penn state

Penn State trustees to discuss governance reform, recommend changes at Thursday meeting

mdawson@centredaily.comMarch 14, 2013 

Before the fireworks Friday, when former Penn State football lettermen have promised to lay into the board of trustees, a handful of board members will convene Thursday to pave the way for ground-breaking changes to how the 158-year-old university is governed.

The board’s committee on governance and long-range planning is expected to review and recommend reforms for a vote of the full board on Friday in Hershey.

Exactly what those reforms are, though, will not be known until the meeting, because its agenda is confidential, and a university spokesman could not provide firmer details about which reforms will be up for consideration.

The committee meeting is at 1 p.m. in the Cocoa Inn Room of The Hotel Hershey in Hershey.

Regardless of the uncertainty, the result will be unprecedented because of the long tradition of university and board governance, which became a lightning rod for criticism after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Politicians, elected officials and alumni have been calling for reform and changes, and the board of trustees continues to bear the brunt of the anger from seething fans and alumni over its handling of coach Joe Paterno’s ouster and the NCAA sanctions. Some groups want to purge the board of those who voted to remove Paterno as coach, while others want the size of the board reduced, a different composition or certain members stripped of their voting ability.

The best hints about what reforms to expect Thursday are from the committee’s last discussion on the topic in January, when the members reviewed the long list of reforms suggested by former Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Among the reforms that were discussed: whether the Penn State president or the state’s governor should have voting powers, whether the president will be the board’s secretary or whether retired university employees have to wait a few years before they can run for a board seat.

The committee is chaired by James Broadhurst and includes the former chairwoman Karen Peetz and Joel Myers, who fired off an email a few weeks ago criticizing the NCAA and the Freeh report.

Peetz and Myers were supportive of removing the president’s voting powers, and the committee sounded in favor of stripping the governor’s voting powers, too. Broadhurst said he first wanted to discuss the latter one with Gov. Tom Corbett.

A reduction in the president’s powers was one of Wagner’s core recommendations. The former auditor general also recommended reducing the size of the board from its size of 32 members.

But reducing the board could be harder to pull off, at least for now.

Last week, in an interview with the Centre Daily Times, several trustees supported keeping the board at the status quo.

Paul Silvis said he would have already resigned from the board if he thought that could lead to more efficiency. Keith Masser, the board chairman, said there are advantages to keeping the board as large as it is, but he said the debate around the issue will “take some time to come to the right number” of members.

The board is expected to continue discussing the reforms at its next round of meetings in May, too.

But before that, some trustees will head to Harrisburg to testify before a Senate committee in favor of the governance reforms the board adopts. Broadhurt is going, and freshman trustee Anthony Lubrano has said he will be there, too.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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