Alice Pope: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

April 10, 2014 

Biographical information

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Age: 57

Education, B.A. psychology, 1979; M.S. psychology, 1983; Ph.D. psychology, 1986

Work: associate professor of psychology, St. John’s University

Experiences and activities: 1988-1993, assistant professor of psychology, Texas Tech University; 1993-2000, assistant professor of surgery and psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine; 2000-2010, trustee, Brooklyn Friends School; 2003-2007, secretary, board of trustees, Brooklyn Friends School; 2007-2010, co-chair, board of trustees, Brooklyn Friends School; member, Penn State Alumni Association

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

I ask for your support based on my record of thoughtful, principled, and constructive activism in response to the board’s errors. I have worked effectively outside the board; now I am ready to serve Penn State as a trustee. In particular, I have:

• Regularly attended committee and full BOT meetings. I have commented at meetings; have communicated with trustees to voice my opinion; I have connected with alumni who attend meetings.

• Written 11 op-eds and other opinion pieces in Pennsylvania newspapers. These works have made me a recognized voice of alumni who are concerned with promoting effective governance and with responding to the profound weaknesses of the Freeh report. Please see my website to read my published work.

• Conducted research and written position papers in collaboration with other alumni in support of governance reform. These reports have been used by our progressive PSU trustees and by state legislators to guide their efforts to make the BOT more effective, transparent, and efficient.

• Met with Pennsylvania senators and have formed effective working relationships with several who support PSU board reform.

• Used social media to lead actions. We have generated letter-writing campaigns to PSU trustees and to state legislators in support of governance reforms.

• Attended hearings and press conferences in the Capitol on Penn State governance reform. I have also helped to organize attendance by Penn State alumni at these events to show the strength of our numbers.

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

If elected, I will:

• Create world-class governance that is inclusive, collaborative, transparent, and ethical, featuring the best practices of educational governance.

• Lead effective long range planning so that Penn State is positioned to thrive in the rapidly changing environment of higher education. We will find creative strategies for approaching the challenges of decreased state funding, rising costs, and declining numbers of college-age students in Pennsylvania.

• Enhance affordability of a Penn State education. We must maintain our mission as a land grant university dedicated to providing a quality education to all the daughters and sons of the Commonwealth.

• Augment Penn State’s reputation by emphasizing the many positive contributions of the university and educating stakeholders about the economic benefits the university creates. We should leverage PSU’s own faculty experts instead of hiring expensive consultants who have repeatedly failed to provide quality solutions to pressing problems.

• Repair the damage caused by the Sandusky scandal and its aftermath. We must evaluate the validity of the Freeh report and use the results to contest the NCAA sanctions. We will conduct a national search for a permanent Athletic Director. We will find appropriate ways to honor the contributions of Joe Paterno and his family. I will defend Penn State’s culture against internal and external detractors.

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

The board needs more transparency. The board of a public university must be accountable to the public. Right-to-Know legislation should apply to Penn State, as it does to all the other public universities in the Big 10; this can be done without compromising proprietary information. The State Ethics Act should apply to the board so that decisions are made free of conflicts of interest.

The board needs to be more engaged, collaborative, and inclusive. Best practices in management should be followed so that minority positions are genuinely considered. The size of the board should be reduced to increase engagement of all trustees.

Best practices in educational governance should be applied so that the educational mission of the university is prioritized. Currently the board favors corporate governance models which are not always compatible with educational institutions.

I support the recommendations of former Auditor General Jack Wagner. These recommendations were made with the participation of many stakeholders, including PSU alumni and organizations promoting good governance in higher education. To date, the board has fully implemented only a third of those recommendations and has partially implemented another third. Those that were partially adopted include loopholes that are in conflict with the spirit of reform; for example, setting 12-year term limits for new trustees while allowing longtime tenured current trustees to extend their terms.

I support state Sen. John Yudichak’s bill No. 1240, which would reduce the board’s size and prevent the board’s business and industry trustees from being a self-perpetuating elite.

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

Joe Paterno had the radical idea to use college football as a platform for teaching an entire university community that good values and hard work get results, on and off the field. The Paterno family has championed academic excellence at Penn State for decades, and that leadership should be recognized by the university.

A recent survey by the Penn State Alumni Association shows that 81 percent of alumni strongly believe the university should honor Joe Paterno. Statements by Jerry Sandusky prosecutor Frank Fina, who said that he found no evidence that Paterno was involved in a coverup, remove any reason to wait. I believe the university community must participate in the decision about the best ways to honor Paterno. This should not be a decision made by the board in a vacuum.

Paterno leveraged his first national championship to help make Penn State a world class academic institution. His words from 1983 still apply today: “We need to find our soul. We need vibrant, aggressive, brilliant teachers and scholars. We need to give them the resources to grow.” One of the best ways to honor Joe Paterno is to strengthen the culture of excellence that became known as “success with honor.”

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

There are no active faculty on the Penn State board to provide “front line” perspectives on serving the university’s academic mission. As a professor with over 25 years of experience working at public and private universities, I can help to assure that the needs of students, faculty and staff are met.

I have previous experience serving on a school board where as co-chair I helped the school to recover from a scandal and where we improved governance processes, including restructuring our board.

I am endorsed by trustees Ted Brown, Barbara Doran, Anthony Lubrano, and Bill Oldsey, and by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.

More info: alice4psu@gmail.com, alice4psuboard.com, facebook.com/alice4psuboard

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