Ted J. Sebastianelli, Ballot Position No. 1
Read Sebastianelli’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 of trustees is responsible to provide oversight of the university administration. As such, whether a member of the board or not, the president is responsible to the board. The board appraises the president with constructive criticism and holds him accountable. The president brings major issues to the board and apprises the board of significant activities. The board chair represents the board and has the most critical relationship with the president. The chair should have regular informal contact with the president. Issues from the trustees should be vetted through the chair before going to the president. To a lesser extent, the executive committee serves as a first line of access to the president. All trustees must be fully engaged in the business of Penn State and must be kept informed of all major activities. Free and open debate is essential. One person, one vote should be the rule. Our board of trustees’ tragic actions in 2011 stemmed from the de facto form of governance that places power in the hands of the privileged few to the detriment of the many. The result was a disastrous blow to our alma mater’s reputation. How a few power-group trustees could accept a damming report without even reading it and a freshly named interim president could be allowed to sign a consent decree thereby accepting severe consequences and giving up the right to appeal is unconscionable. Where is the fiduciary responsibility that asks each trustee to protect the reputation of our university?
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?
The only way we can truly heal the university community is by getting to the truth. Due process matters! The recent alumni association survey makes it abundantly clear the vast majority of Penn State alums don’t trust our board. Way too much remains in the dark. We need to shine the light on all aspects of what happened in 2011. Our university needs to stop paying lip service to transparency and accountability and open up to the truth. Until the power is shifted away from the decision-making group, I would continue to urge what’s left of the 2011 trustees to admit they made an egregious mistake and stand up to defend our university…or resign. I would lead the fight to repudiate the Freeh Report and demand that Freeh appear before us to defend his investigation. Freeh needs to answer! Finally, I would relish the opportunity to formally honor Joe Paterno and apologize to the Paterno family. Our vast alumni base demands it. Sadly, this board has squandered its chance to appropriately celebrate our beloved coach. That will happen only when the truth is known far and wide.
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?
Rising cost of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA). Hire an extremely well qualified and fiscally responsible Athletics Director. During the 2012-13 academic year, Penn State sports lost $5.9 million. Now ICA wants to borrow $30 million. We’re spending as if we’re printing money in the basement of Old Main. Just two years earlier, Penn State showed a profit of $14.8 million. We need to get our ICA fiscal house in order now.
Rising cost of education. Trustees and presidents can’t continue to balance their books on the backs of students and taxpayers. University Park is the second priciest four-year public university in the country. Penn State can’t continue to rubber stamp tuition increases without eventually having some negative impact. At least one Big 10 school has frozen tuition and reduced meal plans with positive results. It can be done, but only with a president-led university-wide commitment to root out every cost saving possible, including those in major capital projects. Reduce the time to degree. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt. Our students are leaving saddled with huge loan debt and high loan default rates. We must facilitate and, in fact, encourage students to take advantage of year-round learning to reduce their time to graduate. It’s not cost-effective for buildings to go unused or underutilized during less popular times like early mornings and Fridays. Students should be provided incentives including reduced tuition to matriculate during the summer so they can graduate faster and less expensively.