William J. Cluck, Ballot Position No. 11
Law Offices of William J. Cluck
Read Cluck’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?
The ability to pick quality people for senior staff positions is crucial. Advice is no better than the people giving it. The ability to listen carefully to senior advisors, students, faculty, alumni and other constituencies will be key to the new President’s ability to make well informed decisions that balance the needs of sometimes competing perspectives.
Our next President will be uncommonly busy and pulled in many directions—all of which matter. Due to dwindling state funding, will Penn State need to close any branch campuses, or eliminate departments, or go private? These challenges require strong business skills and fundraising ability. Tuition and the resulting student debt load are too high already.
A substantial background in academics will enhance the University’s ability to secure grants that can keep the research mission strong. A proven record in securing grants is a key tool in recruiting distinguished faculty. This is a particular concern as Penn State faculty salaries have fallen near the bottom of the Big Ten.
The new President must have strong communication skills and good judgment about messaging. Weaknesses in these areas go far to explain why Penn State finds itself in the current controversies.
This President must take the lead in reforming the Board of Trustees. The current Board is top heavy in some interest groups and lacking representation in others. More alumni should be involved in the selection process, to be sure the full spectrum of Penn State is involved.
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.
The current Board structure is top heavy and antiquated. I support the Faculty Senate recommendation that Board membership should come from a greater diversity of sectors and interests reflecting the modern mission of the University. Additionally, I support reducing the number of Trustees. I support reducing the number of Cabinet level Trustees. I don’t at this time know the optimum number of Trustees, but they should include three permanent positions: one for an undergraduate student, one for a graduate student, and the third for a Commonwealth Campus student.
I endorse revising the method for selecting Trustees representing business and industry. Trustee Lubrano suggested each college should nominate two candidates and the full Board (not just a select few) should select from that group the business and industry representatives.
In my view, in order to gain public and alumni trust, the Board should endorse making Penn State subject to open records law and public officials ethics law. The Board should also adopt a strong “no conflict” policy, one that prohibits members and emeritus members from having any interest, direct or indirect, in any financial transaction or contract involving the University. That is the policy I follow under the Municipal Authorities Act in my role as Chair of the Board of the Harrisburg Authority.
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?
Alumni Trustees have a particular responsibility to keep Penn State strong for future students. I have observed a reluctance of Trustees to question University officials at committee meetings and Board meetings. As you all know from the incident with Trustee Ken Frazier at the last Board committee meeting in Hershey, I am not afraid to ask hard questions and follow up. Representing the alumni accurately means staying in close contact and being available. As an elected alumni trustee, I would provide the ability for them to communicate with me and to that end, I would rely upon social media to provide information and obtain feedback. Ideally, it would be nice to schedule town hall type meetings throughout the east coast as time, expense and interest dictate. I promise my fellow alumni that I see this position as being about us, not just about me. I would bring my analytical abilities, strong communication skills, ability to work with others, and a passion for my alma mater. All Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the University and comply with expectations of membership in the standing orders. If elected, I would consider it part of this obligation to work toward all further reforms necessary for this Board to meet the high expectations alumni rightly have for their University.