Robert C. Jubelirer, Ballot Position No. 28
Partner and chair of government relations practice
Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell and Hippel LLP
Read Jubelirer’s official bio and position statement here. (PDF download.)
1. Describe how you think the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the university president should function.
The relationship between the Board of Trustees and the university president should be one of mutual respect and authority. The change to make the president a non-voting Trustee was an important recent step in restoring balance to the relationship. Another step to take in order to engender more trust with all Penn Staters is to change the role of the university’s legal counsel. The Board and president should not share the same attorney with the University. It can represent a conflict of interest. One of the most significant criticisms of the current administration is that the president—with a select group of Trustees—can make enormous decisions regarding the future of the University. An example was the decision President Erickson made to accept the NCAA sanctions imposed against the Penn State football program. Such a momentous decision should have been reviewed by the entire Board, thoroughly discussed and agreed upon before making a decision. Sadly, there is a common thread that now runs through the Board of Trustees: that only a few select members of the executive committee can make a decision that affects our whole University and all of her stakeholders. This form of elite decision-making must change and include the entire Board in deliberations. All members should be informed of all decisions and no longer be kept in the dark. Lack of transparency breeds mistrust. President Barron now has the opportunity to “turn on the light,” and so far we have reasons to be encouraged.
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?
It is critical to have the leadership skills and experience to work with those who may have a different point of view to try and affect compromise in the best interest of our university. Serving in legislative leadership taught me the valuable skills of bringing people with differing positions together for results, and regrouping and forging ahead after suffering setbacks. We are certainly at a crossroads at our beloved university. I believe until more members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) reach common ground and acknowledge that mistakes were made in the wake of the Sandusky scandal—such as foregoing due process and firing Joe Paterno before he had the opportunity to address them and the public—it will be difficult to heal and recover. I remain optimistic that that time will come. A great step was the hiring of Dr. Barron as president. Another was how former Trustee Al Clemens showed leadership by acknowledging his terrible mistake in rushing to judgment and voting to fire Coach Paterno on Nov. 9, 2011. I believe the time will come soon when more trustees will join Clemens in recognizing their rush to judgment and uniting Penn State nation together again.
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 most pressing fiscal challenges are sharply rising tuition costs and lack of public support. Certainly Penn State cannot keep tuition down when the Commonwealth continues to either flat fund the university or even worse cuts its annual appropriation in the budget. But raising tuition year after year is not the answer. Penn State is the largest economic engine in the state! The Governor and the State Legislature must be reminded of that constantly and treat it in the budget accordingly. Raising endowments for scholarships is one way to help with affordability, but it must be accompanied by controlling costs. Here, the Board of Trustees (BoT) must understand that there is no magic money tree out there for them to pick dollars from. It seems every time there is a question raised, the first thing the BoT does is to hire a high-priced consultant. There may be times when this might be necessary, but I believe it has become too habitual. Has anyone done a study of the tens of millions of dollars that the BoT has authorized and arguably wasted just in the last several years? The BoT should commission a study on how comparable universities are charging much less tuition than Penn State does. Let’s learn from our peers.