PS4RS Sweeps Alumni Election–And Other Board of Trustees Notes
Here’s the short version of Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting:
The university president and governor are no longer voting members of the board. The governance reform package passed after minimal discussion, a back-and-forth between trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82 and Stephen Dunham, vice president and general counsel, about what, exactly, would constitute a breach of fiduciary duty that could prompt the removal of a trustee. Lubrano, who did not seem satisfied with the answers, voted no.
And the three alumni trustee candidates endorsed by Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship—Barbara Doran ’75, William Oldsey ’76, and Ted Brown ’68—dominated the election. Each of their vote totals—15,085 for Doran, 13,940 for Oldsey, and 11,403 for Brown—more than doubled the total of the fourth-place finisher, incumbent Paul Suhey ’79, who had 4,521 votes.
(Penn State announced the results by candidate number, not in order of votes received, so they’re hard to read. Click here to read the results in order, courtesy of the Centre Daily Times.)
The longer version? That’s more complex, and something that’s going to play out over the coming months.
Several trustees made a point of saying that the governance package passed today isn’t the final word on reform. And the PS4RS sweep means that a growing number of people critical of how the board has handled the Sandusky scandal are now on the board itself. The board will also need to elect a new vice chair, because Stephanie Nolan Deviney ’97g was not re-elected, and the standing committee assignments could change, too.
Each of the winners, who will join the board in July, spoke afterward about issues that go beyond how Joe Paterno was treated by the university. Oldsey, who has spent his career in educational publishing, stressed that both he and Penn State were in the same business—“the business of education”—and mentioned World Campus, in particular, as an area of emphasis. Brown talked of the importance of commonwealth campuses and the need to pay faculty and staff better to recruit top talent. And Doran spoke of the need for term limits for trustees and her frustration that longtime members of the board were essentially grandfathered in on the 12-year limit.
All three also stressed the need to build relationships with the current board members, which they said was the best way to make change happen, and the importance of making current board members understand that PS4RS is not a fringe group.
“They’ve dismissed PS4 as this militant radical group, Franco Harris ’72 is crazy, all this kind of thing,” Doran said. “It’s much deeper than that. I’ve been on the (capital) campaign for five years; I know all sorts of donors. And when you’re running for the board and people think you have a shot at it you hear from a lot of people who feel it’s safe to speak up.”
Lubrano said afterward that the alumni trustees may begin caucusing together—and that all nine alumni trustees would be invited, although he wasn’t sure all would attend. That would include the three alumni trustees who were on the board during the Sandusky scandal, and whose terms expire in 2014: Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62; Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g; and Joel Myers ’61, ’63g, ’71g.
Other notes from the meeting:
—The election of agricultural trustees and selection of business and industry trustees also took place. Incumbent Keith Eckel will be joined by M. Abraham Harpster ’94, co-owner of Evergreen Farms in Spruce Creek, Pa. Karen Bretherick Peetz ’77 received another term as a business and industry trustee; she’ll be joined by Richard Dandrea ’77, a Pittsburgh attorney.
—After it became clear over the past week that the governance reforms would be voted on as a package, board chair Keith Masser ’73 received some criticism, given that he had indicated in testimony before the legislature that the reforms would be voted on individually. (He said the same to me after the March meeting.) He attempted to find a middle way during the meeting, announcing that there was a parliamentary procedure that would allow trustees to make a motion to exclude a provision from the vote. No one took advantage of it.
Masser said after the meeting that he shouldn’t have said that each change to the bylaws, standing orders, and university charter—there were dozens—would get an individual up-or-down vote. “It was impractical,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking when I made that statement. But that wasn’t really the intent of the question. The intent of the question was ‘Are you going to railroad this package through?’ That’s what I heard, and I wanted to be clear that no, we’re not railroading the package through.”
—Dunham, the university counsel, responded forcefully when questioned by Lubrano about the circumstances under which a trustee could be removed from the board. Lubrano pressed Dunham about whether the university had compared its proposed policy to those of other Big Ten universities and to define exactly what would constitute a breach of fiduciary duty.
Dunham said he thought that criticism of the provision was based on an earlier draft, which was linked to a code of conduct. “Including yourself, Trustee Lubrano, you talked about the ‘Lubrano rule,’ started talking about the code of conduct. That’s changed. This … clearly does not relate to any individual trustee, any individual.” And then, pausing after each word for emphasis, Dunham added: “It. Just. Could. Not. Be. More. Clear.”
—While the public comment section (moved to earlier in the meeting for the first time) had its usual complement of people who chastised the trustees for their response to the Sandusky scandal and/or asked for more board engagement with the public, a broader range of issues came up Friday. Prominent among them: the controversial gas pipeline to the West Campus Steam Plant, which is to be converted from a coal-burning plant.
Residents of State College protested the route for the pipeline, through a residential area, and Columbia Gas has since agreed to start over and work with Penn State to study other possible routes, including through campus. Trustee Myers commented afterward: “There is a feeling by some people in town that the university is arrogant, and I think we need to bend over backwards to articulate what we plan to do and get buy-in for these kinds of things.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Entry filed under: Board of Trustees. Tags: Anthony Lubrano, Barbara Doran, Jesse Arnelle, Joel Myers, Karen Peetz, Keith Eckel, Keith Masser, M. Abraham Harpster, Marianne Alexander, Paul Suhey, Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship, pipeline, Richard Dandrea, Stephanie Deviney, Stephen Dunham, Ted Brown, West Campus Steam Plant, William Oldsey.