Alumni Association, student body want seat at Penn State board table

mdawson@centredaily.comSeptember 20, 2013 

— Add the Penn State student body and Alumni Association to the groups that want a seat on the university’s board of trustees.

The organizations’ leaders want their constituents to have stronger voices on the board, and their requests come at a time trustees are examining the governance structure to figure out what’s best for Penn State.

The organizations have made their intentions known to the board, and board leaders acknowledged them during Friday’s meeting on campus.

There was no action taken, and the considerations would be possible with changes to the board’s bylaws, although one of the proposals is coming by way of the state Capitol.

The Alumni Association’s executive board unanimously supports the notion, said Roger Williams, the association’s executive director, on Friday.

“We think that we can be a vital and important voice with the university’s governance process to advance the welfare of Penn state on all fronts,” he said.

As it stands now, the association of more than 170,000 members has representation on the board’s committee for outreach, development and community relations. That belongs to the association president, who is Kay Salvino.

Williams called the timing of university reflection and self-study a “golden moment” for the association to jockey for a more pronounced role.

The student body’s push grew out of a state Senate bill that proposes the governor be required to appoint a student to the board. The board has a governor-appointed student trustee now, master’s candidate Peter Khoury, but the governor doesn’t have to pick a student.

The three student constituency associations, for undergrads at University Park, undergrads at the branch campuses and graduate students, support the legislation, leaders said.

Katelyn Mullen, the president of the University Park Undergraduate Association, said her group and the graduate student group drafted a letter in support. Jalon Alexander, the president of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, said his group “supports the spirit of the bill.”

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 410, would change the makeup of the board: It would lower the number of alumni-elected seats from nine to six, and it would reduce the agricultural, business and industry, and governor-appointed trustees from six to four. Its sponsors are Sens. Andrew Dinniman, Rob Teplitz, Mike Folmer and Wayne Fontana.

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