Proposal to change trustee structure brings sharp words from Rep. John Yudichak

A recommendation to make changes to the Penn State board of trustees is drawing a mixed bag of reactions.

The board’s committee on governance and long-range planning made the move Thursday, advocating for a last-minute plan that would keep the nine alumni-elected trustees and the total of 18 from business and industry and agricultural fields and gubernatorial appointments.

The plan also would add an alumni association representative and a faculty member, plus add a student-elected trustee. There would also be a new slate of three at-large members elected by the board.

Other changes would strip voting privileges from the state secretaries of agriculture, education and conservation of natural resources. They would join the governor and university president as members with a voice but no vote.

Some of the changes are raising concerns from different quarters for different reasons.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne, issued a statement decrying the recommendation as possibly illegal.

“The action today by the Penn State board of trustees’ committee on governance and long-range planning clearly shows the divisions within the panel about the best step moving forward,” he said, suggesting the board review the proposal carefully before a planned November vote.

“Today, however, I am concerned that this committee violated state law by taking this action. The public members of the board of trustees and the voting privileges they have are decided by statute, not by a committee of non-lawmakers.”

Yudichak has actively promoted Senate Bill 1240, which would cut the number of voting members on the board of trustees from the current 30 to 23.

Others questioned the action because of the suddenness of the new proposal and a lack of public input.

Jeff Goldsmith, a former trustee candidate, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the process, claiming the public had been denied comment at the past two meetings. Comment was not opened Thursday until after the vote had been taken.

“This is not the way to usher in transparency,” he said.

Deborah Beidel, a member of the alumni council, is not satisfied that the number of alumni positions won’t be cut back. Other provisions would remove requirements for a percentage of appointed members to come from alumni ranks. She also dislikes the at-large positions, which will increase board size but could dilute the influence of the elected representatives.

“One of the reasons we have the largest and most engaged alumni association is because ... our alumni feel they are stakeholders,” she said.