Penn State student trustee proposal faces hiccup

mdawson@centredaily.comMarch 6, 2014 

— Penn State has cleared one of the hurdles in adding a permanent student seat to its board of trustees.

But there are other hurdles ahead that student leaders weren’t prepared for Thursday, as discussion about their proposal got sidetracked over ensuring an active student would be on the board in May, when the board will talk about tuition proposals for next year.

The issue is trustee Peter Khoury, who was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett and joined the board in November 2011. He’ll graduate with his master’s degree in May, meaning there wouldn’t be an active student on the board at a time when the trustees discuss tuition rates.

The board’s governance committee signed off on the permanent student trustee proposal Thursday. That means the matter goes to the full board for the May meeting, and if it’s approved there, it gets the student trustee in place to be a part of the tuition rate discussions.

Here’s the catch.

The board can shelve that whole proposal if the governor quickly appoints an active student and the state Senate confirms the appointment by May. Khoury would have to resign, and he indicated Thursday during the committee meeting that he’s OK with that.

Trustee Keith Eckel, the chairman of the governance committee, said he’s spoken with lawmakers who were confident in expediting the confirmation process by May, too.

If the governor appoints a replacement for Khoury, then it appears the student trustee proposal would be wrapped into a wider governance reform proposal that’s still in the works and would be unveiled in September.

The notion of a student trustee on the board had the blessing of eight of the nine trustees who took up the proposal in the committee.

Reform trustee Barbara Doran called it a “great idea,” and trustees such as Eckel, board Chairman Keith Masser and Richard Dandrea gave it their blessings as well.

The voice of dissent belonged to Anthony Lubrano, who said he was concerned to hear about the proposal for the first time on Thursday and vote on it.

Lubrano also balked at the proposal because it would increase the size of the board from 32 to 33 members, and he’s been a staunch advocate for reducing the size of the board.

Specifically, the proposal calls for an undergraduate, graduate or World Campus student to serve a two-year on the board. The student has to be in good standing, too.

Students interested in applying for the seat have to go through an interview process and be approved by the board.

The proposal was developed by the three student government organizations representing the undergraduate, graduate and commonwealth campus student bodies.

Student leader Molly Droelle, who represents the commonwealth campus students, seemed taken aback by the alternative scenario put forth.

After the meeting, she said she and other student leaders were made aware Thursday afternoon of the scenario that would involve replacing Khoury by May. Droelle said she and her peers had a meeting with board leaders about a half-hour before the committee meeting.

She and student leaders Katelyn Mullen and Scott Rager could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

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

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