After months of debate, the future makeup of Penn State’s board of trustees could come into focus this week.
The board’s governance committee will meet Friday morning, and there’s one topic on the agenda: Consider governance reform proposals and suggestions.
At its meeting last month, the committee worked through a number of suggestions for possible reform, from eliminating three alumni-elected seats to adding permanent seats for students, faculty and the alumni association group.
Trustees decided to set a special meeting for August, in the hopes they could make reform recommendations and pass those along to the full board for possible approval in September.
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University spokeswoman Lisa Powers couldn’t provide specific information last week about what proposals would be on the committee’s agenda.
Committee Chairman Keith Eckel has “requested any committee member who wishes to make a proposal submit specific language to facilitate the discussion and to ensure clarity as to what is being proposed,” Powers said in an email last week.
“We will not know what specific proposals will be submitted until committee members put them forward,” she said.
The committee has been debating for some time about how to reform the board.
It hired consultant Holly Gregory to help facilitate the debate, and she’s worked with the group for several months to help steer members to a solution.
Feedback from Gregory last month showed there is no clear sense among the committee that a reduction in the size of the board is necessary to have more engaged trustees.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano has made that argument, and has been among those pushing for reductions in the size of the board.
He said that, in the past, “few people were involved in the decision-making process, and the rest of the group went along.”
“I think that has to change,” Lubrano said at the July trustees meeting.
Trustee Richard Dandrea suggested at the meeting reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees from nine to six. That would bring that number in line with trustees elected by agricultural societies and appointed by industry, both set at six.
Board President Keith Masser asked whether there should be a “more diverse process” for alumni to get on the board.
Other suggestions that could be considered Friday are whether to add full time seats for faculty, students and the alumni association. Representatives from all those groups made a pitch last month to the committee that they should be represented on the board.
The General Assembly, meanwhile, could consider its own board governance reforms.
A state Senate committee in June passed along a proposed bill that would reduce the size of the board from 30 to 23 voting members.
The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees Reorganization Act, as the bill is known, would eliminate board positions for Penn State’s president, the governor and the state secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The trustees have already removed the university’s president and governor as voting members.
Penn State has asked the legislature to wait on pursuing the law until the the governance committee makes its own recommendations.