Penn State trustees tight-lipped about presidential search

January 17, 2014 

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Trustees Ryan McCombie left, and Kenneth Frazier talk before the meeting. The Penn State University Board of Trustees held a regular scheduled meeting Friday, January 17, 2014, in the Penn Stater Hotel, in University Park, Pa.

NABIL K. MARK — CDT photo Buy Photo

The search for Penn State’s next president continues, but trustees revealed little on Friday about the progress in the confidential process.

Board Chairman Keith Masser said the search committee is “on pace to name the new president of Penn State in the months ahead.” That’s been the promise — that a new president will succeed Rodney Erickson by June 30 — since the search process hit a major setback in the fall.

The only substantive detail Masser revealed about where the search stands is that it’s in the hands of the trustee selection council, the 13-member group that is evaluating candidates and will whittle them down to the finalist. That means the search has gone moved past the phase of screening hundreds of candidates.

Masser said he couldn’t identify how many candidates are in the pool before the trustee selection council.

Penn State was on the verge of naming its president Nov. 1 until it called off a special meeting that was scheduled for a personnel decision. Days later, it became apparent why: The reported top pick, the president of a New York medical university, had been found to have been padding his pay.

That president, David Smith, was suspended and later resigned, and Penn State rebooted the search.

New executive committee members confirmed

Penn State’s board made new appointments to its executive committee on Friday.

Trustees Kathleen Casey, Donald Cotner and Richard Dandrea were approved by the full board. The executive committee has the authority to conduct university business in between the bimonthly regular board meetings.

Casey, Cotner and Dandrea fill the three at-large seats on the executive committee. The other seats are reserved for board officers and board committee heads.

The board also re-elected Keith Masser to serve as chairman through July.

The board has approved a change to the election of its officers — from January each year to July, so that newly elected trustees can participate in the election. However, the trustees still needed to elect officers to fill the gap between Masser’s term expiring this month through July.

Burrowes Building AC gets OK

English professors, rejoice. The Burrowes Building will finally get air conditioning.

That’s part of a $37.8 modernization project for the building, which was built in 1940 and had two wings added in the 1960s. The trustees approved the project Friday.

Physical Plant Vice President Ford Stryker told the trustees that the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are all outdated and that its windows are inefficient. In addition to the replacement of those utility systems, the renovation will involve classroom additions and reconfigurations.

Stryker said the ground floor will see renovated office space, two classroom additions and more storage. The first floor will get a media lab and office space.

The second and fourth floors will have office space renovations.

Stryker said that reserves funding for capital improvements will be used for the project. Faculty and staff will be moved in and out of Burrowes as needed while the renovations are being completed.

There was no word on a starting date for the renovations.

Burrowes Building houses the departments of English and the School of Languages and Literatures.

Updated lab space approved

Future Penn State biology students will get state-of-the-art lab space after their academic home is renovated.

Penn State’s board approved a $20.7 million renovation of Mueller Building, which is in the central core of campus, at its meeting Friday.

The project calls for new lab space on the first, fourth and sixth floors. Stryker told the trustees that the lab space there now is inadequate to accommodate the 5,000 students who have courses and labs in the building each year.

New lighting, ventilation, heating and air conditioning will go in, as well.

In addition to the interior work, the project calls for a new two-story vestibule for the entrance on the south side of the building, opposite Whitmore Laboratory.

The building was built in 1965.

During the renovations, the existing labs will be relocated to the basement of Thomas Building, the university said.

There was no word on a start date.

— Mike Dawson

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