John J. Graham Jr., Ballot Position No. 15

GrahamJohn J. Graham Jr. ’99 Lib

General counsel
Great Valley Publishing Co.
Philadelphia

Read Graham’s official bio and position statement here. (PDF download.)

Website 

1. Describe how you think the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the university president should function.

There are numerous institutions of higher learning that provide examples of successful and healthy relationships between university presidents and their boards of trustees. Each of these successful examples shares a set of common factors, including:

  •       A clearly defined set of responsibilities for the board and the president;
  •       Board members who are highly informed and actively engaged;
  •       Active and ongoing collaboration between the board and president throughout the year;
  •       Continuity of leadership in both faculty and board;
  •       An institutional culture of collaboration and trust between the board and president;
  •       Mechanisms for transparency between each party and the institution’s students and alumni.

The above factors allow a board of trustees and its president to develop a relationship of mutual confidence and understanding. When the duties, authorities and responsibilities of each party are well defined, and there is an expectation and confidence that each party is carrying out its obligations, the university will be well equipped to quickly and effectively accomplish short and long term goals. Another word on transparency: I have developed a strategy for engaging alumni to share their opinions about how the board should address issues facing the university. This strategy is efficient and will allow me to communicate data about alumni sentiment in real time. I am prepared to enact this strategy, at my own cost, beginning on my first day of service—thereby creating a concrete measure of transparency and accountability. If you would like to be included in this strategy, please submit your contact information at Graham4PSU.com.

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 infamous episode involving Philadelphia Eagles fans, Santa Claus and snowballs occurred nearly 50 years ago. However, you would be hard pressed to sit through a present-day national broadcast of an Eagles game without hearing the announcer make reference to this instance of boorish behavior. While fans pelting Santa Claus with snowballs pales in comparison to the crimes for which Jerry Sandusky was convicted, the analogy is still instructive in that we need to be prepared for the Sandusky scandal to be mentioned within any media discussion involving Penn State students, faculty or alumni for many, many years to come. We should not have the expectation that healing will come through leaving the scandal in the past, never to be spoken of again. Rather, the Board of Trustees should empower the students, faculty and alumni to champion their own accomplishments through social media, public relations and marketing opportunities. As Penn Staters, we know that the Sandusky scandal is not representative of who we are and will not define us or our university. However, we have to be proactive in developing messages to tell the world who Penn Staters are and what we stand for. The Sandusky scandal was a tragedy and should be recognized as such, but healing is not going to come from burying it, but from finding opportunities to incorporate the lessons that we have learned into the larger framework of discussions involving the accomplishments of Penn State students, faculty and alumni.

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? 

Penn State currently faces several major fiscal challenges, which will continue to challenge the university for the next three years and beyond. These include:

  • Sandusky scandal costs: The costs associated with the Sandusky scandal are myriad. Reports indicate that the total cost of the scandal is more than $170 million, but a true measure of cost is difficult to quantify in that some are indirect and many will continue to accrue over time. The most notable costs include penalties, fines, attorney’s fees, consultant’s fees, settlement payments, lost revenue and decreased contributions. The costs related to the scandal warrant a greater discussion, but a concise summary of how the university should address scandal costs would be to exhaust every legal remedy in an effort to reduce each line item.
  • Commonwealth funding: The 2011-12 Commonwealth appropriation to Penn State was decreased by $68 million. Since then, the Commonwealth has maintained level funding for the university, but the university is operating with a Commonwealth appropriation equal to the 1995 appropriation. Because the university is reliant upon Commonwealth funding for approximately 14 percent of its operating budget, the university needs to partner with the Commonwealth and demonstrate that an investment in Penn State’s appropriation is one that has far reaching benefits to Pennsylvania.
  • Financial aid reform: Tuition and fees account for approximately 80 percent of Penn State’s operating budget. It is likely that the federal government will legislatively limit tuition increases. If so, the university will have to find alternate funding sources to cover increasing costs.

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