Joel N. Myers, Ballot Position No. 12
Founder, president, and chairman of the board
You can read Myers’ 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.
Penn State University is a multi-billion dollar institution that needs to be run by “best practices” like businesses and institutions of similar size. As the Founder and President of AccuWeather and its Board Chairman, and a member of other boards like the American Weather and Climate Industry Association and Team Pennsylvania Foundation, I know how effective boards work. The board is responsible for governing. That means establishing policies, overseeing and approving major actions and initiatives, and providing guidance for the President, but not micromanaging nor meddling in administrative affairs. While the atmosphere between the Board and the President and his or her Administration should be congenial and cooperative, there should be a natural check and balance structure. As a practical matter, when issues arise, the Board and the President should treat each other with respect and should always solve issues in the most advantageous way for the University. Most importantly, the Penn State President and BOT need to continue to focus on what is best for the future of Penn State and our students. Our Board has a huge responsibility in that it is ultimately responsible for the education of 100,000 students, the $850 million research operation, 24 campuses, the medical school, the law school, over 1,200 clubs and activities, intercollegiate athletics with 31 sports, a high quality faculty, productive staff, the physical plant, the endowment, the dormitories, and food service. It is important that Board members be knowledgeable and able to intelligently inquire about these activities.
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?
What happened three years ago shook our community and our PSU family to its core. It is not something that we will ever forget, but we must recover. What many people do not realize is that the crisis was much, much more serious than football. The University accreditation and government funding were at risk and bold action was needed. By removing the administration that had allowed the crisis to overtake us, we immediately placed the University on a new path. In order to save the University, the Board had to make some very unpleasant decisions that we knew would be unpopular with some. But if we did not stand up, there was a threat that the institution could go down. The trustees acted by unanimous vote. I know not all alumni agreed with those decisions and I understand their feelings. I knew and worked with Joe Paterno since he was an assistant coach. He was my idol. Graham Spanier was a friend of mine. But the responsibility of a trustee is to the institution and those it serves—not to any one individual or friendship. It is a difficult job. Penn State is knocking the cover off the ball. Applications for enrollment are up dramatically again. We are ascending in the national rankings. And our athletic program is doing us very proud. Now we have a choice to make—do we keep reevaluating and litigating the past, or move forward? I believe it is time to move into the future.
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 will come under increasing pressure in the years ahead in ways people may not expect. The pace of rising tuition is unsustainable, and government loans and grants to students used to pay for these costs will not continue to accelerate into the future. Tuition costs are eclipsing the ability of families to pay or are causing hardship in meeting those costs. While we cannot expect the cost of a Penn State education—one of the very best in the nation in many respects—to become inexpensive, we must use responsible stewardship in slowing the increase, securing better funding sources for our students, and provide alternative ways to secure the Penn State experience. Second, digital media technologies are turning the residential learning model on its head. This challenge is enormous. Penn State needs to continue to lead the way that I have helped to forge over a number of years. Third, change is accelerating, and educational needs are likewise changing faster than ever, because of the Internet, mobile access, robots, 3D printing, and a host of new developments. These are the changes I am working to focus the Board and the Administration on now. And these will continue to be my focus. The Board and the University has to embrace the “disruptive technologies” that we are seeing today in society in order to survive in what will be an increasingly competitive environment. The delivery system for education is changing, and as a university we must change with it.