A Bigger Board of Trustees?

September 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm 7 comments

After more than a year of discussion and debate, the governance and long-range planning committee of Penn State’s Board of Trustees agreed on a compromise proposal for board reform today, preserving all nine of the current alumni-elected seats while adding seats for a student representative, a faculty representative, and a representative of the Alumni Association.

The committee’s endorsement of the so-called “Proposal A+,” approved on a 7-1 vote, also adds three at-large seats to be selected by the board. The idea behind those seats is to add expertise in areas the board might otherwise be lacking. In all, the Board of Trustees would grow from its current 32 members (30 voting, 2 non-voting) to 38 total members, of whom 33 could vote.

The proposal will go before the full board for a vote at its November meeting. It represents the most significant expansion of the board since 1905.

DSC_0854_Keith_Masser

Trustee chair Keith Masser, whose compromise reform proposal was approved by a board committee today.

Today’s vote came at the end of a three-hour meeting that was at times heated, but committee chair Keith Eckel praised the ultimate recommendation as “a very good compromise.” Only Anthony Lubrano ’82 voted against it.

In a four-hour meeting in August, the committee had debated three proposals—dubbed Proposals A, B, and C—for restructuring the board. (There’s an excellent summary of that meeting by Lori Shontz ’91, ’13g here, and a chart comparing the original three proposals can be downloaded from the Trustees’ website.) This morning, committee vice chair Rick Dandrea ’77 made a motion that the committee adopt Proposal A, which would have reduced the number of alumni-elected trustees from nine to six and added seats for a student, a faculty member, and the immediate past president of the Alumni Association.

The reduction in the number of alumni-elected trustees, as well as the addition of an Alumni Association rep, proved to be Proposal A’s most controversial parts. On the former point, trustee Dandrea cited data that alumni-elected trustees are the exception, rather than the rule, in university governance: “[Board consultant] Holly Gregory looked at 36 peer institutions, including other Big 10 schools, state-related schools, private and public land grant institutions, plus schools like Stanford and Carnegie Mellon,” he said. “It’s a rich database. And 33 of those 36 have zero alumni-elected trustees.”

But Lubrano argued, as he did at the August meeting, that there’s another agenda behind the proposal. “I’m struck by the fact that the interest in reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees comes after three years of contentious elections,” he said. “… In my mind, this is about reducing the influence of the alumni-elected trustees and limiting dissent.”

Meanwhile, there also was talk of a new proposal, Proposal D, which got very little discussion in this morning’s meeting, and a Proposal E, advanced by trustee Ted Brown ’68. Brown’s proposal would actually increase the number of alumni-elected seats, from nine to 12. You can see Proposals A through E here.

It was trustee chair Keith Masser ’73, an ex-officio member, who put forward the compromise plan that eventually passed—he called it Proposal A+. Here are its chief elements:

—Five ex-officio members who cannot vote: the governor, the university president, and three state cabinet secretaries (agriculture, education, and conservation and natural resources). On the current board, the cabinet secretaries have voting privileges; that would end under this proposal.

—Nine alumni-elected trustees, the same as are on the board now.

—Six trustees elected by business and industry members of the board, six elected by agricultural societies, and six appointed by the governor. These are all unchanged from the current board composition.

—Six new members, as follows: a student trustee, nominated by a student selection group and elected by the board; an academic trustee, nominated by the Faculty Senate and elected by the board; the immediate past president of the Alumni Association; and three at-large members, appointed by the board.

The at-large members are an idea borrowed from Proposal C, authored by trustee Barbara Doran ’75, who originally proposed eight such members.

DSC_0864_Eckel_Dandrea

Governance committee chair Keith Eckel (left) and cochair Rick Dandrea.

When talk of board reform first emerged in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, it’s probably fair to say that most people envisioned the board shrinking in size, not getting larger. But Keith Eckel, chair of the governance committee, said at the beginning of today’s meeting that there’s been less focus on the board’s size lately than there had been at the outset. “I do not hear from most constituencies that there is an absolute need to reduce the size of the board,” he said. “There are still feelings in that direction, but board size does not seem to be the issue. Board composition, I would say, is a significant concern.”

In a similar vein, Dandrea, the committee co-chair, hinted that some in state government are primarily interested in seeing the divisions on the board heal. Dandrea said that a unanimous vote on a recommendation would be better than “a contested vote.”

Midway through this morning’s meeting, with Dandrea’s motion to approve Proposal A still on the floor, the committee adjourned for what was announced as a 10-minute break. The meeting didn’t reconvene until more than a half hour later, and once it did, Dandrea announced a change in plans. “We’ve had some further discussions during the break,” he said, “and we’ve received some additional input, and what comes through is a desire to try to compromise—to avoid division and potential litigation.” With that, he removed his motion and instead moved that the committee approve Keith Masser’s compromise proposal (Proposal A+). After about 20 minutes of discussion, the committee did just that.

Tina Hay, editor

Advertisements

Entry filed under: Alumni Association, Board of Trustees.

Real Genius More on Board Reform

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kevin_Landon  |  September 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    More board members? I thought the move was afoot to reduce the size of a bloated BOT!

  • 2. Alan Haberbusch  |  September 18, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Bigger — should be smaller –less Governor appointees and no at large appointed by the BOT. All this does is dilute the alumni vote from 9 of 30 to 9 of 33. It’s just another power block move by the old guard. Let’s make a lot of noise about this and turn up the heat on the power block gang — where is the Legislature (time for Jubelier to use his connections)– let’s get their proposal going — it can over rule anything the BOT does. This all continues to stink like rotten eggs. Let’s expose the old guard for what they are — no more cover ups of their boo boos.

  • 3. Jeff Roby  |  September 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    There is no way these foxes should be allowed to guard their own henhouse. All but the elected alumni trustees should resign immediately and a state level commission should be designated to completely restructure the board. Then, in addition to those elected by the alumni, the commission should appoint new members who are honest, ethical and competent.

  • 4. sherrysauerwine  |  September 18, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Incredible. Now the old guard wants to “stack” the BOT with three more people chosen by the BOT to serve on the BOT! Totally disheartening to see once again that the old guard on the BOT will stop at nothing in order to retain control.

  • 5. More on Board Reform | The Penn Stater Magazine  |  September 19, 2014 at 10:58 am

    […] board-reform recommendation by the Board of Trustees’s governance committee is playing to mixed reviews so […]

  • 6. William A. Levinson  |  September 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    http://onwardstate.com/2014/09/18/yudichak-penn-state-trustees-may-have-broken-law-with-recommendation/

    State Sen. John Yudichak, a Penn State graduate who represents Luzerne and Carbon counties, says a Penn State Board of Trustees committee may have violated a state law by recommending board reform.

    Yudichak said in a prepared statement Thursday that the Governance and Long-Range Planning Committee’s approval of board reform may have been illegal.

    “The Board of Trustees at Penn State is neither above the law nor should it be engaged in efforts to further separate itself from core constituencies like the alumni and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” says Yudichak. “I will be making sure that the General Assembly explores all legal and legislative avenues to ensure that the interests of Penn State and the Penn State community are protected.”

  • 7. Alan Haberbusch  |  September 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Excellent — now it must be pursued

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Follow The Penn Stater on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 425 other followers


%d bloggers like this: