David K. Mullaly, Ballot Position No. 28
Read Mullaly’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?
Given the events of the last two years, the selection of the next president of Penn State is the most important university decision in many years. In ascending order of importance, here are some urgent needs:
• Fundraiser: The new president must provide leadership for private fund-raising and financial lobbying at the state and national levels. Penn State’s students and families are being squeezed by higher tuition, and each increase discourages many students from applying to Penn State. More financial aid could provide real relief for many.
• Team Builder: The president must build a team from the components of the Penn State community: the students, the faculty, and the alumni. Students and faculty are the embodiment of a Penn State education, and both need to be appreciated. However, the alumni need to be seen as something more than a steady revenue stream. Alumni can provide value far beyond financial support.
• Chief Executive: The new president must re-assert the authority of the office. The Board of Trustees, which has since November 2011 acted as the sole authority at Penn State, must resume its traditional role: providing governance oversight and final approval on major decisions.
• The Face of Penn State: Finally, the new president must be an appealing and articulate public representative for the university. That will be his or her most important quality. This individual must be a proud and unapologetic advocate for the Penn State that its alumni continue to honor and cherish.
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 outgoing Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner recently offered a series of proposals aimed at reforming the structure of the Penn State Board of Trustees, which were designed to address the governance failures of the trustees over the last two years. These proposals have been turned into four bills, which have been introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The bills seek to make Penn State subject to the Right To Know Law, reduce the size of the board, change how Business and Industry trustees are chosen, and remove the governor and the university president from the voting membership. Although I’m not happy with the suggestion that the number of alumni trustees would be reduced, a similar reduction of all groups is probably the only way that an overall reduction will be approved by the legislature. Why a size reduction for the BOT? Thirty-two trustees make governance by the entire board impossible. As a result, a smaller group, the Executive Committee, has consolidated power in its own hands, and the majority of the Board functions as a rubber stamp for these few, largely unelected brokers. This situation has had a significant role in the failures of Penn State’s trustees to act in the best interests of the university. Some of the needed reforms can and should be enacted now by the Penn State Board of Trustees. The board should also demand that the PA legislature enact the reform bills currently being considered.
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?
Under normal circumstances, an alumni trustee would be expected to function as a trustee who happens to have been elected by fellow alumni. He or she would fulfill all fiduciary duties, and contribute to the board’s deliberations. However, the events over the past two years have fundamentally changed the situation. Certainly, the “public comment” portions of recent BOT meetings have highlighted a huge chasm separating a great many alumni from the perspectives of most current board members. My conversations since last August with several hundred alumni confirm that chasm. Anger, distrust, and contempt are the most common alumni reactions to the board members who failed to respond to an impending scandal, failed to defend the university when the media was framing it as the “Penn State scandal,” failed to respond when the Freeh investigation transformed its theories into certainties, and failed to deal effectively with the NCAA challenge. Despite these failures, the sitting board has refused to acknowledge its mistakes. As there are very few current trustees who share the views of most alumni, I would focus my efforts in two areas. First, I would work to establish an alumni trustee caucus, which would push to reform the BOT and begin as a group to represent the almost 600,000 alumni. Second, I would encourage other trustees to help us find common ground. There are surely reasonable people on the BOT, and bridge building will be an absolute necessity.