Vincent James ‘V.J.’ Tedesco III: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

April 10, 2014 

Biographical information

Alexandria, Va.

Age: 49

Education: B.A. history, 1986; M.A. history, 1995; master’s of military arts and sciences, U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 2000

Work: defense industry consultant, Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, Va.

Experience and activities: officer, U.S. Army 1986-2011; life member, Penn State Alumni Association

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

I’m not the usual candidate with wealth and connections. I am beholden to no one. I’m a regular alumnus who has invested the time and effort required to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and who has an extraordinary passion for righting past wrongs and setting Penn State on the right course. I offer myself in service to my alma mater as an act of atonement knowing I can provide infinitely better leadership. Penn Staters love their university, but the demands of work and family mean we don’t always have the time and energy to remain engaged. Until 2011 like must alumni, I voted in the trustee elections without taking time to understand either the candidates or the issues and I trusted the board to look after Penn State. That trust evaporated in the wake of the Sandusky Scandal and the events that followed. As my anger and frustration mounted, I began to study and understand the issues, systems, and personalities involved. I learned that we have elected and accepted “country-club” Trustees who simply rubber stamp decisions made in secret by a cabal of the board’s Executive Committee, its Chairman, and the university President. This is the root of our problems and it must end. I am committed to re-establishing appropriate checks and balances and to making our governance more transparent and accountable. I seek a board that provides strategic direction, approves policies and provides oversight of the university’s administration, which then focuses on excellence in day-to-day execution.

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

I will work with other reform-minded Trustees to bring leadership, transparency, and accountability to the governance of Penn State. We must:

1. Modernize our governance. Reforming the university’s governance is job one because it addresses the root cause of recent tribulations. There is an unchecked and unhealthy concentration of power in the hands of the Chairman of the board of trustees, the board’s Executive Committee, and the university President. We must overhaul our governance, re-establish checks and balances and institute systemic transparency.

2. Deal with the fallout. We need a truth and reconciliation process to heal the university community and come to a shared understanding of our recent past. We must hold those responsible for the university’s bungled handling of and response to the Sandusky scandal accountable. We need to ensure Joe Paterno’s legacy of “Success with Honor” is appropriately commemorated and celebrated.

3. Make a Penn State education more affordable while sustaining academic excellence. Declining state appropriations and rising costs have driven tuition up to the point that the working families struggle to afford an education at Penn State. The board should work to control costs, limit increases to tuition and fees, and increase state appropriations. At the same time, Penn State must have the resources required to attract and retain world-class faculty and then give them the facilities and support they need for teaching and research. We require a new capital campaign and more aggressive and effective efforts to secure government and corporate grants to propel us forward.

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

I am a reform candidate. I will advocate and work for a comprehensive overhaul of the board and Penn State’s governance. The root cause of our recent tribulations is the unchecked and unhealthy concentration of power in the hands of the board’s chairman, Its Executive Committee, and the university president. Therefore, reforming the governance of Penn State should be our highest priority. We must re-establish appropriate checks and balances and make our governance more transparent and accountable. We cannot afford to have “country club” Trustees who acquiesce to the dictates of an unelected powerful few. We need trustees who actively exercise their stewardship and fiduciary responsibilities. The board should provide strategic direction, approve policies and provide oversight of the university’s administration. The power of the board’s chairman and executive committee should be limited to ensure that they do not wield unchecked influence as they currently do. The university president should manage day-to-day operations and serve as Penn State’s public face. He should develop and implement plans that achieve strategic goals and implement policies established by the board. As President Eric Barron assumes his duties, it is critical that the board re-establish this right and proper relationship. Finally, transparency is a responsibility not a matter of convenience. With modest changes to address legitimate concerns about research and other proprietary matters, the university must be included and be fully compliant with Pennsylvania’s Sunshine and Ethics Acts, its Right-to-Know Law and embrace systemic transparency in all its activities.

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

Generations of Penn Staters revere Joe Paterno for his advocacy for the student athlete, for his high standards, and for his unwavering commitment to our university. Over decades, we lionized him and placed him upon a pedestal that was rocked by the revelations of November of 2011. In those dark days, we were all reminded that Joe — like many others with statues — was an imperfect human being. Regrettably, a rush to judgment followed. JoePa was treated with contempt and disrespect by the board when the trustees fired him on Nov. 9, 2011. He was tried and found guilty by a media lynch mob aided and abetted by an incomplete and discredited report produced by Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan at the behest of the board. All we know for sure is that by his own admission, Joe wished he had done more about Sandusky. No one is flawless. JoePa earned the benefit of our doubts and the right to be judged by the totality of his life and work. Thus, many will never be fully reconciled until we see his lifetime of service and philanthropy to the university given significant and lasting recognition. I will work with like-minded members of the board and the community to make that happen. This will require an open dialogue and some measure of consensus, but it is work that should and must be done. Barring any new revelations, I will advocate for restoring his statue to a place of honor outside Beaver Stadium.

More info: vjtedesco@me.com, http://tedescos.com/styled-2/trustee14.html, www.facebook.com/tedescofortrustee, www.youtube.com/user/vjtedesco/videos, Twitter: @vjtedesco

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