Keith Bierly, Ballot Position No. 23
Twin Avenues Consulting and Forefathers Book Shop
Read Bierly’s official bio and position statement here. (PDF download.)
1. Describe how you think the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the university president should function.
The Penn State Board of Trustees has delegated to the University President the day-to-day management of the University. That is appropriate. What could be improved under new President Eric Barron is the communication between the President and the Board.
This communication really is a two-way street. The President must inform the Board of major issues within the University system, including problem areas, and the Board of Trustees must provide advice to the President as to what they believe are critical issues facing the University. A diverse Board of Trustees should be engaged at the county, state, and federal level with governmental officials who are critical to Penn State’s future.
I understand the relationship between the University President and Board of Trustees because I have operated as both a member of numerous boards of directors, including 16 years as a Centre County Commissioner, and I have been a day-to-day administrator of a statewide regulatory agency who reported to a board which served more than 12 million Pennsylvania citizens.
My approach was to keep this statewide board apprised of our daily managment without burdening them with details. If it was a close call as to updating the board, I would err on the side of providing “too much information.”
Ideally, the President leads, but the Trustees provide solid support. I would be very comfortable in providing advice to a University President given my 35 years in government. As an INDEPENDENT candidate, my role on the Board would be a significant one.
2. What would you do to help heal the university community and to assist the university as it continues to recover from the Sandusky scandal?
The Pennsylvania State University is too large and too great an institution to be forever tainted by the criminal acts of a single individual. Having said that, there are significant challenges we face because of the enormous publicity surrounding the “Sandusky Scandal.”
The University needs to stay focused on why it has been a leading institution in America for decades: (a) its educational mission where our graduates are sought out by major corporations more often than any other graduates (b) its land-grant status providing a great education to middle class families at a reasonable rate (c) its research role providing answers to national problems while enhancing the Pennsylvania economy with research dollars and spin-off industries (d) its community mission in everything from agricultural extension to emergency management to Marcellus Shale development and regulation and (e) its philanthropic engagement, which enhances all of our lives.
This scandal, however, will not go quietly. Criminal and civil legal proceedings remain, and will continue to generate enormous interest and publicity. My background as a former Centre County District Judge (12 years) a former Centre County Commissioner (16 years) and a State Secretary (7 years) enables me to understand due process, the criminal process, and the court system. In short, I know what is going on and can explain it effectively to our citizens.
My candidacy as an INDEPENDENT candidate gives me a freedom to address the scandal in a way others might not. That is healthy in a University community.
3. What, in your view, are the major fiscal challenges Penn State will face over the next three years—and how should the university address them?
While the next three years will be financially challenging, hopefully, they will not be as challenging as the past three years. Perhaps lost in all the publicity regarding hundreds of millions spent in civil out-of-court settlements, attorney fees, public relations specialists, NCAA sanctions, internal investigations, etc. is the fact that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has provided significantly less money in their annual state appropriation to the University.
The single most challenging financial fact facing the University is that it has been an easy target for people who would argue for belt-tightening or even sanctions regarding recent activities. The University has made great steps toward improving this image in reforms undertaken, and the specific interest in child welfare. These efforts are considerable and very worthwhile.
My INDEPENDENT candidacy advocates for an additional $100 million in state appropriation to just get it back where it was when I worked in Harrisburg. It advocates for additional federal research grant support that can enable the University to play an even greater role at the national level while providing an economic stimulus to the Pennsylvania economy.
Twenty years ago I worked with Penn State senior administrators in working out an agreement still in place to have the University compensate local governments and the school district for their impact within our county. At that time, I also learned the enormous positive impact the University has on Central Pennsylvania and beyond. I could positively impact the University’s financial condition over the next three years.