Robert J. Bowsher, Ballot Position No. 14
Writer and accountant
San Diego, Calif.
Read Bowsher’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?
For its next president, Penn State should look for a genuine person who understands the complexity of how university constituents interact together and who will lead each group to excellence. More than ever, Penn State needs a president who will courageously handle pressure-filled situations and who will step in whenever the University needs help. To restore its good name and reputation, Penn State needs a president with impeccable ethics and credentials. The next president should be someone who will build upon Penn State’s past successes and who will always put the University in its best light. Our alma mater should hire a person who’s respected and admired by politicians, but who won’t play politics with the Penn State community. Penn State should look for a president who will manage the University’s financial resources prudently. Asking people to donate money to Penn State is a duty this person will embrace and enjoy. The next Penn State president should be someone whose outstanding job performance convinces the University’s top-notch faculty and staff to remain on our campuses, and motivates talented faculty and staff from other schools to apply for jobs at Penn State.
2. What changes or reforms should the Board of Trustees consider to help the university progress after the events of 2011 and 2012? Please explain why—or, if you don’t think reform is needed, please explain why not.
First and foremost, the Board of Trustees needs to open up communication channels with faculty, alumni, staff, and students. The events of 2011 and 2012 exposed why the Board can no longer rely solely on the university president for information. The Board of Trustees should consider all of the reforms proposed by former Auditor General Jack Wagner. The governor and the university president must no longer be voting members, and the president must never serve as the Board’s secretary. The size of the Board must be reduced, meeting agendas must be made more readily available, per-trustee expenses need to be disclosed, and term limits must be imposed. Trustees should be allowed to inform the public when they don’t agree with a decision reached by the Board. Supreme Court justices can communicate dissenting opinions. Why can’t Board of Trustees members do the same? Standing Order IX, the set of rules that forbids trustees from communicating dissenting opinions, no longer serves the University’s best interests. It must be rewritten. In addition, the Board needs to spend money more wisely. Instead of paying millions for public relations firms and consultants, the Trustees need to invest those funds in programs that directly benefit the Penn State community. Last but certainly not least, Trustees must never be employed by the University while they are still serving their terms on the Board. Like all of the aforementioned reforms, replacing cronyism with openness and transparency will make Penn State a better place.
3. How do you define the role of an alumni trustee, and how would that inform the way you would approach your term on the board?
Through this year’s election, we alumni will entrust one-third of our Board of Trustees representation to three individuals. We need these people to put Penn State’s best interests ahead of their personal agendas, a prioritization that too many current trustees are unable and/or unwilling to make. If elected, I will strive to accomplish what Coach Joe Paterno did throughout his over-60-year career: make Penn State a better place. I’m not running to launch a political career, promote a business, scratch my friends’ backs with Penn State money, or fly around on the university president’s jet. I’m running to ensure students and young alumni benefit as much from their Penn State educations as so many of us have from our Penn State degrees. Restoring our beloved alma mater’s good name and reputation will be a struggle. We need as many people as possible to fight this good fight, so I’ll always be open to hearing from fellow alumni and anyone else who cares deeply for Penn State. Some people are big talkers. I’m a big listener. Instead of one big mouth, I have two big ears that people chew on all the time. I’ve been on successful teams and I know they work best when the team members spend the majority of their time listening to one another. Fellow alumni, let’s keep the faith and let’s join together to form a successful team. Let’s make Penn State a better place.