Robert Hooper, Ballot Position No. 31

HooperRobert Hooper ’79 H&HD

Member
Vermont Pension Investment Committee
Burlington, Vt.

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

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

The ultimate power and authority of an organization such as Penn State is retained within the Board of Trustees. That authority is delivered to the Board by the organization’s Bylaws and other foundation documents. Those documents may establish a “transfer or delegation” of authority in certain areas to be exercised at the discretion of the President, but these powers are usually limited to executing such motions and directives as are considered and adopted by the Board. The Penn State Bylaws grant considerable power to the President, but place all under the “control of the Board of Trustees.” They state in part: Subject to the control of the Board of Trustees, the President shall have general supervision of and general management and executive powers over all the property, operations, business, affairs and employees of the University, and shall see that the policies and programs adopted or approved by the Board of Trustees are carried out. Ultimately, the President is the individual in charge of the day to day function of the University, its property, personnel and systems. The relationship should be one of trust but also of duty, in that a President who assumes excessive authority will surely be reined back by the Board—which will be disruptive to all systems. Still, wise board members must realize that a President cannot be hampered by an excessively involved board. It is the overall duty of the Board Chair to find and maintain a balance that allows these relationships to be productive.

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?

Open and honest discussion from the Board and President is the only way to return to the path of trust within the Penn State family. I support Reform of the standing orders that control the actions of Board members, causing the Board to look like an insulated, uninvolved community member. We recognize the emotional response surrounding the firing of Coach Paterno, the hiring and acceptance of the Freeh report without challenge, and allowing the NCAA to dishonor our tradition of excellence, and the opening of the checkbook for millions of dollars that could have been used for education. Few outside the Board room can understand the trustees’ actions, and many continue to react in anger that those most able to defend the honor of our University simply failed to do so. Healing only comes with truth and time. Some of the most egregious offenders need to step aside for the benefit of the University. No individual trustee can solve this problem since a Board functions by majority rule. I will be a vocal LEADER who steps up to move the group in a positive direction. My most powerful contribution will be to help the board’s development into a cohesive group who can be the catalyst for important and powerful change for the university. I make a personal pledge to reach out to Trustees and alumni to seek ideas and openly communicate, via web and social media so that we can find a path to TRUST. “WE” are Penn State.

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?

The fiscal challenges of Penn State are shared by the students and community under her wings. In my view, the next three years continue to present an oppressive burden to students in the form of a tuition structure that drives far too many outstanding minds to other institutions. From the World Campus to the student entering a branch campus location for a certificate, tuition and expenses are driving forces when selecting a college. Additionally, I am concerned that the ratio of tenured to adjunct faculty could be slipping in the wrong direction due to financial pressures. Lastly, corporate funding for research finds an ever-expanding number of foreign academic programs in which to invest their research dollars. Penn State must maintain a reputation of excellence and academic leadership which will draw back the corporate dollar. The state legislature holds the key to tuition cost containment. As a Board member, I would propose a “Legislative Summit for Penn State,” where we would gather trustees and critical stakeholders together in Harrisburg to meet with legislative leaders individually and visit committees of jurisdiction to fight for proper funding. Additionally, a formal lobby day for concerned alumni and friends of Penn State, to reach out to their local legislators and place local voter pressure on the legislature. The key to a bright future for Penn State is directly associated with an increase in state funding of the programs provided by the University. As a former registered lobbyist, I will make this a personal agenda item.

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