Getting into the Nitty-Gritty of Governance Reform

Some of what happened at Thursday’s meeting of the Penn State trustees’  governance and long-range planning committee—which began to get into the nitty-gritty of additional reforms—was predictable:

Veteran members of the board spoke in favor of keeping it the same size; newer members, elected by the alumni in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, insisted that a smaller board would be “more nimble” and “more engaged.” Agricultural trustees didn’t think cutting back the number of ag trustees was a good idea. Students said they need a permanent seat on the board, with the trustee being chosen by the students themselves, not the governor or the board itself.

But for the first time in public, the trustees went beyond the basics. Representatives from the Alumni Association, the faculty, and the students made their cases for permanent seats on the board. And among the issues the trustees considered Thursday were these:

How do the trustees define whether board members are “engaged”? Would having a faculty member—a university employee—on the board present an insurmountable conflict of interest? And how many board members should be alumni—not just trustees elected by the alumni, but alumni?

Additionally, Eric Barron, who is attending his first board meeting after taking over as Penn State’s president on May 12, weighed in.

He was careful to say that he wasn’t making recommendations and didn’t want to choose who his boss would be (the Board of Trustees is responsible for selecting the president). Barron said only that he wanted to let the committee know of his experience, and that he was familiar, as Florida State’s president, with having student and faculty representation on the board. He repeatedly used the word “voice” to describe what those trustees provided.

“If I got nervous about anything in this conversation, it wasn’t the notion of numbers and placement,” he said in the meeting. “It’s the notion of representing someone. My view is that this has to be a group of people that are here for one purpose: to ensure the success of the institution, not representation.”

As he spoke, governance consultant Holly Gregory and her assistant, Paige Montgomery, nodded their heads vigorously. Gregory had opened the discussion by saying, “Reaching agreement on these issues is difficult because it’s not quite as clear [as other reforms the board has already enacted]. There are issues of both power and trust. The trust among members of this board is already under some degree of tension. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about it. I know some are frustrated that we haven’t moved faster.”

Barron elaborated on his experience with student and faculty trustees, saying that in addition to the voice they provide, he found that the chance for additional back-and-forth about the issues was important. “Lo and behold,” he said, “a student will vote for a tuition increase because they participated in an in-depth discussion about the budget and understand what the university is up against, and they don’t want to give up quality any more than anyone else. A faculty member will vote on benefit changes because they realize that between health insurance and benefits, it’s going up at a clip of $25 million a year and that’s unsustainable. So the voice is not just that, but an opportunity to give input and have it go in reverse.”

As usual, there’s no easy way to sum up what happened during the meeting, which lasted for 90 minutes and moved briskly. Even at that pace, the committee didn’t discuss all of the reform items it had previously discussed in small groups that were closed to the public in May. Here are some highlights from today’s meeting:

Alumni trustees: Alumni Association president Kay Salvino ’69, in making the case for an Alumni Association seat on the board, highlighted the association’s “mission of service” to its 174,379 members and 631,000 living alumni. “We have responsibility for serving the largest constituency of the university—substantially larger than students, faculty, and staff combined, and growing larger every year.” She noted, as well, that Alumni Council, the association’s governing board, includes alumni society presidents from each college and campus.

[In the interest of full disclosure: The Penn Stater magazine and this website are both published by the Alumni Association.]

In addition, Salvino said, the Alumni Association is “one of the largest cumulative donors” to Penn State with more than $15 million in gifts for scholarships, fellowships, programs, and facilities since 1988. And in the just-concluded capital campaign, Alumni Association members donated nearly $800 million, meaning “90 cents on the dollar of all alumni giving came from members of the Alumni Association.”

She finished by showing the scope of the Alumni Association’s programs, which involve students, showcase the university’s academic prowess, and communicate with alums: “We touch and serve Penn State and our alumni in a way that no other organization can do, and we do it every day, in countless ways.”

Trustee emeritus David Jones ’54, for one, was skeptical. He said he had “great respect and admiration” for the Alumni Association, but pointed out that alumni already elect nine trustees and noted that “historically, in recent years, at least two-thirds of our trustees have been alumni.” He called that proportion of trustees who are alumni “really full, if not too full.”

He added: “I sometimes think we would benefit by having more outside voices on the board.”

Alumni trustees Anthony Lubrano ’82 and Barbara Doran ’75 spoke up for the current system of elected alumni trustees; Doran called the alumni election “one of the most robust, transparent processes you can run.”

Business and industry trustee Richard Dandrea ’77 floated the idea of reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees, saying that election turnout is low and that so many of the other trustees are alumni that perhaps alumni are overrepresented on the board. Lubrano disagreed repeatedly, saying “no one” is more invested in the success of the university than alumni, but board chair Keith Masser ’73, an ag trustee, agreed with Dandrea, saying that the business and industry trustees may be misnamed. He said he isn’t aware that a non-alum has ever been named a business and industry trustee.

Faculty: John Nichols, professor emeritus of communications and chair of the Faculty Senate’s special committee on university governance, which issued this report in 2013, made the case for a faculty representative on the board. He stressed two things: first, that his committee’s report had been unanimously approved by the Faculty Senate, which is a particularly rare feat; and second, that he was proposing not a faculty trustee, but an “internal academic trustee.” The distinction, he said, is “very important.”

A “highly specialized institution like a university,” Nichols said, needs trustees who have a “deep understanding” of its mission. Penn State’s board has two members with a background in higher education: elected alumni trustee Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, and Bill Oldsey ’76, who has worked in academic publishing.

Additionally, he said, a university is “essentially a professional association, and professional institutions are best governed with considerable governance by the internal professionals that deliver the goods. … Not to have that happen is a serious disconnection between the core mission of the university and the governance of the university.”

Jones said he had reservations about having employees on the board; ag trustee Betsy Huber noted that Pennsylvania law prohibits schoolteachers from serving on the school board in their own districts for just that reason. But Dandrea (who was chairing the meeting in Keith Eckel’s absence) said having one faculty trustee out of 30 meant that any conflict of image could be managed.

Students: University Park Undergraduate Association president Anand Ganjam and vice president Emily MacDonald spoke on behalf of students, and they made largely the point that their predecessors have made in previous meetings: that students don’t want to rely on the whim of the governor to have representation on the board and should have a representative who is chosen by students themselves. (For years, the governor has used one of his appointments to include a student on the board, but there’s nothing saying he has to.) They also detailed the procedure by which they assure student input.

Lubrano said he was in favor of the governor continuing to appoint a student trustee, but Masser said Gov. Tom Corbett had agreed to give up one of his appointments and allow the board to choose a student.

The tension surrounding reform was evident earlier in the day at the outreach committee meeting, when alumni trustee Ted Brown ’68 questioned Mike DiRaimo, the university’s governmental affairs representative, about a letter DiRaimo had written to the Senate’s state government committee asking that a bill sponsored by state Sen. John Yudichak, which would cut the board to 23 members, be tabled. Brown said he was upset that the letter indicated that the Board of Trustees did not support the bill because that is not, in fact, the case.

DiRaimo explained that he objected to the committee taking action on the bill for two reasons: because the bill would apply only to Penn State, and the university had been assured that would not be the case, and that the bill stipulates that only the General Assembly can make changes in the board’s size and composition in the future. He said, “That I know to be against the interest, against the position, against the actions of the trustees.” (The Senate committee did vote, unanimously, to approve the bill, which still needs to be considered by the full Senate.)

Brown wasn’t satisfied: “You said the Board of Trustees is opposed to this bill. I don’t remember any discussion to that, ever.”

New alumni trustee Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g chimed in, suggesting that DiRaimo could have phrased his objections better—and more accurately. He said that Yudichak ’93, ’04g and co-sponsor Jake Corman ’93 had previously agreed to hold the bill through May 2014 to see what progress the board made itself on reform and that the bill had been amended so to extend the time period to two years to allow the board to pursue reform itself.

“I think that’s significant,” Jubelirer said. “There’s plenty of time if this board is intent on reforming.”

He added that not only did the full board not discuss or vote on its position on the bill, but that he would not have opposed it had the board done so. Therefore, he said, the letter to the legislature was inaccurate. DiRaimo did not respond.

Here’s what comes next in the process:

Dandrea said that any committee members interested in working on a formal proposal to vote on at the next committee meeting would work with university attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78, who will “labor over” the draft.  The committee will schedule an additional meeting within the next month to vote on recommendations to bring to the board. The idea is to have the board in position to vote on a proposal at its next meeting, Sept. 19 at University Park.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

July 10, 2014 at 8:52 pm 6 comments

Our New Issue is Headed Your Way

July August 2014The July/August 2014 issue of The Penn Stater is hitting mailboxes this week. If you’ve already received your copy, you know that the cover features a striking image of war-torn Belgium during World War I. In the cover story, “World War I Revisited,” associate professor Sophie De Schaepdrijver talks about the lessons we can still learn from the Great War. With the centennial now approaching, De Schaepdrijver’s insights are both timely—and surprising.

In another feature, titled “Critical Condition,” you’ll learn about physician-turned-filmmaker (not to mention cancer survivor) Ryan McGarry ’05. His documentary, Code Black, chronicles life in Los Angeles County Hospital’s overcrowded ER. Released in June, the film is already earning buzz on the film-festival circuit.

“Plant Life” focuses on the career of Holly Shimizu ’76, who spent 14 years as executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.. Along with some lovely photos, the story features Shimizu’s best tips for amateur gardeners.

Other good stuff in the issue: A fun look at all the ways the university’s latest capital campaign is helping Penn Staters; a Q&A with a labor relations prof who thinks we should all put in fewer hours (really!); and a short profile of Pennsylvania’s official wine expert, Denise Gardner ’07.

Have you received the July/August issue yet? Let us know what you think. Comment below or email heypennstater@psu.edu.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

 

 

 

 

July 2, 2014 at 8:54 am 4 comments

From the Magazine: Ben Kline

As a Penn State linebacker, Ben Kline knows all about the pressure of living up to a legacy of greatness. It’s good experience for his other role: president of Penn State’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

Photo by Cardoni.

Photo by Cardoni.

A redshirt junior linebacker, Kline is the latest Nittany Lion to lead the founding Uplifting Athletes chapter, a charity benefiting rare disease research which was started in 2003 by former Lion Scott Shirley ’03, ’04g. In the time since, UA has expanded into a national organization with student-run chapters at nearly two dozen college football programs. But Penn State still sets the tone: When the Lions host their annual Lift for Life event on Saturday, July 12, they’re expecting to surpass $1,000,000 raised for kidney cancer research.

“It’s really grown, and it’s something our team has really rallied around,” says Kline, the featured athlete in our July/August issue. “It’s become one of those traditions that’s built into Penn State football.” Much like Linebacker U., it’s also a tradition of excellence whose departed greats have left very big shoes to fill. In the case of Uplifting Athletes, the biggest belong to Eric Shrive ’13, the former offensive lineman who preceded Kline as president, and who raised more than $100,000 for UA during his time at Penn State.

“I was close with Shrive, and all the guys that were doing it before, and I saw what they did and how they put their hearts into it,” Kline says. “The guys on the executive board this year, we’re all close, and we’re thinking about it constantly—how we can grow it, how we can make it better.” Next week’s Lift for Life event is the chapter’s primary fundraiser, but thanks to that constant brainstorming, the team has hosted other events—popping up at Nittany Lion basketball games, or kid-friendly activities at local parks—that provide more opportunities to raise precious funds.

Kline’s on-field status this season is unclear: He missed about half of the Lions’ games last season with injuries, and an unconfirmed report last month implied he might miss more time this fall. But regardless of his impact on the field, Kline has already established himself as one of Penn State’s most valuable players.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

July 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm Leave a comment

A Beginner’s Guide to World War I

WWIopener

The so-called “Great War” is in the spotlight this year, as the world marks the centennial of the start of World War I. For the cover story of our July-August 2014 issue, I talked to Penn State historian Sophie De Schaepdrijver, who has spent much of her career studying the war—its origins, its effects on civilian life, and the changing attitudes people have about its role in history. (That’s the opening spread of our July-August story, above.)

I also asked De Schaeprijver what resources she’d recommend for someone interested in learning more about World War I. We shared five of her suggestions in the magazine; below is a longer, more detailed list.

1. Rites of Spring, a book by Modris Eksteins.“It’s such a great cultural history of the war and what kind of thinking made the war possible. What made people think it was worthwhile? What made them stick it out in the face of so much loss? Those guys on the front came from all walks of life—chicken farmers and teachers, conservatives and socialists, Catholics and Jews—and what is absolutely baffling is how little there was in terms of protest. There’s a saying that behind every soldier is someone holding a gun to his head, but you can’t really say that here—there’s a lot of self-mobilization, people convincing themselves that they should be there.

“Eksteins teases it out, unravels the different strands. It’s a pretty complex book, but accessible and extremely well written. It is the book that sparked my interest in World War I as a societal event, and I return to it quite often.”

2. A Son at the Front, a novel by Edith Wharton. “Probably her least well-known book. It’s written from the perspective of divorced parents whose son is in the war. What I like is that it was pretty much rejected and not seen as an important book, written by a woman, and yet it shows this dual point of view: The parents share this anguish over their son at the front, but they don’t reject the war—they feel it is worth fighting.”

3. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany, a book by Isabel Hull. “This one is pretty academic [Hull is on the faculty at Cornell University], but I like it a lot. It talks about the German military as an organization that develops a culture of its own, and why that tells us a great deal about the violence of the first World War. It allows you to grasp why the violence could get out of hand like this without having to resort to explanations like racism, or describing World War I as merely a prologue to World War II. It’s a ‘think book.’ It brings in the notion of the army as its own organization that’s going to develop its own logic—a nice bit of organizational culture, which is interesting well beyond military history.”

The ruins of Ypres, Belgium, after the war. Image courtesy Great War Primary Document Archive: www.gwpda.org/photos

The ruins of Ypres, Belgium, after the war. Image courtesy Great War Primary Document Archive: http://www.gwpda.org/photos

4. The Regeneration Trilogy, three novels by Pat Parker. “This is fantastic, a contemporary trilogy; one of the three books won the Booker Prize in 1995. The trilogy is about British soldiers, and you see them not at the front but at the home front, being patched up and treated for posttraumatic stress. The author offers a very intelligent reflection on the damage the war does, and she goes into the soldiers’ heads to understand why they want to return to the front. She wrote war books after this, but none as good as this; these are masterpieces.”

5.  World War I Museum, Kansas City. “It’s a great collection, extremely intelligently exhibited. They revamped it a short while ago, and they have a great crew there; it’s just a great educational experience. The building is tremendous; it’s from the 1920s—it was built to be a World War I museum from the start, and the architecture is overwhelming. There’s a lavish circular room on the top floor that houses a panoramic French painting made at the end of World War I, called Panthéon de la Guerre. They made this room just for it. So visiting the museum is an aesthetic as well as educational experience.”

6. War Requiem, an oratorio by Benjamin Britten. “I think it’s brilliant. It was actually composed after World War II, but the text refers to both world wars. It includes the Latin ‘Mass for the Dead’ and poems by Wilfred Owen, who died at the end of World War I and who is for many people—including myself—the greatest poet to come out of that war. There are moments where it’s very jarring, and then there are the soothing notes of the Latin mass. It’s a masterpiece, and I would love to see many performances of it in this centennial year.”

7. A visit to Ypres, Belgium. “Its Flanders Field Museum is in a medieval building that was bombed to complete rubble in the war—as was all of Ypres [pronounced ‘EE-per’]—and rebuilt after the war. Typically after the second world war, things were rebuilt in a boxy modern way, but after World War I, people said, ‘We’re not going to use this as an opportunity to modernize; we are going to recapture what we had. We had gables and canals and cul-de-sacs before, and we’re going to have them again.’ So it’s really quite gorgeous. A stone’s throw away is the Menin Gate, where, every single evening at 8, they stop traffic and buglers sound the ‘Last Post.’ And around the city are major British cemeteries that you can visit on a bicycle or bus tour.”

8. Historial de Grande Guerre, a museum in Péronne, France. “In many ways it’s a completely different experience from the Flanders Field Museum. Péronne is a tiny town, much less lavish than Ypres, and all around it you have the battlefields of the Somme. The museum is a modern one, and it’s my favorite museum. It’s moving, it’s intelligent, and for me it is the exemplary war museum.

“It makes a couple of extremely intelligent choices—for example, the uniforms are not upright on mannequins; they’re down on the floor, spread out, and you walk around them. It shows a kind of helplessness without imposing it upon you. It doesn’t tug at the emotions; it basically asks you to take a step back and contemplate and decide for yourself what you feel. It’s a form of respect—for those who died, for those who grieved for them, and for that generation—that is very admirable.

“There’s a mystery to World War I—what made these people go on—and the more we learn, the more we know we’ll never get to the bottom of it; we can only show bits and pieces. The museum conveys that very well.”

Tina Hay, editor

July 1, 2014 at 10:47 am 3 comments

I Love This Penn Stater’s Graduation Speech

This morning I came across a speech that Bailey Sanders ’14 Med gave at the Penn State College of Medicine graduation ceremony in May. Her peers, the graduating med students, had chosen her to give the student commencement address, and I can see why. I have a fondness for public speakers who are articulate, animated, confident, and funny—and Bailey Sanders is all of those things. (She has the med school dean, Harold Paz, laughing from the start, and eventually she wins over President Eric Barron too.) Can’t wait to see what kind of physician she’ll turn out to be.

Her remarks are eight minutes long and well worth your time.

Tina Hay, editor

June 18, 2014 at 11:56 am 2 comments

Ducks in the Dorms?

You may or may not have seen the announcement that we’re looking for good stories from alumni of their days in the dorms.

Every so often we like to do a story that’s a collection of readers’ memories of their time as a Penn State student. In May-June, for example, we spotlighted alumni memories of classroom incidents that left an impression, and in previous issues we’ve covered everything from IM sports memories to college pranks to tales of getting engaged on campus.

Anyway, right now we’re looking for dorm memories, for a story that will probably run later this year, and on Saturday night I heard a good one. A Class of 1964 grad who came back for her 50th reunion was telling me that she and her dorm mates kept a few ducks on their residence-hall floor! Apparently the students would use towels to block the drains in the common shower area, then let the showers run until the floor was flooded, giving the ducks a pond-like setting in which to hang out. The rest of the time, the ducks lived in someone’s dorm-room closet.

Needless to say, I strongly encouraged her to send us that story. And if you have a good story from your dorm days, please send it to us. Our email address is heypennstater (at) psu (dot) edu, or you can fill out the form below. You have until July 21 to get your stories in.

Tina Hay, editor

 

June 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

A Roseberry by Any Other Name…

Photo by Mark Selders

Hall of Flavor—er, Famer—Russ Rose. Photo by Mark Selders

The Creamery pitched it. His wife came up with the finishing touch. And Russ Rose? He’s just the guy they named it after.

Russ “Digs” Roseberry was unveiled Thursday morning, and as Berkey Creamery manager Tom Palchak ’80 tells us, it’s the first permanent “Hall of Fame” flavor added in more than 20 years. Its namesake is none other than Rose, the six-time national champion-winning coach of the Penn State women’s volleyball team. Dishing out the first scoops on Thursday—and yes, your intrepid reporter sacrificed himself by eating an ice cream cone for lunch—Rose handled the honor much in the way he handles receiving coach-of-the-year awards: By quietly deflecting all the credit.

The idea came from Palchak, who initially approached Rose a few years ago; a communications breakdown led to folks at the Creamery getting the mistaken impression that Rose wasn’t interested. He was, not so much for the ice cream, but for the rare company he’d keep. “To be up there with Coach Paterno,” he says, “that’s pretty special.” As for the finished product, Russ says his wife, Lori Barberich Rose ’85, is the one who figured out how to make it delicious.

BoQD86QIUAAmj91Palchak finally connected with Rose earlier this year, and they began the process of figuring out just what Rose’s flavor would be. The coach’s starting points were caramel and strawberry—two great tastes that really don’t go together—and with Lori’s help, they settled on strawberry ice cream as the base. Wanting to keep the flavor fruity, they decided through trial and error to add swirls of black and red raspberry sauce; with the Roses’ four sons providing a ready-made taste-testing team, reviews were good. But there was something missing, until Lori Rose found it: flecks and small chunks of dark chocolate.

As it was served up Thursday, Russ “Digs” Roseberry strikes a wonderful balance between flavors and texture that it shares (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) with Creamery classics like Death by Chocolate and Alumni Swirl. It’s just really, really good. And while I’d argue there’s never a bad time for Creamery ice cream, its late-May unveiling seems appropriate: all that fruit just screams summer. It probably doesn’t hurt that the annual Happy Volley tournament starts Friday, meaning there will be something like 10,000 high school volleyball players, coaches, and family members in town for the holiday weekend. Most of them will probably hit the Creamery at some point.

I know what they should order.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

 

May 22, 2014 at 3:59 pm Leave a comment

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