Alice W. Pope, Ballot Position No. 27

Pope photoAlice W. Pope ’79, ’83 MA, ’86 PhD Lib

Associate professor of psychology
St. John’s University
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Read Pope’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.

For Penn State to fully realize its potential, the Board and the president should have complementary roles in leading the university. The Board and the president should be jointly responsible for setting major policy and for visionary planning to position the university to thrive in the future. From there, the two should adopt different roles—the president is responsible for executing the plan and the Board is responsible for supervising the president’s efforts and judging his or her success. The Board should not meddle in running the university, but it must insist on being fully informed about the university’s activities so that it can make good decisions. The Board should endorse and support the president’s leadership in fundraising, governmental relations, and the promotion of good relations with students, faculty, staff, communities across the Commonwealth, alumni, and other stakeholders. Penn State’s board recently hired a governance consultant who openly acknowledges her lack of expertise with educational organizations. Perhaps this should not be surprising, given the preponderance of trustees with corporate backgrounds. Because teaching, research, outreach, and public service are Penn State’s core mission, the Board would benefit from the expertise and background of someone from higher education—something I can provide as a professor with over 25 years of experience, and three degrees from Penn State. A primary concern for me is ensuring that the Board adopts best practices for educational governance. This will help Penn State continue—and strengthen—its tradition of academic excellence.

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?

Next to Sandusky, the Board is the biggest cause of Penn Staters’ ongoing hurt. Accordingly, I will work to change the Board’s mindset and culture. Different perspectives are critical to reaching greater understanding of complex issues, but unfortunately the Board simply avoids dissenting voices. A former board chair promised to conduct a “listening tour,” for example, but she reneged on her promise. This is just one illustration of the Board’s inward-looking and insular culture. I will insist that the Board engage in meaningful dialogue with its stakeholders. The Board has hindered healing by promoting a false dichotomy—they claim that examining the past will impair the ability to plan for the future. This is absurd. All healthy organizations engage in self-appraisals in order to build on their successes and to avoid repeating mistakes. When mistakes are discovered, amends must be made. Leaving mistakes unrectified obstructs healing and prevents forward movement. The community will recover from the scandal when the university’s reputation is restored. The Board must repudiate the flawed Freeh report, which wrongly condemned our culture using inadequate evidence. The NCAA sanctions, issued on the basis of a faulty report, must be challenged. We must find the courage and resolve to do what is right. As we pursue the truth, we must ensure the education of our current students is our primary concern. Contrary to the Board’s false dichotomy, I believe that we can both rectify past mistakes and lead the way to a greater 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?

Six great fiscal challenges facing the university are:

  • Stagnant and declining support from Commonwealth appropriations.
  • The challenge of maintaining the quality of education in an environment of increased costs for salaries, health care and retirement benefits, insurance, utilities, governmental mandates, information technology and library materials while at the same time reining in tuition.
  • Maintaining buildings and physical plant in an era of aging facilities and growing deferred maintenance.
  • Making the cost of an education affordable for the majority of students who need financial aid and deserve a Penn State education.
  • Supporting the Commonwealth Campuses, which are so critical to the education, human development, and economic development of their communities while creating efficiencies during a time of changing demographics and decreased enrollments at some campuses.
  • Finding funds for investment in faculty, facilities, and programs that will allow Penn State to continue to be the most student-centered research university in the nation.

The University can address these needs through continued advocacy with elected officials in Harrisburg, preparations for another successful capital fund raising campaign with need-based scholarships as a top priority, further efficiencies in budget planning and administration, a fresh look at enrollment management and Commonwealth Campus programs, continued development of the World Campus and hybrid approaches to educational delivery, and targeting new funds to programs of great priority based on careful long range planning and sound leadership.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • […] Pope, Jubelirer, and Lord (who did not attend the meeting) were endorsed by PS4RS, which has criticized the board for its firing of Paterno and Spanier, its acceptance of the Freeh report, which they say led to NCAA sanctions, and the board’s unwillingness to keep pushing to find the truth of what happened in the Sandusky scandal. But Pope and Jubelirer say they also bring additional qualities to the board. […]

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