Edward J. Kabala, Ballot Position No. 11
Attorney at law
Fox Rothschild LLP
Read Kabala’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 Board should have four main functions: (a) determine the University’s mission, (b) support the President’s actions in fulfilling the mission (once thoroughly assessed), (c) be the President’s conscience, and (d) enhance the image of the University and the President to the public. The Board has selected a President and entrusted him with the daily operations of an organization with a predetermined mission. If, throughout the hiring process or thereafter, a variation of the mission has been suggested to the Board, the members must give open-minded consideration to the changes. Once the common goal is jointly determined, the Board’s role is to question and assess the President’s initiatives and, if approved, give wholehearted support to agreed-upon actions. Penn State is an instrument of the Commonwealth with an education and research mission. The Board members owe the loyalty to the institution and its administration rather than the specific interest groups who have appointed or elected them. Nonetheless, the process as designed creates selection by interest groups. While satisfying individual constituencies should never be a trustee’s primary role, it is unrealistic to assume that any trustee will want to see their constituency ignored. Therefore dissent must be respected and compromise and inclusiveness encouraged; unanimity cannot be demanded by either the Board or President; it must be earned by attention to the mission, the law and the interests of all relevant groups.
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?
We cannot change the past; we can only learn from it, endeavor not to repeat prior mistakes and correct the effects of them. Child abuse occurred and the University has taken steps to expose it, aid those victimized and, hopefully, reduce it. Child abuse is not a Penn State or Sandusky matter but a world issue, and Penn State must continue to be a leader in its exposure. Child abuse cannot be tolerated, but ignoring the rights of anyone under media pressure or the search for political correctness is also abhorrent. The hasty, misguided and clearly erroneous decisions following the grand jury indictments leave many alumni rightfully angry. In the frenzied search to appear positive, actions were taken without investigation against Coach Paterno and, with the acquiescence of the Board, administration and the NCAA, against past and current student athletes. Even after “investigation,” those actions were clearly premature, poorly implemented and wrong. Nothing in the Freeh report’s unsubstantiated conclusions supports the actions taken, and yet the Board refuses to even acknowledge the possibility of error. If there are Board members worried about future revelations from upcoming trials, I would not demand immediate action but would seek a current agreement to address and restore the legacy of Coach Paterno and his players, even to the point of confronting the NCAA, after the trials. I believe that a commitment to revisit the issue at a specific point would soften the tone of the debate and begin the healing process.
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?
For Penn State, as other institutions of higher education, governmental contribution to education in an uncertain economy is a major challenge. Pennsylvania has reduced its historic funding to education. State-related universities are less favored than those designated as state institutions. Regardless of the party in power, the conflicting demands of all needs of citizens of Pennsylvania with universities will only increase. The success of programs instituted by Penn State, plus size and visibility, work against its plea of need. The Board’s attitude that Commonwealth funds are welcome, while legislative oversight and involvement are not, is also not helpful. Penn State must reduce its costs without reducing its product; that may come from research combines, an allocation of educational functions among all state and state related institutions, or other strategic partnerships. One must take a fresh look to avoid duplication of services already provided elsewhere, even if Penn State can deliver them more effectively. Available funding must be utilized to support those initiatives already undertaken or for which there is a clear need. Prior initiatives must be reviewed. Is there a need for a law school? What combination of world versus Pennsylvania focus is appropriate? Medical coverage for employees escalates annually. We must reduce, share or shift it. Imposing lifestyle demands, however laudable, without “buy in” from all constituencies was ineffective, but the cost and lifestyle problems remain. Better communication and agreed upon common goals are necessary.