Alumni Council Updated on Presidential Search

April 20, 2013 at 9:56 am 1 comment

Nan Crouter, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, addressed Alumni Council on Friday.

Nan Crouter, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, addressed Alumni Council on Friday.

Toward the end of Friday’s Alumni Council meeting, members heard an update from Nan Crouter, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, which has begun identifying potential candidates to be Penn State’s next president.

This is not an opportunity that’s going to come along very often.

Searches for college presidents are extremely secretive. That’s because the candidates for these positions are generally in other high-profile positions, and they don’t want to be identified. Explained Crouter, who’s also dean of the College of Health and Human Development, “They get very skittish if there’s any whiff they might be interested.”

But the search is in an early phase, and with the university and the executive search firm it hired, Isaacson Miller, soliciting input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Crouter explained the procedure to council members and asked what they were looking for in the university’s next president. (Among the answers from council members: someone who can unite the Penn State community, someone who shares Penn State’s values, someone who can make the commonwealth campuses feel more a part of the entire university.)

The process involves two committees. Crouter leads the Search and Screen Committee, which  includes  administrators, faculty, students, and alumni, and which is charged with identifying a short list of candidates. That list then goes to the Board of Trustees’ Presidential Selection Council, which is chaired by Karen Bretherick Peetz ’77 and includes 12 trustees and Peter Tombros ’64, ’68g, chair of the current capital campaign. The latter committee will choose the president.

“We want to make sure,” Crouter said, “that no one gets on that short list that we don’t feel really good about.”

Crouter was asked about the two-committee system; the questioner was concerned about the possibility for confusion or conflict. She explained that the system had been used in previous presidential searches, and she added that the two committees have already met together. She said that four trustees will attend meetings of the search and screen committee, and that four members of the search and screen committee will attend meetings of the trustees committee.

She was one of three officials to speak with Alumni Council on Friday; president Rod Erickson and Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser ’73 also addressed the group. Each person spoke for about 10 minutes and took questions for another 10.

Other notes from the session:

Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser answered questions from Alumni Council.

Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser answered questions from Alumni Council.

—Masser updated Alumni Council on governance reforms that were presented by Jim Broadhurst ’65, chair of the governance and long-range planning committee, at the March trustees meeting and will be voted on at the May 3 meeting at University Park. (For background on the reforms, click here for a previous blog post.)

Among the items: removing the governor and president as voting members, increasing the quorum to a simple majority, term limits for trustees, a longer waiting period before trustees can become university employees and vice versa, and provisions for removing a trustee because of a conflict of interest or other conduct.

The last point prompted a question from council member Liz Bligan ’91, ’98g, who asked Masser about the perception that the final two proposed changes were designed to prevent specific people from joining the board or from staying on the board. She didn’t use their names, but she was referring to Jay Paterno ’91 and current trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82.

Masser answered that the reforms were consistent with best practices as defined by the Association of Governing Boards, one of the higher education groups with which the trustees had consulted. He added that at the May meeting, “a solid debate will come up.” Masser also said that this might not be the end of changes in how the university is governed. “Our self examination is far from complete,” he said. “To be clear, our entire board recognizes the need for continuous improvement.”

—President Erickson thanked the Alumni Association’s Grassroots Network for helping to mitigate potential cuts in Penn State’s state appropriation. Two years ago, Gov. Tom Corbett’s initial proposal was a 50 percent cut in state funding. Last year, it was 30 percent. (Neither proposal was adopted.) But this year, Corbett’s initial proposal was flat funding. “I never thought that would be my wildest good dream,” Erickson said, “but that’s been the case.”

Erickson did agree to a minimal tuition increase. That amount won’t be settled upon until the July Board of Trustees meeting.

—Erickson said his biggest concern is the prospect of budget cuts mandated by the federal sequestration. The full effects aren’t yet being seen, but Erickson said the best guess is that the university will lose between $40 and $50 million in federal research funding. Additional effects: lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements at Hershey Medical Center and cuts in student aid, particularly work-study programs.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

Entry filed under: Board of Trustees. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Bill Cluck  |  April 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Will the proposed policy on conflicts of interest be made public before the May 3 meeting? It was not included in the draft discussed at March meeting.

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