PSU BOT went shopping for a new body to put in the President Chair.
Let’s recall a little bit about the PSU Board of Trustees climate in late 2013.
At Penn State, conflict was boiling over between the Penn State Board and outraged Alumni. Among other issues:
- There was conflict over the BOT decision to exclude members of the Board from criminal background checks (to protect Mark Dambly, among others).
- Some Penn State Trustees were demanding access to secret documents regarding the Freeh Investigation – which the Trustees controlling the Board (the so-called “Old Guard Trustees”) wanted to keep hidden.
- The control group of the Board was trying to rewrite the PSU Board Bylaws to allow them to remove any Trustees who did not comply with their directives, and to reduce or eliminate the number of Board seats allocated to Trustees elected by the Alumni.
- Alumni were increasingly outspoken in their public critiques of Board malfeasance.
It was CRITICAL to the Old Guard BOT Scoundrels that they place a compliant, ethic-less proxy into the soon-to-be-vacant Presidential seat. Someone who’s complete acquiescence to their desires could be assured – so long as they paid him enough money.
So, the Old Guard Trustees went on a search.
They went on a search whereby only a small group of “select” Trustees was invited, and only that small group was privy to the process.
They soon felt they found their man, in David Smith – a relatively low-level Administrator in New York’s SUNY system. A man who wouldn’t, in a million years, have been considered “Big Ten President” material.
A gig like PSU President (and the $$$ that would come along with it) was WAY beyond Smith’s wildest dreams – or abilities.
But, that was just fine for the BOT control group – all they needed was a “Partner in Crime”. Or, at least, a compliant eunuch.
Smith, as we shall see, had the requisite character traits.
Unfortunately, for the Old Guard BOT control group, some of Smith’s fiscal malfeasance and fraud was uncovered and made public … literally HOURS before he was to be named PSU President.
Here is a story from that time:
Smith was later convicted for his financial crimes:
“David Smith brazenly abused his position and exploited those he served in order to line his own pockets – and now he’s facing the consequences,”
said Attorney General Barbara Underwood.
“We have zero tolerance for those who try to game the system and violate the public trust, and my office will continue to hold public officials to account.”
So much for the perfect PSU Presidential candidate.
So, back to the PSU Board and Eric Barron:
With their preferred candidate now under indictment, and the news out there that PSU’s Old Guard Trustees had intended to seat this crook in the President’s Chair, they had to move very quickly, and find a similarly morally-pliable puppet.
They needed someone else who – like Smith – would jump at the chance, and who – like Smith – they could buy and control. And they needed to find him quickly.
Who fit the bill?
Well… there sat Eric Barron:
Barron, an FSU Alumni, was sitting in an increasingly hot seat as the Florida State University President … and he needed a new gig, pronto.
Barron was making just over $600,000 per year as FSU President, but that gravy train was in danger of leaving town.
You see, Barron was under intense pressure due to his burying of Sexual Assault complaints brought against star football Quarterback Jameis Winston – so as to allow Winston to continue to lead the Florida State Seminoles to a Football National Championship.
Here is a link to the New York Times expose on the Eric Barron situation at FSU:
Here is a brief snippet from that article:
“Officer Angulo (The Florida Police Detective who buried the Winston case) has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters. It also paid roughly a quarter of the $602,000 salary of the university president, Eric Barron, who was recently named president of Penn State”.
Suffice to say:
Barron was feeling the heat in Tallahassee – and was looking for an exit.
In his wildest dreams, he couldn’t have expected to not only find an exit – but one that PAID HIM $6,000,000 in the process, courtesy of the PSU Old Guard Trustees…. who needed to buy a man just like Barron. How convenient that he was “on the market”.
And all he had to do was sit in the PSU President’s Chair and do whatever the Old Guard Trustees told him to do.
It was a perfect match.
In fact, Barron left Tallahassee so fast that he violated the terms of his contract with FSU – which required a 180 day notice.
Fortunately for Barron (and not surprisingly) the folks at FSU were so despondent with the prospects of losing him, that they let him leave immediately.
“Associated Press News Release
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Outgoing Florida State University Eric Barron says he is sorry how university trustees found out that he was leaving to take the top job at Penn State University.
Barron made his brief apology Wednesday during a meeting of FSU trustees.
FSU trustees on Wednesday discussed a search for a new president. Trustees also agreed to waive a clause in Barron’s contract that required him to turn in his resignation notice 180 days ahead of time. Barron’s last day at FSU is April 2.”
And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how Eric Barron became – and remains – President of Penn State………
And why he is paid insanely exorbitant piles of money, despite his obvious ineptitude and complete lack of requisite skills for the position.
As Paul Harvey used to say:
“And now you know, the REST of the story.”
By the way:
Since Barron left the Florida State University?
Long considered a third-rate academic institution, Florida State’s Academic ranking has SOARED since Barron’s departure (which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Barron’s legacy)
While not a competitor to Harvard and Princeton – in rankings, like the US News and World Report listings, Florida State has ascended from the tiers of third-rate institutions, to all time highs for the University…. since Barron’s departure.
This year, Florida State SURPASSED Penn State in the rankings:
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Florida State’s In-State Tuition is $6,507 per year….
While Penn State’s is $18,450 per year
Yes, Florida State has surpassed Penn State academically – AND costs just over 1/3 of what Penn State costs for in-state students. Thank you President Barron.