BOT Election: Boosting Alumni Participation

January 16, 2014 at 6:46 pm 3 comments

At the November meeting of the Board of Trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee, the discussion centered around how to increase participation in the alumni trustee election. At the committee meeting today, the committee made clear it wants to broaden participation even further.

The committee wants to automatically send ballots to all alumni with email addresses on file with Penn State, and it further wants to send snail-mail postcards to alumni who have only a mailing address on file. Those postcards would explain how to obtain a ballot.

In previous elections, ballots have been sent automatically only to alumni who have been members of the Penn State Alumni Association within the previous two years and alumni who donated to the university within the previous two years. Other alumni needed to request ballots.

Unlike the changes made in November, this change requires a revision of the university charter, which must be voted on by the full board. That requires a 30-day notice, so a vote will be taken at the March trustees meeting. So while this policy will not be in effect for the nomination process, which has already started, if passed it will be in place for the election, which runs April 10 through May 8.

The committee voted enthusiastically to recommend the change to the full board for a vote.

While we’re at it, this is probably a good time to define who, exactly, is an alumnus or alumna of the university—a definition that will be tweaked in the proposed charter change. Obviously anyone who’s received a degree—associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate—counts. But according to the charter, so do “former students … who have satisfactorily passed one semester’s or two terms’ work, or more,” in any program that requires at least two years of study.

The proposed changes would clarify that those programs requiring at least two years of study must end in a degree—basically, that people completing one of Penn State’s certificate programs are not eligible to vote.

More news from the committee meetings:

Executive committee nominations: One of the governance committee’s roles is to recommend at-large members for the board’s executive committee, and the recommendations that will be put forth Friday—if  board chair Keith Masser ’73 is re-elected—are Kathleen Casey ’88, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013; Donald Cotner ’71, an ag trustee since 2012; and Richard Dandrea ’77, appointed as a business and industry trustee in 2013.

Those names were put forth by Masser and governance chair Keith Eckel; Masser said he chose Casey because she is vice chair of the human resources subcommittee and the compensation committee, Cotner because he is vice chair of the finance and business committee, and Dandrea because he’s a lawyer and because Ken Frazier ’73 (who has a law background) has decided to step down from the executive committee. (The board chair, board vice chair, immediate past chair, and standing committee chairs are automatically part of the executive committee.)

Barbara Doran ’75 noted that Casey is a lawyer, filling that need, and that none of the nominees were elected by alumni. She nominated Ryan McCombie ’70, who was elected by alumni in 2012. Because there were four nominees for three positions, the committee voted: Casey, Cotner, and Dandrea each received a majority of the vote; the totals were not released.

If Masser is not re-elected as chair, Eckel said, he will confer with the new chair before the governance committee puts forth nominees for the executive committee.

First compensation committee meeting: The first in-person meeting, that is. The committee, which was created at the November board meeting, did meet via conference call Saturday morning to approve compensation for new football coach James Franklin, a process that committee chair Linda Brodsky Strumpf  ’69 said was “interesting.”

Strumpf had served on the predecessor to the compensation committee, an ad-hoc group that was convened when circumstances warranted it, but this was the first time that details of the contract were reported during the process. The speed was potentially problematic—the bylaws stipulate that the committee must give three days public notice before meeting, but they were able to use the provision that if all committee members agreed to waive the three-day requirement, 24 hours notice would suffice.

The committee also approves compensation for nine other university employees (see below for the list), but that process is usually far from the spotlight. “People are really interested only in the football coach’s salary,” Strumpf said. “That’s the world we live in, I suppose.”

Under operating guidelines approved by the committee Thursday morning, the committee has responsibilities for four tiers of university officials. (Click here for the draft; see page 5 for the complete list.) The president is alone in Tier I as the only compensation the full board must approve.

The compensation committee approves compensation for five officials in Tier II—executive vice president and provost, senior vice president of finance and business, senior vice president for health affairs, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, and vice president and general counsel—and four intercollegiate athletics employees who are designated Tier IIA. That’s the athletic director, football coach, and men’s and women’s basketball coaches. For Tier II employees, the full board is informed, but does not vote.

That’s standard practice, said Jason Adwin, vice president of Sibson Consulting, who is working with the committee. “Executives govern,” he says. “Administrators manage.” And managing, he says, includes deciding on compensation.

The committee also voted to recommend to the full board that it approve an executive compensation strategy (click here for the draft) developed in consultation with Sibson; Strumpf said the hope is to vote on the strategy at the March meeting.

Sibson plans to conduct a study that’s sponsored by Penn State and will survey 60 institutions, 30 of which will be peers of Penn State, to compare how the university’s salaries, bonuses and incentives, retirement, and deferred compensation compare.  The report is expected to be ready by May, which Strumpf said is good timing because the committee will begin reviewing salary increases in August or September.

The report will not be made public, for two reasons. First, the sensitivity of salary numbers; vice president of human resources Susan Basso says a public release would deter other institutions from participating. Second, Adwin said, because institutions pay for the data.

Trustees retreat: The typical committee meetings ran on a different schedule today (and the student life and outreach committees did not meet) because of a retreat with Holly Gregory, a lawyer and consultant hired by the governance committee to facilitate discussion of further governance reforms. The first 40 minutes of the session were open to the public before the board went into executive session; I’ll have a piece on Gregory’s introduction later.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 16, 2014 The BOT’s Governance Consultant Speaks

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