Robert Hooper: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

April 10, 2014 

Biographical information

Burlington, Vt.

Age: 62

Education: B.S. human development/individual and family studies, 1979; A.A., Montgomery College

Work: retired probation officer/social worker, union president/officer

Experiences and activities: member, Vermont Pension Investment Committee; vice chairman, City of Burlington Retirement System board of trustees; member, Governor’s Veterans Advisory Commission; president emeritus, Vermont State Employees’ Association; committee member, Burlington Telecom Citizens Advisory Committee; member, VSEA retirees organization board of directors; volunteer, Flynn Theater for the Performing Arts. Past: president and chairman, Vermont State Employees Association; executive officer, VSEA; registered lobbyist; board of commissioners, Burlington City Schools; member, Vermont Democratic Party executive committee, national convention delegate, local committee treasurer

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

This is the second time I have approached my fellow alumni asking for their support in the board election process.

During the past two years, people connected with Penn State — students, alumni, supporters, employees and faculty, as well as the institutional honor of this great university — have been stressed, tested and unfairly maligned following the Jerry Sandusky revelations. Both in the press and the courtroom, Penn State has been named as an unwitting accomplice to the actions of one sick individual.

The good name of a faithful servant and benefactor to the university has been intentionally tarnished, possibly in order to deflect responsibility away from a seriously flawed management team and system.

I see a governing board that is in need of reform, both in terms of operating policy, fiduciary accountability and personal responsibility. I feel I bring over a decade of board leadership experience to the table for Penn State, and have no problem with speaking out for more workable rules, that would allow individual trustees more freedom to interact with their constituent groups.

I feel I can help to repair the process that has failed our university in its hour of need, bringing skills in adversarial management techniques as well as team oriented processes.

We were placed in this situation by a small group of people who were/are insulated from the needs and desires of the university community.

I will help the full board to once again claim power over the affairs of Penn State, and move us on a more positive track.

What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?

The approach to dealing with the business of the university, prior to the events of 2011, reflected a board of trustees that was far too eager to delegate their power and responsibility to administrative and executive staff. In doing so, they detached themselves from the reality that became the Sandusky scandal.

Many of the decisions reached and promoted by the board, weigh heavily on discussions that remain intense today. To my mind, decisions were reached with only one goal — to protect the Penn State “brand” and hope people would quickly move on. This has not happened so issues that are important — the NCAA issues, the Freeh report findings, the firing of a long term beloved employee and the removal of a tribute to both he and prior sporting victories, remain tremendously charged issues.

Competent individuals should solve these issues.

I favor challenging the NCAA actions as well as the accusations in the Freeh report.

I also favor paying permanent tribute to Joe Paterno for his years of service.

The one long term issue I feel will require our full time and attention is the lack of adequate state and federal funding for our programs, and the related increases-to unconscionable levels-of the tuition PSU charges our students.

I would address this problem one way-aggressive interaction with the legislature to secure more funding for Penn State (to lower operating cost shifts) and directly to its students.

The legislature must hear and respond if affordability at Penn State is to survive.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

I support proposals for reform that return the ultimate power of the board to the full board.

It now seems that the board is ruled by an executive committee that is appointed with no internal accountability to members, and which is ultimately responsible to no one but themselves.

I would work to revamp the board standing orders and rules of operation so as to grant more power to participate in all board functions by all trustees, fight policy that, in effect, gags board members from interacting with their constituents.

I would favor rules that would restrict the power of the executive committee, in non emergency situations, and would limit the size and power of individual committees of the board to take action without the specific authority of the entire board.

I would favor a smaller board, with fewer individual members on the existing committees. I would expect committees to report to the board, receive direction for approval of their recommendations only then the limited authority to act within that scope of authority.

I would further limit the size of the board by reevaluating the gubernatorial appointments and the Business and Industry trustees, both in Number and Process of appointment. I would seriously question the number of appointments that rest in the hand of the Governor, especially when compared to the historical amount the state contributes to the needs of the university budget.

If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?

Mr. Paterno was a faithful servant to the mission of Penn State — on the field, in the community, and in his heart. Unfortunately, Joe Paterno was thrown under the bus by people with personal agenda, and in search of their own spotlight.

For 61 years, Coach Paterno walked our campus spreading good cheer and strong spirit. I was fortunate to have had the chance to walk with him a few times, and I reflect on those times frequently and with humble appreciation.

The University must issue an appropriate apology to the family and memory of Joe. A fitting tribute must be identified. Ultimately his “how will I be remembered” quote, must again be displayed with pride for what he has given us. I am not looking for a shrine-none of us should be. But, any individual who so fervently integrated themselves into the soul of Penn State, must be honored.

I support the efforts to name the playing field within Beaver Stadium for Mr. Paterno, in recognition of his years of dedication and service to both the athletic and academic success of so many students. I also feel that the removal of the statue and the display honoring the proud tradition of Penn State football was an inappropriate response to a vague threat delivered by a very public airplane stunt.

We should be responsive to the needs of others, but never be bullied into inappropriate action. I feel that tribute should be returned to its rightful place.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

We ask for your support to change the path of a great university. This is not just about a great coach, football or sports, blame for inappropriate action, or who had keys to what building.

I have raised concern over the trend to fill the alumni seats with persons who are more suited to occupy the business and industry positions on the board. Electing nine alumni with reform agenda will not change the course at Penn State. We must look at the people and process by which the majority of the board is seated. Many very important issues are never discussed at a formal board meeting, having been decided and dispatched by a small executive committee. This is inappropriate.

I pledge to work to change that situation and to regularly communicate directly with the alumni and community at large.

More info: Hooper9999@aol.com, www.bobhooper.org, www.facebook.com/BobHooperForPennStateBoardOfTrustees

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