Jes James Sellers, Ballot Position No. 3
Read Sellers’ official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
Answers to Questions:
1. In view of sharply declining state appropriations, what steps should Penn State be taking to secure its financial future?
The declining appropriations for state-related institutions in our Commonwealth is a manifestation of our polarized political times. Most educators would agree that it lacks the kind of economic vision that good stewards of state government need to have in order to protect our Commonwealth from economic decline. The political zeitgeist of wielding hatchets to university budgets while offering tax deals for big corporations – even those that use university developed engineering and mineral science technologies to drill for natural resources in our backyards, fuels the frustrations of many alumni. Penn State has been knocked down by near-sighted politicians in the past, but we have gotten back up to fight another day for a state government that is not afraid to invest in higher education and its people.
Now is the time for a bold, new roadmap toward fiscal security and independence. This roadmap should include:
a. Increased Investment in Penn State’s Technology Transfer efforts to secure patents that yield real dividends for our future economic stability and improved fiscal independence.
b. New opportunities in cost savings with investments in ‘green technologies’ and ‘sustainability efforts’ in each department with every faculty, staff and student across the Penn State Campuses.
c. Continuous quality improvement and fiscal responsibility reviews in all university departments as exemplified by the successful University’s ‘Academic and Administrative Services Review, aka The ‘Core Council’ reviews. These reviews encourage scholarly collaboration, efficient delivery of programs and services and welcomes new ideas for cost savings.
2. The rising cost of tuition nationally is making college less affordable for many students. Outline the steps you believe Penn State should be taking to address the issue.
a. Initiate a major fund raising campaign to promote ‘Penn State Land Grant Scholarships’ to secure in-state tuition benefits for Pennsylvania residents.
b. Fully implement the alternative educational options including the Penn State World Campus and the newly redesigned Summer Semester Sessions, e.g., ‘Maymester’ and six-week summer sessions for students ; offer reduced tuition rates to students with financial need, including veterans and Commonwealth families who have sons and daughters actively serving in the military.
c. Promote campus and online continuing education credits and certificate programs and offer an alumni discount to help advance the careers of our alumni.
d. Ban the bourgeoning practice in higher education of offering ‘Celebrity’ or ‘CEO’ salaries for top university officials and athletic coaches. Following the false dichotomy that good university leaders cannot be found without excessive salary offers only contributes to increased university costs and higher tuition for students and their families who cannot afford it.
e. Invest in a new, international campaign to promote and actively market Penn State University to international students who, by virtue of their visa status requirements, document the ability to pay full tuition without support from the university or state.
3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?
The Land Grant frescoes of Old Main, painted by Henry Varnum Poor, illustrate Penn State’s unwavering commitment to making higher education accessible and affordable to its citizens. These grand frescoes serve to remind us all of our history … and our future. But we must also study the concept of transforming Penn State from a state-related, public university to a private institution, seeking along the way, input from all.
From an internal perspective, I believe the Board of Trustees must change itself. In my proposal, available on my website, I offer the Flexible + Representative Model. This plan would expand the footprint of the existing board to include more members representing a ‘commonwealth voice’. It would include term limits and require ethics training and adherence to compliance regulations. Highlights include:
a. Increase elected alumni positions from 9 to 12.
b. Add 6 new trustee positions, two from PSU faculty; one each from the graduate/professional and undergraduate student government bodies; and two from non-academic staff of the university.
c. Change the number of gubernatorial appointments (now 6) to a proportional allocation related to state funding based on a pre-determined ratio. At its current anemic level of funding, for example, it may reduce the Governor’s allotted appointments to 1, or zero if Penn State fails to receive the absolute minimum financial support from the state in any given fiscal year.
c. Add one, non-voting ethicist to assist the Board in considering not just what is legally permissible but also what is ethically sound.